Who does father work for and what does he do in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Nine-year-old Bruno is the narrator of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, and he only tells us what he knows. What he hears and says is sometimes exactly correct; however, sometimes we (the readers) have to do a little inferring to figure out exactly what is happening. What his father does and who he works for are two pieces of information which are gradually revealed throughout the novel. 

As far as Bruno understands it, his father wears a uniform and he works for someone called "the Fury." The Fury comes to their house for dinner one night; he is a terse, rather diminutive man with a tiny little mustache under his nose. Along with him is a beautiful blond woman named Eva, and Bruno finds her captivating. Shortly after that visit, his father gets a new uniform and is now supposed to be called "Commandant." And, unfortunately for Bruno, his father's job is forcing them to move from Berlin to a desolate and odd place named "Out-With," near a big camp with lots of people in it. All of them are wearing striped pajamas. 

What we ultimately discover is that Bruno's father is an officer in Adolf Hitler's Germany during World War II, and his boss is, of course, the Fuhrer. Hitler comes to dinner with Eva Braun, and he promotes Bruno's father to Commandant and gives him a dubious promotion: he is the new Commandant in charge of the Polish concentration camp called Auschwitz. The pajamas Bruno sees are actually uniforms, and the wearers of those uniforms are persecuted Jews.

Boyne's use of an innocent voice to narrate the story is effective and, at times, chilling. Bruno's father and sister try to correct Bruno's pronunciation of certain words, but he does not get it and we understand anyway. One thing he does say correctly is a horrible phrase; however, he does not know what it means.

Heil Hitler," [Bruno] said, which, he presumed, was another way of saying, "Well, goodbye for now, have a pleasant afternoon.” 

In all, having Bruno as a narrator forces us to do some thinking, and it also heightens the horrors of this time as they are expressed by a young boy. 

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