The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Bruno decides that he must speak with Father about how much he dislikes their new home. Father had left for the new house a few days before the entire family closed the house in Berlin and left for Out-With. Bruno recalls an official-looking car decorated in red and black flags coming to take them away from the house. Bruno remembers that right before they left, Mother had stood in the living room and shook her head, saying to herself that they should have never let “the Fury” come over for dinner. She had not noticed Maria and Bruno standing nearby as she said this, and quickly hurried them out of the house. The car with the flags on it had taken the family to a train station. Bruno remembers seeing another parallel train also heading to Out-With. This train was crammed full of people, and Bruno felt confused as to why the people did not get onto his train, which, by comparison, had plenty of room.
Mother’s dismissal of what she says about Hitler’s (the “Fury,” or Führer) visit underscores how little she and Father tell Gretel and Bruno about modern German politics. Bruno has no comprehension that his father is a high-ranking officer in the Nazi army, and that the people on the other train are Jews and prisoners being sent to a concentration camp. Due to his ignorance on this subject, as well as his natural childhood naivety, he has no comprehension about people living a life that is worse off than the one he is living.
Themes
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Bruno had not yet seen his father since arriving at Out-With. He hears a commotion downstairs and looks down to see Father talking with a group of five men. His father is dressed in his military finest, while the other men don’t seen to be quite as well dressed, though they are wearing soldiers’ uniforms. They are all complaining to him about the Fury, and past discipline and efficiency. Father silences them with one hand, and assures them that things will be different from now on. He says he must help his family settle in or face more trouble inside the house than outside of it. The men all laugh, shake Father’s hand, and stand in a line. They shoot their arms up, the way Father had taught Bruno, and cry out two words. They leave, and Father retreats into his office.
Like in their Berlin home, Father remains an elusive and imposing figure who spends most of his time at home in his office, which Bruno is not allowed in except on special occasions. The complaints of the soldiers show that Father has been brought in to rectify what Hitler believes has been an incorrect handling of Auschwitz. The soldiers’ silence when Father raises his hand is evidence of his authority. The sign they make with their arms is the Nazi salute, and their cry is “Heil Hitler,” to show their allegiance to the Führer.
Themes
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Bruno creeps down the stairs and decides to try and see Father in his office. In Berlin, Bruno had only been inside Father’s office a handful of times because it was “Out Of Bounds At All Times and No Exceptions.” Bruno knocks on the door of his father’s new office, and Father tells him to enter. Bruno is shocked at how beautiful the room is—while the rest of the house is dark, this room has high ceilings and a lot of light, with mahogany shelves on the walls lined with books. Father breaks into a smile when he sees Bruno on the other side of his desk, and steps around it to shake Bruno’s hand. Father, unlike Mother or Grandmother, is not affectionate. Father tells Bruno he is proud of him for helping his mother and sister to close the house, and asks him what he thinks of their new home. Bruno admits that he doesn’t like it, but Father says that he must accept “Out-With” as the family’s new home.
As patriarch of the family, and as a high-ranking Nazi army officer, Father is given the best quarters in the house. Though Bruno does feel affection for his father, and aspires to be like him when he grows up, he also feels a kind of fear of Father—he is not warm like Mother or Grandmother, and treats Bruno more like a miniature adult than a child. Since Bruno is somewhat afraid of his Father and his authority, it is a testament to how much he does not like Auschwitz that he is willing to admit this dislike out loud.
Themes
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Bruno asks Father when the family is returning to Berlin, but Father counters by saying a home is not a physical location, but rather where one’s family is. Bruno says his grandparents are back in Berlin, but Father says that having Mother and Gretel close by is more important. Bruno goes on to complain that his friends and the hustle of the city are no longer close by. Father says that sometimes, one has to do things in life that they have no choice in. As the Fury believes Father’s position is important, he must be in Out-With out of duty to his country. Bruno feels tears in his eyes, but Father says that he must realize that Out-With is home now, and that they will be here for the foreseeable future. Father says that when he was a child, there were things he didn’t want to do, such as his schoolwork, but his father encouraged him to do these things anyway. Father asks Bruno if he thinks that he would have become such a success if he hadn’t “learned when to argue and when to keep my mouth shut and follow orders.”
Bruno continues to feel upset about the family’s move to Auschwitz, because all of the adults around him only explain why they are there in vague terms. Though Bruno knows Father’s job is “important,” he has no idea that his father is in charge of the concentration camp he can see from his window. Thus Bruno, as a child, feels that being moved away from everything he knows and loves is a kind of punishment. Father indirectly tells Bruno that if he does not stop complaining, there will be consequences and potential punishments to his actions. The spoiled Bruno, however, is seemingly oblivious to this, and continues to focus only on his own grievances.
Themes
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Unsure how to respond, Bruno asks Father if he did something to make the Fury angry, due to the fact that he assigned Father to a job at Out-With, which is much less desirable than Berlin. Father laughs, and explains to Bruno that his job is very important. Before he can think this through, Bruno tells Father that he must not have been very good at his previous job if the Fury made him move away from all his family and friends and into a “horrible place” like Out-With. Bruno suggests that Father apologize sincerely to the Fury, and then perhaps the family could move back to Berlin.
Bruno is so upset at the move that he speaks back to Father in a way he has never spoken before. Uninformed of the true nature of the situation, he only knows how to relate to his father in nine-year-old terms: if someone has made you do something as a punishment, the punishment can perhaps be reversed with a sincere apology. Bruno assumes that the move to Auschwitz is a kind of punishment, so if Father apologizes to Hitler, the punishment might be revoked.
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Father is silent for a time, and then 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 be quiet now. Though he believes he has been considerate towards his feelings up until now, he believes this last remark has been insolent, and that Bruno will have to accept living in Out-With. Bruno shouts that he does not want to accept it. Instead of reacting at all, Father just shakes his head and tells him to go to his room.
Though Father is a menacing figure, he channels his anger towards Bruno in a kind of quiet, forbidding disappointment. We can only imagine how differently he acts towards his prisoners, when he isn’t restraining his anger. Like with most of Bruno’s questions about the move, his demands are dismissed, and he is sent to his room.
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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, secretaries, and staff workers. Bruno asks who the people all dressed the same are. Father nods his head and smiles, and tells Bruno that they are not people at all. He says that Bruno has nothing to do with them, and that he should not think about them at all. Before Bruno leaves, Father indicates that he has forgotten to do something. Bruno pushes his feet together and shoots his right arm into the air, announcing “Heil Hitler,” just like his father has taught him. Father repeats the ritual back, and tells Bruno to have a pleasant afternoon.
Instead of being told who the people are in the camp outside, Father merely tells Bruno that they are not “people” at all, reciting Nazi anti-Semitic rhetoric that Jews (among others) are somehow less than human. Bruno repeats the Nazi salute he has been taught, but without understanding why he is doing it or what he is saying. This is an example of indoctrination—Bruno has grown up doing or repeating certain things without understanding them. In his young mind they are true, simply because they’re what he’s always known.
Themes
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Boundaries Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Nationalism Theme Icon
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