set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne

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What does Bruno's relationship with his grandparents reveal?

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In Chapter 8, Bruno recalls the events that took place on the last Christmas he spent with his grandparents. Bruno says that his father wears his fancy new uniform on Christmas Day, and the Commandant's father, Matthias, is very proud of his son's accomplishments. Bruno's grandmother, Nathalie, is the only person not impressed by the Commandant's uniform. Nathalie criticizes her son and refers to him as "a puppet on a string" who doesn't understand the real meaning of what his uniform represents. Nathalie, who is ethnically Irish, is ashamed that her son supports the Nazi cause. Matthias, Bruno's grandfather, essentially tells his wife to calm down and then mentions how proud he is to see his son hold such a valuable position in the Third Reich. Bruno's grandmother argues with her husband and calls him foolish for supporting the Nazi regime. Nathalie loses her temper and criticizes the Commandant and Matthias by commenting that all they care about is their fancy uniforms and medals, while they ignore the fact they are committing terrible atrocities. As Bruno's grandparents leave, Nathalie yells, "Ashamed!" and Matthias shouts, "Patriot!" (Boyne 93).

Matthias and Nathalie's relationship is controversial. They both have different political views and disagree with their son's position as a Nazi Commandant. Matthias is proud that his son supports the "Motherland" and the Nazi cause, while Nathalie is ashamed. They argue and raise their voices during the family gathering which portrays the major rift in their relationship.

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What is the relationship between Bruno and his parents?

From the beginning of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, it is very obvious that Bruno's father is a career man first, being far more preoccupied with his new position of Commandant of Auschwitz, a position granted to him by the Fuhrer Adolf Hitler himself. Bruno's father has adopted the no-nonsense decorum of military protocol in every aspect of his life, giving him little patience with Bruno's childish ways.

Although Bruno's mother attempts to be kind and nurturing toward her son, she is completely subservient to her husband's wishes, and must conduct herself in the manner that he sees fit. This parental negligence creates an extraordinary naivete in Bruno which shows itself in many ways, such as Bruno not understanding that he's living next to a concentration camp and referring to prison garb as "striped pajamas."

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What is the relationship between Bruno and his parents?

Bruno has a distant, relatively strained relationship with his parents, which is one reason he does not disclose his meaningful friendship with Shmuel to his mother or father. Bruno's father is depicted as an authoritative man who prefers to give Bruno directives and expects complete obedience. Bruno's father essentially treats Bruno like one of his soldiers and creates various rules around the home that Bruno is required to follow. He is also preoccupied with his new position as Commandant of Auschwitz and does not spend much personal time with his son.

While Bruno's mother is more affectionate and tolerant with her son, Bruno's relationship with his mother is far from ideal. Towards the beginning of the novel, Bruno's mother seems more open and willing to acknowledge her son. When they move to Auschwitz, her attitude begins to change and she tries her best to protect Bruno from the terrible environment just outside their door. She acts similar to Bruno's father in her strict demeanor but gradually becomes more distant as the novel progresses. The awful environment of Auschwitz, coupled with her husband's controlling nature, negatively affects her behavior, and she begins to lose patience with Bruno. Overall, Bruno does not have an ideal relationship with his parents, who are portrayed as being controlling and rather distant in his life.

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What is the relationship between Bruno and his parents?

Bruno's father is very much a member of the old school when it comes to parenting. He is a distant figure, incapable of showing much in the way of loving affection. He is incredibly strict at home, and he sternly forbids Bruno from entering his office unless explicitly instructed. He also makes it abundantly clear to his son that the fence at "Out-With" is strictly out of bounds.

Bruno is not happy about the move from Berlin to Poland; he even thinks his father is stupid for making such a move. But he will not dare challenge him face to face; he is much too afraid of him. As a fanatical Nazi and a believer in strict hierarchies of power, it is not surprising that Bruno's father treats his son as if he is another one of his many subordinates in the SS. As Bruno is too young to know any better, he acquiesces in such treatment, albeit reluctantly.

Bruno's relationship to his mother, though closer, is still far from ideal. But it never can be ideal, due to the horrifyingly surreal situation in which the family finds itself. Bruno's mother is determined to protect him from the harsh realities of death and destruction that exists on their doorstep. In that sense, she acts almost as her husband's second-in-command, his enforcer; she ensures that all is neat and orderly on the domestic front. Among other things, this means that Bruno and his mother can never develop a normal relationship. Although she spends more time with her son than Bruno's father, and though she displays much more outward affection, her ultimate loyalty lies with her husband and the regime he serves. As a good Nazi wife, she must always put the needs of the state ahead of her children.

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