The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Chapter 8 Summary
by John Boyne

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Chapter 8 Summary

Bruno misses his paternal grandparents terribly. Grandfather, who is retired from his job running a restaurant, is seventy-three years old and, in Bruno’s estimation, is “just about the oldest man in the world.” Grandmother, in contrast, is sixty-two; to Bruno, she “never seem[s] old.” Grandmother has long, red hair and green eyes because of Irish blood somewhere in her family. She loves to have parties and is an accomplished singer; one of her favorite pieces to perform is La Vie en Rose.

Grandmother has secret hopes that Bruno and Gretel will someday appear on the stage too, and at every Christmas and birthday party, she arranges for them to put on a simple play with her for Mother, Father, and Grandfather. In these plays, Grandmother always sings, Bruno does a magic trick or two, Gretel dances, and at the end Bruno recites a long poem by one of the Great Poets. Although Bruno does not understand many of the words in these poems, the works “somehow [start] to sound more and more beautiful the more he read[s] them.”

Sadly, the last play Bruno and Gretel performed with Grandmother had ended in disaster. It was Christmas, in the weeks after the Fury and the beautiful blond woman had come to dinner and Father had been promoted to Commandant. Father had worn his new uniform, which had a great number of decorations on it. Everyone had applauded when he appeared, and Grandfather in particular had been pleased beyond measure. But Grandmother had seemed singularly unimpressed. After she and the children had completed their traditional performance, she had given voice to her dismay, saying:

Is this where I went wrong with you, Ralf? I wonder if all the performances I made you give as a boy led you to this...dressing up like a puppet on a string...standing there in your uniform...as if it makes you something special. Not even caring...what it stands for.

Grandfather had tried to silence Grandmother, telling her that they had “discussed this in advance.” He declared that it made him deeply proud to see his son helping his country “reclaim her pride” and, in doing so, being elevated to “such a responsible position.”...

(The entire section is 563 words.)