In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, what did Bruno ask Maria and why was she secretive about it?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Bruno tells the story of his family's experiences when they move to "a desolate place," away from his beloved Berlin where he has friends "for life" and is content in a beautiful home with what he considers to be a perfect banister for sliding down. After the move, Bruno is most unhappy and tries to talk about his objections to anyone who will listen. He does not really bother with his sister Gretel because he considers her to be a "hopeless case" but he does try to talk with Maria, the family's maid who traveled with the family from its home in Berlin. When Bruno is sent upstairs to help Maria unpack his things, he asks Maria, "What do you think of all this..." (chapter 2) to which she replies that it is "not for me to say" and she reminds Bruno what his mother said to him about his father's very important job. Bruno further presses Maria, this time considering that his father should really "think twice about his job" if it means moving his family to such an awful place. Maria is very cautious in what she says to Bruno and when a soldier comes past, Bruno notices how scared Maria is and how she looks as if she may be "turned into stone" if she looks up.  

Much later (chapter 6), Bruno again talks to Maria about their situation because he considers her to be part of the family. Bruno calls his father "stupid' and Maria is shocked and warns Bruno never to call his father that. She tells Bruno how his father helped Maria's mother and, no matter what else he may do, she reminds Bruno that he mustn't voice such negative opinions about his father out loud. She is careful to check that no-one has heard their conversation. Maria tells Bruno that he could cause trouble for everyone if he says such things out loud, urging him to not to do so. She is secretive but Bruno does not feel he should be when he is only "saying what I feel." She knows that she needs to be secretive about many things, especially keeping their opinions to themselves because "it's not up to us to change things." 

When Bruno is hurt playing, it is Pavel the waiter who treats Bruno and mentions to him that he is a doctor so Bruno shouldn't worry that his injury is any worse than it appears. Bruno is confused by this so in chapter 13 he speaks to Maria who tells Bruno that he "mustn't tell anyone" what she is about to tell him about Pavel's life because, as she had told Bruno before, they would all "get into terrible trouble." Bruno is intrigued to hear this "secret" about how Pavel is not allowed to be a doctor anymore and how Bruno's father would be extremely angry to learn of any such assistance from Pavel; hence, it remains a secret.  

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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