Chapter 14 Summary
Bruno continues to meet Shmuel by the fence in the afternoons. He asks every day if he can come over to Shmuel’s side so they can play together, but Shmuel says:
I don’t know why you’re so anxious to come across here.... It’s not very nice.
Bruno complains the difficulties of his own living conditions and even expresses envy over the advantages he thinks Shmuel has over him, which shows that he has absolutely no understanding of what life is like on the other side of the fence.
One day it rains heavily and Bruno is unable to go out to meet Shmuel. Bored, he is lying on his bed reading a book when his sister barges in and asks what he is doing. Unthinkingly, Bruno mentions that he should be with Shmuel right now. Gretel is instantly suspicious and demands to know if he has found someone to play with. Bruno considers telling Gretel the truth about his new friend, but after thinking about it he decides not to. Instead, he tells his sister that he has an imaginary friend. Bruno tries to act embarrassed to make his story more convincing, and he knows he has been successful when Gretel begins to make fun of his immaturity.
Because she also has nothing to do, Gretel plays along and asks Bruno what makes his imaginary friend so special to him. Bruno, realizing that he is being offered the opportunity to talk about Shmuel without revealing “the truth about his existence,” describes for his sister some of the things they talk about. Bruno says that he tells Shmuel about his life in Berlin and the friends that he still misses very much and that Shmuel in turn tells him about his family and
the adventures he had coming here...and the boys he used to play with but he doesn’t any more because they disappeared without even saying goodbye.
Bruno remembers that yesterday Shmuel had told him that his grandfather is missing and his father cries whenever he asks about him. As he repeats the things that Shmuel had said, Bruno becomes very quiet because he had not really understood how sad these things must have made his friend feel until he repeated them out loud.
Gretel interrupts Bruno’s reverie by commenting rudely that he had better keep the secret of his imaginary friend to himself or people will think he is mad. She says that she, at thirteen years old, is far too old to have an imaginary friend—as she “flounce[s] out” haughtily to go talk to her dolls.
Bruno sits by the window, watching the rain and thinking about Shmuel. He wonders if his friend misses their time together as much as he does.