The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mother becomes increasingly 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 for the family to go back to Berlin, and he doesn’t know how he feels about that—he can hardly remember his friends there, Grandmother had passed away, and he never hears from Grandfather, whom Father says has gone senile. Bruno would also miss Shmuel if they moved away.
With his new life at Auschwitz, and with Grandmother dead and Grandfather senile, Bruno no longer feels an attachment to Berlin. He has become accustomed to his afternoons with Shmuel, who is now his best friend, and so feels conflicted about moving back to the city he once longed for. There is clearly marital trouble in the family, but Bruno remains typically oblivious.
Themes
Innocence and Ignorance Theme Icon
Boundaries Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Life goes on as usual for several weeks. Gretel becomes more obsessed with her maps, and 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 is lonely, and Bruno is unsure what to say. Father says the children and Mother may return to Berlin, though he must stay at Out-With due to the commands of the Fury. Father says he does agree that Out-With is not the best place to raise children. Bruno responds that there are hundreds of children on the other side of the fence. Father demands to know what Bruno knows about them, but Bruno just replies that he has observed them from his window, and has noticed that they all wear striped pajamas. Bruno says he has seen them, but has not been watching them. Father announces that they are to return to Berlin within the week. Bruno dreads having to tell Shmuel that he is leaving.
With Kotler gone—and with him, seemingly, any excitement or sense of agency—Mother again hates life at Auschwitz. The onset of the lice then helps her complete her case against raising children at a concentration camp, and Father consents to letting her take them back to Berlin. Bruno is upset at the prospect of uprooting his life once more, especially now that he has a best friend and a secret life of “exploration” at Auschwitz. Father clearly recognizes Bruno’s extraordinary innocence and ignorance, and seeks to preserve that. Bruno, meanwhile, finally has to pretend to be more naïve than he really is. Father only seems to have qualms about his job when it comes to his children, as Bruno’s increasing knowledge of the camp’s reality cements Father’s resolve to move the family back to Berlin.
Themes
Innocence and Ignorance Theme Icon
Boundaries Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Nationalism Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon