The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

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Chapter 6 Summary

Out of boredom a few days later, Bruno is lying on his bed staring at the ceiling when he notices the paint above his head is cracked and peeling. This observation only adds to his unhappiness with his new home. He decides petulantly that he “hate[s] it all...absolutely everything.” At this point, Maria the maid walks in carrying a stack of laundered clothes. Bruno attempts to strike up a conversation with her, asking her if she is as dissatisfied with their new living arrangements as he is.

Maria is very cautious in responding to Bruno’s question. She finally addresses his concern indirectly by telling him how much she had enjoyed the garden back in Berlin. When Bruno persists, she says that what she thinks is not important. Bruno retorts, “Of course it’s important...you’re part of the family, aren’t you?” Maria comments wryly, “I’m not sure whether your father would agree with that.”

Bruno, beside himself with frustration, asserts that Father has made “a terrible mistake” in bringing them here; he mutters under his breath, “Stupid Father!” Maria reacts strongly to his insolence, admonishing Bruno that he must never speak thus about his father, who is “a good man...[who] takes care of all of us.”

In a rare moment of candor, Maria reveals that her mother had worked for Bruno’s fraternal grandmother, who had been a great singer and entertainer. When his grandmother had retired, she had remained friendly with Maria’s mother and had given her a small pension. Times were hard, however, and when Maria’s mother had been taken ill, Bruno’s father had paid for her hospital expenses and given young Maria a position with the family out of the goodness of his heart. Because she knows that Bruno’s father can be a man of great kindness, she will not allow Bruno to speak disparagingly about him, although she wonders aloud how such a man can act as he is apparently doing now. Bruno is confused, but before Maria can explain herself further, Gretel barges in and rudely orders the maid to prepare a bath for her.

Maria has been with Bruno’s family since he was three years old. Although it seems to him that...

(The entire section is 578 words.)