set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne
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What are three impressions of Lieutenent Kotler that the reader derives from the narrative of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

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Lieutenant Kotler is the stereotype of the Nazi soldier: He is totally devoted to Fascism, having forsaken his family. He has cut himself from all but those connected to his military position and his ideology. Kotler is also cruel and sadistic and unprincipled.

  • Cruelty and Sadism

While he is talking...

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Lieutenant Kotler is the stereotype of the Nazi soldier: He is totally devoted to Fascism, having forsaken his family. He has cut himself from all but those connected to his military position and his ideology. Kotler is also cruel and sadistic and unprincipled.

  • Cruelty and Sadism

While he is talking to Gretel, the daughter of the commandant who is only twelve, speaks to Kavel in Chapter 7, Kotler is very cruel and calls him a pejorative name for Jew. Later, in Chapter 13 when Kavel accidentally spills wine on the lieutenant when he dines with Bruno's family, Kotler severely beats Kavel in front of everyone.

  • Unprincipled

Besides flirting with Gretel, Kotler also is seen early in the morning when Bruno comes from his bedroom at times when his father is gone, a presence suggestive of unethical, unprincipled behavior, especially when Bruno's mother is overheard calling Kotler by his first name with terms of endearment. In Chapter 16, he is sent away and there "was a lot of shouting between Mother and Father late at night," suggesting that Mother has had an affair with the lieutenant.

  • Strong adherent of Fascism

When asked about his parents at the dinner in Chapter 13, Kotler replies that he does not have any contact with them; his father, a professor of literature has moved to Switzerland, he reveals. This move of the father suggests that he does not accept the ideology of Nazism and disapproves so greatly that he leaves Germany, cutting ties with his son Kurt.

 

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