set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne
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What is a character analysis of Bruno's father?

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Bruno's father, Ralf, is a proud German, who is promoted by Adolph Hitler himself to the position of Commandant. Bruno's father makes the important decision to move his family to Auschwitz where Hitler has assigned him duty. As Commandant, Ralf is the highest ranking officer in the concentration camp and...

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Bruno's father, Ralf, is a proud German, who is promoted by Adolph Hitler himself to the position of Commandant. Bruno's father makes the important decision to move his family to Auschwitz where Hitler has assigned him duty. As Commandant, Ralf is the highest ranking officer in the concentration camp and is responsible for giving out all orders to systematically exterminate the Jews living there. His wife and children are unhappy with his decision to move the family, but Ralf is determined to "climb the ladder" in the Third Reich.

Bruno mentions that his father is rather strict and lays down ground rules. For example, his office is "Out Of Bounds At All Times And No Exceptions," and if Bruno violates his rules, Bruno is given a "serious talking to." Bruno also comments that his father is rather disrespectful to Maria and the other housekeepers and cooks. Bruno's father struggles to maintain a healthy relationship with his wife. His wife is unhappy and is continually arguing with him throughout the novel. The couple fight over his decision to leave Berlin, his loyalty to Hitler, and his job requirements.

Despite being a despicable human being responsible for countless murders, Boyne sympathizes with Bruno's father. Bruno's father does not really have a choice but to accept his position at Auschwitz. The penalty for disobeying Hitler's orders is death, and he will not risk letting the most powerful man in Germany down. In addition to the stress caused by his job, he also feels pressure to fix his relationship with his wife. He finds out she is cheating on him, which negatively affects his mental state. The audience learns about his ruined relationship with his mother who disagrees with his decision to support Hitler. Bruno's father never gets a chance to say goodbye to his mother and leave on good terms before she passes away. At the end of the novel, he loses his mind and his position when Bruno mysteriously dies. Despite his terrible choice to join the Nazi Party and murder thousands of Jews, the audience feels bad for Bruno's father because his personal life is ruined and his family is torn apart.

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