The character of Bruno in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas from …

The character of Bruno in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas from …


Bethinking

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

One of the most moving films of 2008, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a powerful, haunting story about the horrors of the Holocaust. Unlike the vast majority of such stories, however, it doesn’t allow the audience to view events through the eyes of a Jewish character. Instead, we see things from a German perspective. But this is not a revisionist telling of the story, let alone a justification of the Final Solution, but a fresh look at it through the innocent eyes of eight-year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield).

Looking Beyond the Fences

I asked John Boyne, who wrote the novel on which the film is based, why he had taken this route since it ran the risk of making us feel more sorry for the oppressors than the oppressed. He replied that he felt compelled to write about this subject, keeping the memory of it alive for a new generation, yet could not presume to tell the story through the eyes of a Jewish inmate. Instead, by looking in through the fence from outside, he could ask the important questions. He says:

For me, a 34-year-old Irish writer, it seemed that the only respectful way to approach the subject was through innocence, with a fable told from the point of view of a rather naive child who couldn’t possibly understand the horrors of what he was caught up in. I believe that this naiveté is as close as someone of my generation can get to the dreadfulness of that period.

The film opens in Berlin with Bruno and his friends pretending to be fighter planes as they run home to his house. This is a simple, but effective device for drawing us into Bruno’s world. He is a young boy playing as all young boys do, when they have the chance, during wartime: they imagine themselves as heroes fighting the enemy. At the same time as British boys were imitating Spitfires during the Second World War, German boys were pretending to be Messerschmitt 109s – and both were possessed of the simple, unwavering conviction common to all children that their side was right. It’s entirely natural that Bruno worships his officer father Ralph (David Thewlis). As viewers we immediately see him within the framework of what we know of World War II. But to his son, he is a hero and a good man, and certainly the film suggests that he has been a loving husband and father as well as a good soldier. He is portrayed as someone who does what he thinks is right for his country and a party is being held to celebrate his promotion. We don’t know what this entails for some time, though we see from his uniform that he is an Obersturmbannführer (equivalent to a Lieutenant-Colonel) in the SS, the part of the German forces that were unswervingly loyal to Hitler, earning him the disapproval of his mother.

Ralph’s new posting is in Poland – as commandant of a death camp. From his bedroom window in their new, and imposingly severe, house, Bruno sees what he assumes is a farm. At first he thinks there will be new friends for him there, but he’s puzzled by how strange they look, all wearing striped pyjamas. As the days pass, he becomes increasingly bored, but he is banned from exploring the garden at the back of the house. One day, he asks his father’s driver, Obersturmführer Kotler (Rupert Friend), for a tyre to make a swing. Kotler shouts at Pavel (David Hayman), a prisoner who works at the house, to take the boy to find one. When Pavel takes him to the shed in the back garden, Bruno spots a route through the window into the woods beyond the house. It’s not long before he grabs a chance to sneak through and he goes exploring.

Inevitably he reaches the camp fence where he first meets Schmuel (Jack Scanlon), a Jewish boy of the same age. It is in their encounters that we see Bruno’s naiveté most clearly, because we know all too well what is going on inside. He’s envious at first – an emotion that is touchingly amusing as well as startling to the viewer because it is so inappropriate:

Bruno: It’s not fair, me being stuck over here all on my own while you’re in there playing with friends all day.
Schmuel: Play?
Bruno: Well, isn’t it part of a game – with your number?
Schmuel: It’s just my number

On another occasion, Bruno suggests that Schmuel could come for supper. He’s surprised that the wire prevents this; surely farm fences are to stop animals getting out. And he’s troubled when Schmuel tells him that it’s to stop the people getting out. ‘Why, what have you done?’ he asks. ‘I’m a Jew,’ is the simple answer. Bruno has been brought up to believe Jews are evil, but now he begins to struggle with the disparity between what he has learnt and what he is now experiencing first hand. He asks his tutor, ‘There is such a thing as a nice Jew, isn’t there?’ ‘If you ever found such a thing as a nice Jew,’ he’s told, ‘you would be the greatest explorer in the world.’

This is the problem at the heart of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. How could such an enormous evil take place in a supposedly civilised society? How could ordinary people become swept up in it, to the extent of hating Jews (and Gypsies along with other ‘deviant’ groups), condoning their extermination and even participating in it? And how are we to think about such people?

Part of the answer, as this film makes clear, is that most people were ignorant of the full extent of what was happening. Young Bruno is naturally protected from knowing much of what the war entails. But it’s not only Bruno who is ignorant. Some time after the family has moved, we discover that Bruno’s mother, Elsa (Vera Farmiga), does not know what happens in her husband’s camp. One day she returns from a trip into town and comments to Kotler about the foul smell from the camp chimney. When he replies that ‘they smell even worse when they burn,’ the realisation finally dawns. She confronts Ralph who insists that he was sworn to secrecy, but he is clearly not going to be dissuaded from his task. From that moment, Elsa’s trust, respect and love for her husband evaporate. This is entirely true to history. Officers were banned from telling even their immediate family about the gas chambers; they were to be seen as ‘normal’ concentration camps, where the primary objective was forced labour, not extermination. Even Hedwig Höss, the wife of Rudolf Höss the commandant of Auschwitz, didn’t realise for around two years what was happening, and she lived close to the crematorium with her four children. She only discovered after overhearing a conversation at a party.

Another part of the answer to how such a thing could happen was famously expressed by Hannah Arendt as ‘the banality of evil’. By this she meant that evil is not something radical, but arises out of the tendency of ordinary people to follow orders, to accept what they’re told by authorities, to conform to the prevailing opinion. Just how easily this happens, even in a liberal democracy like America, was demonstrated in an infamous experiment carried out in a Californian high school by a teacher there. When his class were thoroughly apathetic about fascism, he persuaded the students to order themselves in a fascist way and was shocked by how quickly they conformed and how fast it spread through the school. It forms the basis for the German film The Wave (Dennis Gansel, 2008). The worrying reality – and one reason why it’s vital to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive – is that people easily fall into line without ever stopping to reflect critically on what they are doing, the underlying values or the results of their actions. Or their inaction.

This is where Elsa herself is implicated, because she failed to face up to what she did know was happening. The Final Solution of mass killings may have been kept from her, but like all ordinary Germans, she was very well aware of the round-ups, the mass deportations to the labour camps. It is likely that she would be aware of executions in the streets. And as for the camp run by her husband, she knew full well that prisoners were treated in an inhuman way because it happened in her own house. She never questioned the idea that these people were evil, the cause of all Germany’s problems and a danger to all good people. She was prepared to accept her husband telling Bruno that ‘they’re not real people.’ Vera Farmiga says of her character:

Elsa doesn’t think. She doesn’t think for herself, she doesn’t think deeply. She chooses to be oblivious, concerning herself only with the safety of her family and her position in society – everything else is beyond her periphery. She’s a sort of accomplice and assistant to her husband’s ideals, his desires, his morals and his ambitions. But as she starts to open her eyes to what is unfolding, as she starts to explore for herself, there is a gradual decline of tenderness, trust and respect for her husband. And eventually she stands up and says No! Eventually, she condemns what’s going on. She even tries to get her husband to see the evil that he’s responsible for. But it’s too late … She has intuitions; she knows that people are being horribly mistreated. But she doesn’t look; she doesn’t want to see it because seeing it would implicate her husband, and it would implicate herself.

As Bruno’s understanding of the camp begins to grow, he is naturally increasingly troubled by the conflict within him, because he still loves his father. He questions his sister Gretel (Amber Beattie) about the place he longs to believe is just an odd farm. Gretel insists that the Jews are ‘in there because they’re evil. Evil, dangerous vermin.’ ‘Papa’s not horrible is he?’ asks Bruno. Gretel assures him that their father is a good man. ‘But he’s in charge of a horrible place,’ Bruno replies.

This disjunction between family man and camp commandant is very troubling for the viewer. It’s easy to think of such people as sadistic monsters like Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List). But for the first part of the film, it’s hard not to like Bruno’s father. This is partly because David Thewlis plays him so warmly, emphasising this true-to-life complexity. He says:

The challenge is not to play a clichéd, two-dimensional evil Nazi. In my research, I came to learn that my character was very much based on fact…. I don’t think I’ve researched a film as much as this for years because I felt a great duty to do that. Usually, I take someone from my own life, someone I’ve met at some point and think, that person could have been like this person. How can I apply those characteristics? Whereas I’ve never met anyone who at all resembles the character I’m playing here because it’s quite unimaginable to understand how one could be a loving father – I’m sure he is a loving father – and at the same time, leave your children at breakfast, go next door – literally – and spend your day amidst these terrible, terrible, terrible atrocities. How do you get your mind set into that?

I was given a letter that Rudolf Höss [commandant of Auschwitz] wrote to his children just before his execution. It was lying around at home, on my kitchen table, and I had some neighbours over. I hadn’t told them what I was working on. They saw this letter lying around and started reading and when they’d finished it, they turned to me and said, ‘Oh, what a beautiful, heart-rending letter this man has written to his children! Who was he? Why was he dying? Was he sick?’ To which I replied, ‘Yeah, he was VERY sick!’ But the letter is clearly written by a man with an intense love for his children; it’s very articulate, very touching, almost poetic. Try and understand a human being – a sensitive human being – but one who’s capable of this! No way can I find it in myself to justify or forgive, obviously. But my job was to somehow find the humanity in him, and not to see all these people – as the cliché goes – just as monsters. They were human beings. And there are people out there today that are just like him.

This is why films like this are so important. We must never forget what horrendous evil Hitler unleashed. Neither must we forget that it was ordinary people who became caught up in his genocide machine. The power of his rhetoric and personality, coming at just the opportune time in German history, won the nation to his cause. Ordinary people became mass murderers. Ordinary people looked the other way while it happened. It was easier to believe the propaganda, to go with the flow and keep quiet than to stand up and face the consequences. It is, of course, easy to understand why people were afraid to voice opposition when to do so could lead to a labour camp. Dachau was, after all, established as early as 1933 for political prisoners. We do not know how we would have acted if we had been there. Nevertheless, we must say that fear does not excuse inaction. ‘Following orders’ does not excuse evil. These things happen in our own generation: Cambodia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Darfur, East Timor. Ordinary people still allow themselves to be swept along by evil men, not thinking, not questioning and not challenging what is happening. Given the easy-come, easy-go morality of contemporary western society, this is terrifying.

While it is traumatic, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is also a story of hope. Bruno’s innocent acceptance of Schmuel as a human being, just like him, who deserves his friendship, compassion and help, is absolutely right. While everyone else fails to looks beyond their prejudices, Bruno reaches out to the boy he is told should be his enemy. He identifies with Schmuel, recognising that they are no different. He comes to understand that Pavel is a good man, not potato-peeling vermin. This refusal to accept distinctions between human beings as equal is vital. It is fundamental to civil society. It is fundamental to how we are created by God.

The moral relativism of contemporary society has no basis on which to establish this equality. Yes, it makes the right kind of noises, saying that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and values, which should be respected. But why? There’s nothing objective about it; it is too vulnerable to the whims of the few, who are able to carry others along with them. The only answer is the deeply held, thought-through principles of an objective morality. Ultimately, any objective morality must come from beyond mere human beings; it must come from God. It is not enough that society should be based on Christian values. That had been true of Germany, after all. Rather, the individuals within society need to become convinced of them and committed to their outworking personally. The values of Jesus Christ – his concern for truth and righteousness, his compassion for the weak and lost, his acceptance of every kind of person (among others) – need to permeate our own lives before they can permeate society.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, with its anguishing loss of innocence and its touching affirmation of the value of all people, has the power to engage us, overwhelm us and change us.

Film title: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Keywords: Equality, prejudice, racism, evil, good, innocence, morality, conscience, action, Holocaust
Tagline(s): A timeless story of innocence lost and humanity found / Lines may divide us but hope will unite us
Director: Mark Herman
Screenplay: Mark Herman, based on the novel by John Boyne
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Jack Scanlon, David Thewlis, Vera Farmiga, Rupert Friend, Sheila Hancock, Richard Johnson, David Heyman, Amber Beattie
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures (UK); Miramax Films (USA)
Cinema Release Date: 12 September 2008 (UK); 7 November 2008 (USA)
Certificate: 12 (UK); PG-13 (USA)

Book title: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Author:
John Boyne
Publisher (h/b): 2006, David Fickling Books (UK)
Publisher (p/b): Black Swan (UK); David Fickling Books (USA)
Pub. date (p/b): 1 February 2007 (UK); 23 October 2007 (USA)

Buy The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas from Amazon.co.uk or from Amazon.com

© 2008 Tony Watkins

Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Tony Watkins

About the Author

Tony Watkins is a speaker and writer on media, culture and Christian faith. He works both independently and in partnership with a number of organisations. For 18 years he was part of the core team of Damaris UK. He has written several books including  Focus: The Art and Soul of Cinema  (2007) and  Dark Matter: A Thinking Fan’s Guide to Philip Pullman  (2004).

View all resources by Tony Watkins


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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

John Boyne



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Bruno

Character Analysis




The protagonist and narrator, at the start of the novel Bruno is a nine-year-old boy living in Berlin during World War II. His Father, a Nazi officer, then moves the family to Auschwitz, Poland. As Bruno is young and cannot pronounce certain words, throughout the novel Hitler is referred to as “the Fury” (the Führer) and Auschwitz is referred to as “Out-With.” Bruno is very sheltered and naïve, and though he develops a close friendship with Shmuel, a Jewish boy in the concentration camp, Bruno has a difficult time grasping exactly how hard life is on the other side of the fence. Bruno is very interested in art and books, and loves exploring. He wants to become a soldier like his father, and though his parents never explain to him what is happening in the war, he has been indoctrinated from a young age to believe that Germany, the “Fatherland,” is superior to all other nations. Bruno is small for his age, and is very sensitive to people like Lieutenant Kotler calling him “little man.” Ultimately Bruno never gets the chance to outgrow his ignorance and innocence, as his natural empathy and friendship for Shmuel lead him to cross the fence and be killed in a gas chamber.

Bruno Quotes in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The The Boy in the Striped Pajamas quotes below are all either spoken by Bruno or refer to Bruno. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:


Innocence and Ignorance Theme Icon

).

Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the David Fickling Books edition of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas published in 2007.



Chapter 1
Quotes

“It’s a very important job,” said Mother, hesitating for a moment. “A job that needs a very special man to do it. You can understand that, can’t you?”

Related Characters:

Mother (speaker), Bruno , Father

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Gender Roles

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Page Number and Citation:

5
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2
Quotes

“We don’t have the luxury of thinking,” said Mother. “…Some people make all the decisions for us.”

Related Characters:

Mother (speaker), Bruno , Father

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Family and Friendship

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Gender Roles

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Page Number and Citation:

13
Explanation and Analysis:

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He put his face to the glass and saw what was out there, and this time when his eyes opened wide and his mouth made the shape of an O, his hands stayed by his sides because something made him feel very cold and unsafe.

Related Characters:

Bruno (speaker)

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Page Number and Citation:

20
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3
Quotes

“But what does it mean?” he asked in exasperation. “Out with what?”
“Out with the people who lived here before us, I expect,” said Gretel. “It must have to do with the fact that he didn’t do a very good job and someone said out with him and let’s get a man in who can do it right.”
“You mean Father.”

Related Characters:

Bruno (speaker), Gretel (speaker), Father
Related Symbols:
Out-With

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Page Number and Citation:

25
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4
Quotes

…all of them—the small boys, the big boys, the fathers, the grandfathers, the uncles, the people who lived on their own on everybody’s road but didn’t seem to have any relatives at all—were wearing the same clothes as each other: a pair of grey striped pajamas with a grey striped cap on their heads.

Related Characters:

Bruno (speaker)
Related Symbols:
Striped Pajamas

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Page Number and Citation:

38
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Chapter 5
Quotes

“Ah, those people,” said Father, nodding his head and smiling slightly. “Those people…well, they’re not people at all, Bruno.”

Related Characters:

Father (speaker), Bruno

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Page Number and Citation:

53
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Chapter 6
Quotes

“Bruno, if you have any sense at all, you will stay quiet and concentrate on your schoolwork and do whatever your father tells you. We must all just keep ourselves safe until this is all over. That’s what I intend to do anyway. What more can we do than that after all? It’s not up to us to change things.”

Related Characters:

Maria (speaker), Bruno , Father

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Family and Friendship

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Gender Roles

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Complicity

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Page Number and Citation:

65
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Chapter 7
Quotes

“Young man,” said Pavel (and Bruno appreciated the fact that he had the courtesy to call him ‘young man’ instead of ‘little man’ as Lieutenant Kotler had), “I certainly am a doctor. Just because a man glances up at the sky at night does not make him an astronomer, you know.”

Related Characters:

Pavel (speaker), Bruno , Lieutenant Kotler

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Family and Friendship

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Complicity

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Page Number and Citation:

82
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Chapter 9
Quotes

Herr Liszt made a hissing sound through his teeth and shook his head angrily. “Then this is what I am here to change,” he said in a sinister voice. “To get your head out of your storybooks and teach you more about where you come from. About the great wrongs that have been done to you.”

Related Characters:

Herr Liszt (speaker), Bruno

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Page Number and Citation:

98
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Chapter 10
Quotes

Bruno was sure that he had never seen a skinnier or sadder boy in his life but decided that he had better talk to him.

Related Characters:

Bruno (speaker), Shmuel
Related Symbols:
Striped Pajamas , The Fence

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107
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“Poland,” said Bruno thoughtfully, weighing up the word on his tongue. “That’s not as good as Germany, is it?”
Shmuel frowned. “Why isn’t it?” he asked.
“Well, because Germany is the greatest of all countries,” Bruno replied, remembering something that he had overheard Father discussing with Grandfather on any number of occasions. “We’re superior.”

Related Characters:

Bruno (speaker), Shmuel (speaker), Father , Grandfather

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Family and Friendship

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Nationalism

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Page Number and Citation:

111
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Chapter 11
Quotes

What a horrible man, thought Bruno.

Related Characters:

Bruno (speaker)
Related Symbols:
The Fury

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124
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Chapter 12
Quotes

Shmuel looked very sad when he told this story and Bruno didn’t know why; it didn’t seem like such a terrible thing to him, and after all much the same thing had happened to him.

Related Characters:

Bruno (speaker), Shmuel

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Family and Friendship

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Complicity

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Page Number and Citation:

130
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“Dinner isn’t served until half past six. What time do you have yours?”
Shmuel shrugged his shoulders and pulled himself to his feet. “I think I’d better get back,” he said.
“Perhaps you can come to dinner with us one evening,” said Bruno, although he wasn’t sure it was a very good idea.
“Perhaps,” said Shmuel, although he didn’t sound convinced.

Related Characters:

Bruno (speaker), Shmuel (speaker)

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Boundaries Theme Icon

Family and Friendship

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Page Number and Citation:

132
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 13
Quotes

“There aren’t any good soldiers,” said Shmuel.
“Of course there are,” said Bruno.
“Who?”
“Well, Father, for one,” said Bruno. “That’s why he has such an impressive uniform and why everyone calls him Commandant and does whatever he says. The Fury has big things in mind for him because he’s such a good soldier.”
“There aren’t any good soldiers,” repeated Shmuel.
“Except Father,” repeated Bruno, who was hoping that Shmuel wouldn’t say that again because he didn’t want to have to argue with him. After all, he was the only friend he had here at Out-With. But Father was Father, and Bruno didn’t think it was right for someone to say something bad about him.

Related Characters:

Bruno (speaker), Shmuel (speaker), Father
Related Symbols:
The Fury

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Boundaries Theme Icon

Family and Friendship

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Complicity

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Page Number and Citation:

140
Explanation and Analysis:

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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. Even though it made Bruno cry and Gretel grow pale.

Related Characters:

Bruno (speaker), Gretel , Mother , Father , Lieutenant Kotler , Pavel

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Family and Friendship

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Complicity

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Complicity Theme Icon

Page Number and Citation:

148
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 14
Quotes

Bruno tried to return to his book, but he’d lost interest in it for now and stared out at the rain instead and wondered whether Shmuel, wherever he was, was thinking about him too and missing their conversations as much as he was.

Related Characters:

Bruno (speaker), Shmuel

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Page Number and Citation:

160
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 15
Quotes

“What are you doing here?” repeated Bruno, for although he still didn’t quite understand what took place on the other side of the fence, there was something about the people from there that made him think they shouldn’t be here in his house.

Related Characters:

Bruno (speaker), Shmuel

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Family and Friendship

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Page Number and Citation:

166
Explanation and Analysis:

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It was the first time they had ever touched.

Related Characters:

Bruno (speaker), Shmuel
Related Symbols:
The Fence

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Page Number and Citation:

175
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 16
Quotes

“I’m asking you, if we’re not Jews, what were we instead?”
“We’re the opposite,” said Gretel, answering quickly and sounding a lot more satisfied with this answer. “Yes, that’s it. We’re the opposite.”

Related Characters:

Bruno (speaker), Gretel (speaker)

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Nationalism

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Nationalism Theme Icon

Complicity

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Page Number and Citation:

183
Explanation and Analysis:

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“I look just like you now,” said Bruno sadly, as if this was a terrible thing to admit.
“Only fatter,” admitted Shmuel.

Related Characters:

Bruno (speaker), Shmuel (speaker)

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Family and Friendship

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Family and Friendship Theme Icon

Complicity

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Complicity Theme Icon

Page Number and Citation:

185
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 17
Quotes

He paused for a moment and looked out the window to his left—the window that led off to a view of the camp on the other side of the fence. “When I think about it, perhaps she is right. Perhaps this is not a place for children.”

Related Characters:

Father (speaker), Bruno , Gretel , Mother
Related Symbols:
Out-With , The Fence

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Boundaries Theme Icon

Family and Friendship

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Gender Roles

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Gender Roles Theme Icon

Complicity

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Page Number and Citation:

190
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 18
Quotes

Shmuel bit his lip and said nothing. He had seen Bruno’s father on any number of occasions and couldn’t understand how such a man could have a son who was so friendly and kind.

Related Characters:

Shmuel (speaker), Bruno , Father

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Boundaries Theme Icon

Family and Friendship

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Nationalism

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Nationalism Theme Icon

Complicity

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Page Number and Citation:

196
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 19
Quotes

Bruno had an urge to give Shmuel a hug, just to let him know how much he liked him and how much he’d enjoyed talking to him over the last year.
Shmuel had an urge to give Bruno a hug too, just to thank him for all his many kindnesses, and his gifts of food, and the fact that he was going to help him find Papa.

Related Characters:

Bruno (speaker), Shmuel (speaker)

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Page Number and Citation:

206
Explanation and Analysis:

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Bruno found that he was still holding Shmuel’s hand in his own and nothing in the world would have persuaded him to let it go.

Related Characters:

Bruno (speaker), Shmuel

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Boundaries Theme Icon

Family and Friendship

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Page Number and Citation:

213
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 20
Quotes

He looked into the distance then and followed it through logically, step by step by step, and when he did he found that his legs seemed to stop working right—as if they couldn’t hold his body up any longer—and he ended up sitting on the ground in almost exactly the same position as Bruno had every afternoon for a year, although he didn’t cross his legs beneath him.

Related Characters:

Father (speaker), Bruno
Related Symbols:
The Fence

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Family and Friendship Theme Icon

Nationalism

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Nationalism Theme Icon

Complicity

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Complicity Theme Icon

Page Number and Citation:

215
Explanation and Analysis:

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Bruno Character Timeline in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The timeline below shows where the character Bruno appears in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.

Chapter 1

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Bruno, a nine-year-old boy who lives in Berlin, Germany, comes home one day to find his…
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Bruno races Mother down to the dining room. She tells him there is nothing to worry…
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Saddened by the news that the family is moving, Bruno climbs all the way to the top of the winding staircase and slides to the…
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Chapter 2

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Bruno’s family soon travels far away to move into their new home, which Bruno decides is…
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Bruno tells Mother that he thinks moving was a bad idea, and she chastises him for…
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Bruno goes to help Maria unpack, peering into rooms in the house as he goes. He…
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Bruno, now very upset, tells Maria about his fear of not having any other children to…
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Chapter 3

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Bruno, who often does not get along with his twelve-year-old sister Gretel, secretly wishes she could…
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Bruno runs into Gretel’s room to find her arranging her dolls in her new bedroom. The…
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Bruno tells Gretel that he doesn’t like it in the new house, and she agrees with…
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Bruno finally gives in to Gretel’s demands that he explain what he meant by seeing other…
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Chapter 4

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Outside the window, Gretel realizes that what Bruno has seen are not just children: they are men of all ages, everywhere. The two…
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Gretel and Bruno are confused as to who would “build such a nasty-looking place.” Bruno guesses that they…
(full context)

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…led by groups of soldiers to a place where they could no longer be seen.” Bruno and Gretel are both confused as to why their Father would move them from a…
(full context)

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…she wouldn’t want to play with children like that, since they all look very dirty. Bruno wonders if maybe there are no baths on the other side of the fence, and…
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Chapter 5

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Bruno decides that he must speak with Father about how much he dislikes their new home….
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Bruno had not yet seen his father since arriving at Out-With. He hears a commotion downstairs…
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Bruno creeps down the stairs and decides to try and see Father in his office. In…
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Bruno asks Father when the family is returning to Berlin, but Father counters by saying a…
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Unsure how to respond, Bruno asks Father if he did something to make the Fury angry, due to the fact…
(full context)

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…he goes and sits behind his desk. He lights a cigarette, and muses that perhaps Bruno was trying to be brave, rather than “merely disrespectful” towards him. He tells Bruno to…
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Before he goes to his bedroom, Bruno asks his father who the people outside are. Father tells Bruno that they are soldiers,…
(full context)

Chapter 6

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A few days later, Bruno is lying in his bed, examining the cracks in his bedroom walls. He thinks that…
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Bruno begs Maria to tell him how she feels, because he still hopes to convince Father…
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Bruno admits that how his father had treated Maria and her mother was very nice, and…
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Alone again with Maria, Bruno admits that he still thinks Father has made a terrible mistake. Maria says that even…
(full context)

Chapter 7

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After a few weeks at Out-With, Bruno accepts that he is likely not returning to Berlin anytime soon, and that he should…
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From inside the house, Bruno notices a large oak tree with a wide trunk, and decides it is the perfect…
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Bruno successfully constructs the tire swing, but after a few hours of use, he falls off…
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Mother sees the bandage on Bruno’s knee, and he explains what happened with the tire swing. He tells her how Pavel…
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Chapter 8

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Though Bruno misses his three best friends very much, the two people he misses the most from…
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Bruno remembers how the play they had performed at their last Christmas in Berlin had ended…
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…thinks Father looks handsome, but Grandmother calls her foolish for thinking that this is important. Bruno then asks if he looks handsome in his ringmaster’s costume, but that only alerts the…
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…her want to “tear the eyes” from her head. She storms out of the house. Bruno recalls that he had not seen much of Grandmother after that night, and didn’t even…
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Chapter 9

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For a while, most things at Out-With remain the same—Gretel is unfriendly to Bruno, and Bruno misses Berlin, though his specific memories of his old home begin to fade….
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One day Father decides that Bruno and Gretel should resume their studies. A few days later, a man named Herr Liszt…
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A few days later, Bruno is in his room, thinking about all the things he was able to do in…
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Chapter 10

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Bruno walks along the length of the fence for a long time. It feels as if…
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When the two boys finally reach each other, they say “Hello” to one another. Bruno notices that the boy is wearing the striped pajamas he has seen all of the…
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Bruno tells the boy that he has been out exploring, but that he has not found…
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Bruno asks Shmuel if he has any friends, and Shmuel says sort of—there are a lot…
(full context)

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Bruno tells Shmuel that he does not think Poland is as good a country as Germany,…
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Bruno tells Shmuel that if they are in Poland, this is the first time he has…
(full context)

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Bruno asks Shmuel if he likes exploring, and Shmuel says he’s never really done any. Bruno
(full context)

Chapter 11

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Several months before Bruno first met Shmuel, Bruno remembers the day that Father received a new uniform, along with…
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An hour before the Fury is scheduled to arrive, Gretel and Bruno are summoned to Father’s office, one of the rare occasions they are allowed inside. The…
(full context)

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…taller woman appear in the doorway, and Father salutes them while Maria takes their coats. Bruno observes that the Fury is “far shorter” than Father, and has short dark hair and…
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…stay at the dinner table for the better part of two hours, and Gretel and Bruno are not invited to come say goodbye when they depart. From outside his window, Bruno
(full context)

Chapter 12

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Back in the present, Shmuel explains to Bruno how he got to Out-With. He tells Bruno that he used to live with his…
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…came home to find his mother telling him they couldn’t live in their house anymore. Bruno exclaims that the same thing happened to him too, after the Fury came to dinner….
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Shmuel tells Bruno that there are hundreds of other people on his side of the fence, and Bruno
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Bruno decides he has had enough exploration for the day, and returns home, excited to tell…
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Chapter 13

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As the weeks go on, Bruno realizes he is not going to be returning to Berlin any time soon. Eventually, he…
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At the fence, Bruno finds Shmuel waiting for him. He gives Shmuel the food, and asks if he knows…
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Bruno asks Shmuel what he wants to be when he grows up, and Shmuel says that…
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Back at his house that evening, Bruno is disappointed to see that Lieutenant Kotler is joining them for dinner. Pavel waits on…
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…did next, even though none of them could watch.” What Kotler does to Pavel makes Bruno cry, and Gretel grow pale. Later that night, Bruno reminisces on how kind Pavel was…
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Chapter 14

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For the next few weeks, Bruno continues to slip out of the house after his lessons end for the day, and…
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One day Bruno asks Shmuel why he and everyone else only wear the striped pajamas. Shmuel says that…
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A few days later, it is raining very hard outside and Bruno realizes he will not be able to visit his friend. He feels badly, and has…
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Chapter 15

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It continues to rain on and off for the next few weeks, and Shmuel and Bruno are able to have their conversations at the fence only sporadically. Bruno becomes concerned that…
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One day Bruno is reading Treasure Island in the living room, a book that Father gave him. Kotler…
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Angered, Bruno goes into the kitchen and is shocked to find Shmuel sitting there. Shmuel says that…
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Bruno rummages for something to eat in the refrigerator, settling on some cold chicken with sage…
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…but Kotler becomes enraged when he sees that Shmuel has been eating. Shmuel says that Bruno gave him the food, since they are friends. Terrified, Bruno replies after a moment, and…
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Chapter 16

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It has been almost one year since Bruno found Maria packing his things, and most of his memories about Berlin have faded. The…
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Bruno feels almost happy when they return to Out-With, since it has now become his home….
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Bruno is pleased to see that Shmuel seems happier lately, though he is still very skinny….
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…maps and following events in the newspaper, and has thrown away all of her dolls. Bruno asks her why the people are on the other side of the fence, and she…
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Bruno is still confused, but Gretel interrupts their conversation to shriek that she has found a…
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Chapter 17

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…unhappy with life at Out-With, especially since Kotler, her only friend, has been sent away. Bruno hears Mother and Father yelling in his office. He realizes there may be a chance…
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…Mother takes more naps and drinks more “medicinal sherries.” One day, Father summons Gretel and Bruno into his office, and asks them if they are happy at Out-With. Gretel admits she…
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Chapter 18

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Shmuel does not show up at the fence for several days. Bruno is overjoyed when he finally does, but Shmuel seems very upset. He has not been…
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Bruno wishes they could play together just once before they have to part, and Shmuel lifts…
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Chapter 19

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Though it is raining the next day, Bruno goes to meet Shmuel at the fence anyway. Bruno is unhappy to leave his clothes…
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Bruno is shocked at the world on the other side of the fence. He thought it…
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Chapter 20

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Bruno is never heard from again. Soldiers search every part of the house and the village,…
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One day Father forms a theory about what happened to Bruno. He goes to the part of the fence where Bruno’s clothing was found, and when…
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