The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Summary and Analysis of Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen


Weeks pass and Bruno visits with his new friend Shmuel regularly. One day, Maria finds him in the kitchen taking bread and cheese to bring to Shmuel. Bruno asks her about Pavel, who had told him that he wasn't really a waiter but was actually a doctor. Maria confirms that Pavel had been a doctor "in another life" (137). Maria agrees to tell Bruno what she knows about Pavel's life before he came to Out-With, but makes him promise not to speak of it to anyone else. The reader doesn't learn what she tells Bruno.

Bruno arrives to meet Shmuel a bit later that day. Having learned about Pavel's life from Maria, Bruno asks Shmuel if he knows the old man, but Shmuel tells him he doesn't. Bruno tells Shmuel he wants to be a soldier when he grows up, a "good soldier" like Father, but Shmuel tells him there aren't any good soldiers (140). Shmuel tries to reveal more to Bruno, whispering, "You don't know what it's like here" (ibid.), but Bruno purposefully ignores the statement because it makes him feel awkward. When he brings up Lieutenant Kotler, Shmuel says he doesn't like talking about him.

When Bruno gets home, he finds out to his disappointment that Lieutenant Kotler is joining the family for dinner. Pavel waits on them, seeming to Bruno to be a bit weaker than usual. Bruno brings up that he hates learning about history and Father scolds him for it. Lieutenant Kotler offers that his father was a professor of literature at the university, but that he had left Germany for Switzerland in 1938. This information embarrasses Lieutenant Kotler and disturbs Father, who comments with suspicion, "Strange that he chose not to stay in the Fatherland" (146). Bruno is frightened by the tension but also enjoys Father speaking harshly to Lieutenant Kotler. At that moment, Pavel uncorks a new bottle of wine and accidentally spills it on Lieutenant Kotler because his hands are shaking. Lieutenant Kotler reacts very angrily and violently, although the details of his actions against Pavel are not revealed. Bruno goes to bed extremely upset about what happened to Pavel.

Several more weeks pass and Bruno continues to visit Shmuel when Herr Liszt leaves after their lesson. One afternoon, Shmuel has a black eye but refuses to talk about it. Every day, Bruno asks if he can come over to the other side of the fence to play with Shmuel, but Shmuel always says it's not a good idea. He tells Bruno that the "striped pajamas" are the uniform he and the other prisoners were given when they arrived at Out-With. Bruno's lack of awareness is evident in his suggestion that Shmuel should just choose to wear something else when he wakes up in the morning, but Shmuel doesn't explain to him why that would be impossible.

One day it is raining too hard for Bruno to go outside. He is lying on his bed reading when Gretel comes into his room, bored. He accidentally mentions Shmuel to her and quickly covers his mistake by telling her that he is referring to his imaginary friend. In order to sell his lie, he remembers a time when Grandmother had walked in on him while he was going to the bathroom and other embarrassing moments so that his face will turn red. It works, and Gretel begins to make fun of him for having an imaginary friend. Bruno takes the opportunity to talk about Shmuel, now that he has made sure Gretel believes the boy is imaginary.

Bruno tells Gretel about how all of Shmuel's friends with whom he used to play "disappeared without even saying goodbye to him" (158). He goes on and tells her that yesterday, Shmuel told him that his grandfather has been missing for days and that whenever he asks his father about it, his father begins to cry and hugs him. As he describes what Shmuel has told him to Gretel, Bruno begins to feel guilty for not comforting Shmuel when his friend was telling him these things. Instead, he had changed the subject because he had felt uncomfortable. He decides to apologize for his callousness when he sees Shmuel the next day.

Gretel advises Bruno to stop talking to his imaginary friend. She tells him it indicates he is going crazy, but he tells her he doesn't want to stop. Gretel reassures him she won't tell anyone about his imaginary friend, and teasingly tells him she has her own. When he asks her if she's telling the truth, she scoffs, "I can't afford to act like a child, even if you can" (159) and leaves the room. Bruno hears her talking to her dolls in her own room. He loses interest in his book and stares out the window at the rain, wondering about Shmuel.


In Chapter Thirteen, Boyne uses the technique of omitting information. Just as Maria sits down with Bruno in the kitchen and says, "All right... This is as much as I know" (137), the scene ends and the reader picks back up with Bruno arriving to meet Shmuel later that day. This achieves a sense of vagueness around Pavel's life - he is representative of the many Jews who were torn from their professions and brought to concentration camps, so his story could be anyone's. Likewise, when Lieutenant Kotler attacks Pavel for accidentally spilling the wine on him, the details of the interaction are omitted. The narrator only states that "[what] happened then was both unexpected and extremely unpleasant. Lieutenant Kotler grew very angry with Pavel and no one - not Bruno, not Gretel, not Mother and not even Father - stepped in to stop him doing what he did next, even though none of them could watch" (148-49). This omission of detail makes the interaction representative of all acts of violence against Jews at the hands of Nazis -- and, in fact, against the oppressed group in any genocide throughout history. Bruno and his family represent the bystanders who were repulsed by the violence and did not try to stop it.

Boyne continues to use dramatic irony throughout Bruno's conversation with Shmuel in Chapter Thirteen. When Bruno tells Shmuel about how Pavel had cleaned his knee when he fell off the tire swing, Shmuel comments that "[the] soldiers don't normally like people getting better... It usually works the other way round" (139). Bruno doesn't know what his friend is talking about, but the reader knows that the soldiers are killing the Jews in the concentration camp. If any of the prisoners falls ill or is unable to work, he will be shot rather than brought to a hospital to recover.

In Bruno's conversation with Gretel in Chapter Fourteen, the dramatic irony is used to reveal details about Shmuel's life on the other side of the fence. He mentions that Shmuel used to have friends to play with at Out-With, but that "they disappeared without even saying goodbye to him" (158). This dramatic irony works on two levels: that of Shmuel's perception, since his feelings were hurt when his friends disappeared; and that of Bruno's perception, since he understands even less of the situation than Shmuel does. The reader knows that the boys Shmuel used to play with have been killed by the Nazis and that they would never have been given the opportunity to say goodbye to anyone. Further, Shmuel doesn't know where his grandfather has gone, but by Bruno's description to Gretel of what happens when Shmuel asks about it, it is clear to the reader that Shmuel's father does know: "whenever he asks his father about him he starts crying and hugs him so hard that he's worried he's going to squeeze him to death" (158). In recounting these details to Gretel, even though he doesn't understand the full extent of the horror that has taken place, Bruno realizes that he should have tried to comfort his friend.

The conversation at the dinner table in Chapter Thirteen reveals a bit more about the political climate in Germany leading up to the current moment of the story. Lieutenant Kotler reveals that his father, a professor of literature, left the country in 1938 to go to Switzerland. This upsets Father, who suspects Lieutenant Kotler's father had "disagreements" with the way the country was headed in 1938, lumping him in with the "traitors" and "cowards" who had left to avoid the Nazis (147). Lieutenant Kotler makes a point of distancing himself from his father in the Commandant's eyes, insisting that "[we're] not close, my father and I" (146).

The distinction between Bruno as a child and Gretel as a young teenager begins to develop in Chapter Fourteen. There is a still a connection between them as they talk on a rainy day while they are both bored. Bruno feels comfortable enough to tell Gretel about Shmuel's life, although he pretends Shmuel is an imaginary friend. When Bruno asks Gretel if she has an imaginary friend, she laughs at him and says, "No... I'm thirteen years old, for heaven's sake! I can't afford to act like a child even if you can" (159). However, when she leaves his room, he hears her talking to her dolls. This tension between her perception of herself as a teenager versus her childlike behavior characterizes Gretel as representative of her peer group in Nazi-occupied Germany. If her family had stayed in Berlin, she would have become a member of the Hitler Youth.