In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, what new insight does Maria give us into Fathers character? How does it mesh with what we already know?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, it becomes increasingly clear that Bruno's father is a man of significant importance in Hitler's Nazi Germany. Even from the beginning, the reader learns how important Bruno's father's job is. As "a man to watch" (chapter 1) and for whom "the Fury had big things in mind," Bruno's father is not a man that anyone dares argue with. When Bruno's mother tries, his father simply shouts louder than she does, as Bruno points out. Furthermore, Bruno has observed the respect his father demands because when "Father held a hand in the air...  it immediately caused the other men to fall silent" (chapter 5). This reveals the atmosphere of fear that the soldiers feel rather than genuine respect for Bruno's father. 

In chapter 6, Bruno tries to engage with Maria, the maid. He is desperate to go home to his beloved Berlin and he wants others to help him protest against this new home in what Bruno pronounces as "Out-With." When Bruno calls his father "stupid" Maria immediately come to Father's defense, reminding Bruno that his father  is "a good man... who takes care of all of us." She even suggests that he could make Bruno proud.

Maria reveals that Father does have compassion, that he does respect the opinion of others and that he does have a good side. Unfortunately, it does not reveal itself sufficiently to prevent Bruno from meeting certain death in the gas chamber. 

Maria reveals in chapter 6 that Bruno's father helped her mother when she was sick and she wants Bruno to understand that despite the complex nature of his father, his father does have love and goodwill. It is interesting to note that, although Maria says these things about Bruno's farther, there will be no opportunity in the story for the reader to observe any such behavior. The reader cannot make the connection between these two aides of Bruno's father's personality. He apparently reserves his kind feelings to ensure that there is no sign of weakness. 

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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