set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne

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Chapter 2 Summary

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To Bruno’s extreme disappointment, everything about the family’s new residence is the exact opposite of the beloved home in Berlin. The new house is the only building standing in “an empty, desolate place,” and it is small, having only three stories instead of five. All of the bedrooms are crammed together on the top floor, the servants sleep in the basement, and the ground floor contains a kitchen, a dining room, and an office for Father, which Bruno assumes is governed by the same stern restrictions as the office back in Berlin. Bruno thinks that his new home is in “the loneliest place in the world” and it seems that, in this God-forsaken place, there is “nothing to laugh at and nothing to be happy about.”

Bruno is so concerned about the family’s new living arrangements that he dares to tell his mother directly that he thinks it was a “bad idea” to move here and that the family should all just go back home. Mother replies, “We don’t have the luxury of thinking. . . . Some people make all the decisions for us” and that they will have to “make the best of a bad situation.” Bruno feels helpless; something inside him tells him that “the whole thing [is] wrong and unfair and a big mistake,” and he cannot understand how all of this can be happening.

Having been reprimanded by his mother for his persistence in voicing his concerns, Bruno goes upstairs to help Maria unpack his things. He tries to talk about the situation with the maid, asking her what she thinks about what is going on, but Maria is curiously evasive. There is a noise outside in the hallway, and Bruno sees the door to his parents’ room opening. To his surprise, a young man with “very blond hair” and the same type of uniform as his father comes out of the room carrying a box; after giving Bruno an uncomfortable nod, he goes down the stairs. Bruno asks Maria who the young man is, and Maria replies that she thinks he must be “one of [his] father’s soldiers.” Bruno says he does not like the man, and Maria tells him that it might be best for him to steer clear of the men who work in his capacity.

Bruno is sadly lamenting that there does not look like there will be anyone to play with in this new place other than his sister, Gretel, when his eye is caught by a small window in the corner of his room that stretches from the ceiling down into the wall. He walks toward it, hoping that he might be able to see all the way home to Berlin, but when he puts his face to the glass to see what is outside, he sees something that makes him feel “very cold and unsafe” indeed.

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Chapter 1 Summary


Chapter 3 Summary