After a few weeks at Out-With, Bruno accepts that he is likely not returning to Berlin anytime soon, and that he should find some way to entertain himself before he goes mad. He thinks about a man named Herr Roller who lived around the corner from the family in Berlin, and who is the only person he’d ever met who was considered mad. Herr Roller would have arguments with people who weren’t there, and would often punch a wall. Mother told him not to laugh at Herr Roller, since he was lovely as a young man but became ill after suffering a head injury in World War I. Father had served with Herr Roller in the trenches. Mother refused to speak on the topic anymore, since “war is not a fit subject for conversation.”
Bruno’s recollection that Mother refused to talk to him about the First World War is indicative of how she and Father handle the current war. Indeed, Mother avoids talking about the war at all, and this avoidance of the subject allows her to purposefully ignore what her husband is doing. Herr Roller is clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome.
From inside the house, Bruno notices a large oak tree with a wide trunk, and decides it is the perfect tree on which to construct a tire swing. That day, Mother and Father are both out of the house, so Bruno is on his own to find the materials. He sees Lieutenant Kotler (the blond young soldier Bruno saw before) and Gretel speaking together outside, and Bruno is reminded of the cold atmosphere that surrounds the Lieutenant. Bruno goes to say hello, and Gretel, irritated that her time with the Lieutenant has been interrupted, asks him what he wants. Bruno asks Kotler if there are any spare tires around the house. Kotler makes Pavel, an old man who now waits on the family, take Bruno to find a tire in the storage shed. Kotler tells Pavel to wash his hands before he handles the food, and calls him a mean name that startles both Gretel and Bruno.
Since there is no one else to play with around the house, and Gretel is often unkind to him, Bruno decides it is up to him to find entertainment. Lieutenant Kotler treats Pavel very unkindly, even more unkindly than Father treats Maria. This confuses Bruno who doesn’t understand how Pavel is different from any other servant. The name Kotler calls Pavel is a derogatory term for a Jewish person, and in telling him to wash his hands, Kotler is telling Pavel that he believes he is an inherently dirty person.
Bruno successfully constructs the tire swing, but after a few hours of use, he falls off and scrapes his knee. Pavel, who has been keeping an eye on him from the kitchen window, comes out and takes him inside. Bruno asks for his Mother, but Pavel says he is the only one in the house. Pavel patches up Bruno’s knee. Bruno keeps asking if he needs to go to the hospital or see a doctor, but Pavel says that it isn’t necessary. Bruno asks Pavel how he knows, since he is not a doctor, but Pavel replies that he practiced as a doctor before he came to Out-With. Bruno tells Pavel that he wants to become an explorer, and Pavel wishes him luck. Bruno asks him how long he has been at Out-With, and Pavel says he thinks he’s “always been here.” Bruno asks him if that means he’s grown up there, and Pavel says no. Mother comes home before they can finish their exchange.
Bruno is startled by Pavel’s kindness, since he has never heard the man speak. He has also internalized how Kotler and Father treat Pavel to some extent—since he has seen other people treat Pavel badly, he subconsciously thinks that Pavel must have done something to deserve this treatment. Pavel’s soothing words and kindness therefore surprise him, and the old man begins to become an intriguing mystery to Bruno. Pavel’s inability to speak clearly to Bruno, due to the fact that he is essentially a slave in the household, further contributes to the air of sadness and mystery that surrounds him.
Mother sees the bandage on Bruno’s knee, and he explains what happened with the tire swing. He tells her how Pavel brought him inside when he fell, and how he bandaged his wound. Mother looks uncomfortable, and sends Bruno to his room. From outside the kitchen, Bruno hears Mother tell Pavel that “if the Commandant asks, we’ll say that I cleaned Bruno up.” Bruno is confused as to why his mother would do something so seemingly selfish as take responsibility for something she had not done.
Mother knows that Father would be very angry if he knew that a Jew was the one taking care of his son’s injuries. Bruno, of course, has no idea what the issue is with Pavel taking care of him, and thinks Mother is just trying to take responsibility for a good deed she has not really done.