set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne

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How does Pavel die or get hurt in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

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In short, Pavel dies from Lieutenant Kotler’s beatings after Pavel spills wine on Kotler during a dinner with the commander of the camp and the commander's family.

In chapter 13 of The Boy with the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne, Pavel serves as a waiter and vegetable chopper in the house of Bruno’s father, the commander of the camp. Pavel was a doctor before he was imprisoned in the camp, which Bruno found out one day when he fell, and Pavel was the adult who took care of him. Pavel is very smart, but he is Jewish, so we know he is not respected, cared for, or liked by the Nazis. Bruno describes Pavel as very old, having grey hair, and stooping over. Pavel is an older man who is not in good health. Bruno describes him at the dinner as standing there almost looking like he is asleep, with no life to his eyes and a slow response time. He also discusses how Pavel is becoming smaller each week, has shaking hands, and is steadying himself against the wall. These descriptions allow the reader to see just how weak Pavel is.

Considering Pavel's weakened state and Lieutenant Kotler’s anger toward him after the spilling of the wine, it likely wouldn’t be difficult for Kotler to kill Pavel when he is beating him. The reader can assume that Pavel is beaten, because Bruno is very upset about the situation and the fact that his father hasn't stopped it. He cries, and his sister goes pale. Although Bruno doesn’t ever directly state that Pavel dies, he does say Pavel is replaced by another Jewish man, and as Shmuel said earlier when they were talking through the fence, the Nazis are not concerned with the Jews getting better, so Pavel wouldn’t get medical help for his injuries. Through these pieces of the text, it can be assumed that Pavel dies after being angrily beaten by Kotler.

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In Chapter 13, Bruno mentions that Pavel is looking extremely tired and thin while he serves dinner. Pavel can barely stand upright with his back against the wall as Bruno's family eats. Bruno also notices that Pavel's hands shake while he carries the dinner plates. It is obvious to the reader that Pavel is suffering from malnutrition and lack of medical attention at Auschwitz. Towards the end the meal, Bruno's father asks Pavel to refill his glass, which Pavel typically does without being told. After Pavel fills the Commandant's glass, he turns to refill Lieutenant Kotler's glass, but ends up dropping the bottle of wine. The wine spills all over Kotler's uniform, and Kotler loses his temper. Boyne does not explicitly state what happens to Pavel, but it is suggested that Lieutenant Kotler beats Pavel unmercifully. Bruno begins to cry, and Gretel turns pale after witnessing Pavel's severe beating. Bruno also mentions that his father did not stop Kotler from beating Pavel. Pavel is not mentioned in the novel again after the incident, which suggests that he died due to the extensive injuries he suffered from Lieutenant Kotler's beating.

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