The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Summary and Analysis of Chapters Five and Six


Bruno decides to speak to Father, who arrived at Out-With a few days earlier. Bruno remembers leaving their house in Berlin that morning - it hadn't looked like their home anymore, with all the furniture and decorations packed up. Before they left, Mother had said, "We should never have let the Fury come to dinner... Some people and their determination to get ahead" (40). Maria had overheard her and Mother had tried to backtrack, becoming embarrassed. Maria had been embarrassed, too, and had quickly gotten in the car.

After leaving their house in Berlin, Bruno and his family had arrived at the train station. On the other side of the train tracks from their train, there had been another train being boarded by crowds of people looking uncomfortable. It occured to Bruno that since the trains are going in the same direction, some of them might come on board his train, but he doesn't say anything.

Now, at Out-With, Bruno watches his Father standing in a circle of men outside his new home office. Bruno overhears them talking poorly of the former commandant. Father silences them and reminds them that they will have a new beginning tomorrow, with him as their leader. As they leave, they salute him and shout out "the two words that Bruno had been taught to say whenever anyone said it to him" (44). Bruno approaches Father's office cautiously, since he has been told it is Out Of Bounds At All Times And No Exceptions. He knocks and Father tells him to come in.

Father's office seems to Bruno to be much better decorated and more welcoming than the rest of the new house. Father is friendly but gruff toward Bruno, asking him how unpacking is going and if he has been helping Mother and Maria. Bruno is honest with him and tells him he does not like their new home. When Bruno asks when they can return to Berlin, Father tells him to give Out-With a chance, because it is their home now, "for the foreseeable future" (48). Bruno points out that Grandfather and Grandmother are not with them, nor are his school friends, but Father insists that this is one of those things in life that they don't have a choice in.

Father tells him that he remembers being a boy and wanting to disobey his own father, but he now realizes how foolish he was. He asks Bruno, "Do you think that I would have made such a success of my life if I hadn't learned when to argue and when to keep my mouth shut and follow orders?" (49). Bruno asks him if he has upset the Fury somehow, and if being moved to Out-With is a punishment. Father assures him it is just the opposite, that this is an important position. Father runs out of patience and tells Bruno that he has been treating him kindly during this conversation, but now it is over. Bruno bursts into tears, surprising himself, and Father tells him to go to his room.

Before he leaves, Bruno asks Father who the people are outside his window. His father thinks he is talking about the staff and the soldiers. But Bruno clarifies that he is referring to the people dressed the same, on the other side of the fence. Father answers that "[those people]... well, they're not people at all, Bruno... at least not as we understand the term" (53). He tells Bruno not to worry, since Bruno "[has] nothing whatsoever in common with them" (ibid.). Bruno leaves, accidentally forgetting to salute. When his father reminds him, he snaps his heels together and salutes, saying, "Heil Hitler," which he assumes is just a pleasant way to say goodbye.

A few days later, Bruno lies on his bed staring at the cracks in the ceiling. Maria enters his room and begins to put away his folded laundry. He engages her in conversation, hoping she will agree with him that Out-With is a horrible place, but she avoids saying anything negative. Bruno thoughtlessly says, "Stupid Father," which causes Maria to recoil in horror (59). She tells him that his father is a good man: her own mother worked as a dressmaker for Bruno's Grandmother. Bruno's Father paid for Maria's mother's hospital care and funeral when she became ill and eventually died, and then offered Maria and home, food, and a job in his household. She hints that she cannot understand how such a good man could be doing Father's job at Out-With, without actually saying those words.

Gretel barges in, startling Maria, and demands that Maria run her bath. Bruno sticks up for Maria, saying Gretel can run her own bath, but Maria obeys Gretel anyway. When Gretel storms off, telling Maria to hurry up, Bruno reiterates that he thinks Father has made a mistake taking the whole family to a new home. Maria insists that he stop speaking up about it, imploring him, "Don't you know how much trouble you could cause? For all of us?" (65). Bruno is unnerved by her expression of frantic worry and feels the urge to cry. He runs outside the house.


The tension of being a woman without much power to control one's own life arises in Chapter Five with the character of Mother. Unaware that Maria can hear her, she speaks badly about her husband's ambition at the price of his family's comfort. When she realizes that Maria has overheard her, she stutters and tries to explain herself, clearly embarrassed that she has been caught criticizing her husband's decision. Just like so many women during times of war throughout history, Mother is swept up in events that are out of her control and does not feel she has a voice to defend herself or her family.

The theme of unnaturalness, especially as it relates to Auschwitz and the Holocaust generally, is introduced in Chapter Six. Instead of answering Bruno's question about whether she likes it at Out-With, Maria describes how much she loved the garden at the house in Berlin: "Sometimes, when it was a warm afternoon, I liked to sit out there in the sunshine and eat my lunch underneath the ivy tree by the pond. The flowers were very beautiful there. The scents. The way the bees hovered around and never bothered you if you just left them alone" (58). Bruno takes this as an indirect answer to his question, since it contrasts so starkly with the atmosphere at Auschwitz.

Boyne continues the technique of omitting information in order to encourage the reader to take on Bruno's point of view. As the soldiers leave Father's office in Chapter Five, they salute him and shout out "the two words that Bruno had been taught to say whenever anyone said it to him" (44). The reader might know that those two words are likely, "Heil Hitler!"; but, by leaving that specific information out, Boyne creates a sense of timelessness. These are Nazi soldiers at Auschwitz, but they could just as easily be soldiers obeying orders in any other genocide during human history or in the future.

Boyne embeds questions and key ideas about the nature of human interaction into the characters' conversations in order to draw the reader's attention to larger issues. For example, Father asks Bruno, "Do you think that I would have made such a success of my life if I hadn't learned when to argue and when to keep my mouth shut and follow orders?" (49). With this question, he summarizes the mentality of so many Nazi soldiers and German citizens during World War II. He is not a sympathetic character, but Boyne gives him some depth in order to offer an explanation for how such atrocities could have come to take place. Further, he assures Bruno that the Jews on the other side of the fence are "not people at all" - this is how he justifies to himself killing them at Auschwitz (53).

Maria's conversation with Bruno in Chapter Six serves not only to develop her back story, but to deepen the character of Father. She tells Bruno that his father gave her a job, a home, and food to eat, paid for her mother's hospital care and funeral. She serves as a commentary on the mental and emotional disconnect for Nazi soldiers generally, who might do kind deeds and appear to be wonderful people in other parts of their lives but also exterminate Jews. She tells Bruno that his father "has a lot of kindness in his soul, truly he does, which makes me wonder... Wonder what he... how he can..." (62). With this statement, Maria emerges as the first character who seems to have a moral conflict with the genocide taking place on the other side of the fence. Even so, because of her class restrictions and dependence on Father for a living, she tells Bruno to stop complaining.

Bruno's conversations with Father and Maria in Chapters Five and Six, respectively, introduce the adults' own fears about what they cannot control. For most of their conversation, Father has been patiently humoring Bruno. But when Bruno suggests that he should "apologize to the Fury" for whatever he has done that has landed them at Out-With, Father loses patience (50). When Maria tells Bruno to stop talking about how much he hates Out-With, she asks, "Don't you know how much trouble you could cause? For all of us?" (65). This question implies that if they are seen as not complying with the mission of the Nazi party, especially the extermination of the Jews, they could be punished as swiftly and severely as the previous commandant, whose position Father now holds.

The childlike voice of the third-person narration continues in Chapters Five and Six as more details are revealed to the reader about Bruno's family's situation and whereabouts. Bruno understands that certain things are Out Of Bounds At All Times And No Exceptions; his father's office, for example. Later, he will be told that the other side of the fence at Out-With also falls into this category. When Father prompts him shout "Heil Hitler!" upon leaving the office at the end of Chapter Five, Bruno assumes this notorious Nazi salute is just "another way of saying, 'Well, goodbye for now, have a pleasant afternoon'" (54).