Discuss the relationship that Gretel has with the fence in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.How does its physicality reflect her emotional state?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of the different characters in Boyne's work, Gretel is an interesting one that is not really discussed as much as she should be.  She is representative of the German people that became caught up with the prestige and sense of pride in the Nazi uniform. It is for this reason that she becomes so enamored with "the fury" and Lt. Kotler.  Yet, I think that there is another aspect of her character that is particularly interesting.  In the most basic of senses, Gretel understands that there is a disconnect in her world and what is outside of it.  The fence is the border, a line of demarcation that marks her world and "the other."  She is not afraid of this "other," but she clearly knows that something is not right with it.  She also knows subconsciously that something is fundamentally wrong with how "the other" operates.  It is here where Gretel's feelings about the fence become in clear view.  It is a physical object that represents a frontier that cannot be crossed.  In her mind, the love of Nazism is nothing more than an affinity with popularity and status.  This is revealed because Bruno's death brings out a particular sadness and melancholy within her, something that is antithetical to the Nazi view of death and destruction.  This reflects that she does possess a sense of character and dignity within her, the elements that probably prevent her from wondering what happens on the other side of the fence.  Unlike Bruno, her sense of inquisitiveness and social justice are subjugated for self interest.  Gretel's reaction to the physical construct or place of the fence helps to reveal how individual perception is always present and there is a conscious choice made to either act on it or silence it.  Bruno and Gretel act in different ways on this impulse, and for this, their fates are different.

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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