A few days later, Bruno is lying in his bed, examining the cracks in his bedroom walls. He thinks that maybe insects live on the other side of the cracks, but then he decides that nobody, not even insects, would voluntarily choose to live at Out-With. Out loud to himself, he says that he hates absolutely everything about their new home. At that moment, Maria enters with freshly laundered clothes. Bruno asks her if she agrees with his feelings about Out-With. Maria doesn’t reply, and in turn asks Bruno how he feels about Out-With. Bruno tells her that he thinks it is awful, and Maria replies that she does miss sitting in the garden at the home in Berlin. Bruno asks her if she doesn’t think it’s as bad as Bruno does, and she seems angry for a moment, as if there were things she wanted to say but could not.
Though Maria certainly has feelings about Father’s job and the family’s move to Auschwitz, she knows that it is not her place to say them for fear of retaliation from Father. Though she is fond of Bruno, she knows it is not safe to speak her mind to a nine-year-old who can easily repeat them to his parents. Bruno continues to focus on what he sees as the injustice of the move, and has little concept of the strict hierarchy of the house—he assumes that Maria should be able to speak her mind just like he can.
Bruno begs Maria to tell him how she feels, because he still hopes to convince Father to take them home again, especially if everyone feels the same way as he does. Maria shakes her head sadly, and tells Bruno that his father knows what is best. Under his breath he says, “Stupid Father,” and Maria tells him that he must not say that. Maria says that Father is a good man who takes care of them.
Even though Maria’s body language and hesitation show that she agrees with Bruno’s dislike of Auschwitz and Father’s new position, she knows that it is not safe or proper to bad-mouth Father, due to his role as both family patriarch and Nazi officer.
Bruno admits that how his father had treated Maria and her mother was very nice, and decides to stop trying to recruit Maria to his campaign to leave Out-With. Maria looks out the window, and muses that Father has a kindness in his soul, but that it makes her “wonder what he…how he can…” Her voice drifts off, and cracks as if she is going to cry. Bruno insists she tell him what she was going to say, but then the door slams so loudly downstairs that it seems like a gunshot. It turns out to be Gretel, who comes into Bruno’s bedroom. She demands that Maria run her a bath. Bruno tells her she can do it herself, but Gretel says that that’s what Maria is for, as she is their maid. Maria says she will come soon, and Gretel marches out of the room. Bruno muses that Gretel doesn’t stop to think that Maria is a person with feelings, just like they are.
Maria apparently understands the truth about Auschwitz, and what Father’s role in the camp is. She feels conflicted, since the family gives her a job and a home, but she cannot understand how such seemingly nice people can also condone and carry out such horrific actions. Gretel treats Maria the way she has seen Father treat her—like a servant who is subordinate in the household, rather than a friend and fellow human being. One point the novel often makes is that young children do not naturally feel prejudice or hatred—they have to be taught these attitudes. Bruno is thus portrayed as young enough to still be innocent, while Gretel is learning the vices of adulthood.
Alone again with Maria, Bruno admits that he still thinks Father has made a terrible mistake. Maria says that even if that’s how he feels, he cannot say it out loud. Bruno is confused as to why he’s not allowed to say how he feels, and Maria asks him to remain quiet because he could cause a lot of trouble for all of them. Bruno says he was only trying to make conversation while Maria folded the clothes, and that he wasn’t trying to make trouble as if he was going to run away. Maria says that he would make everyone worry, and that he must just focus on staying safe until everything is over. She says they have no power to change the situation. Bruno fights back a sudden urge to cry, and it seems as if Maria is about to cry as well. Bruno goes to the door, and tells Maria he is going to go outside, and that it is none of her business. He runs down the road, as if he is going to go to the train station, but the idea of being alone is even more unpleasant than the idea of staying at Out-With.
Maria knows the full extent of what Nazis do to people who disagree with their policies—and the camp right outside of the house is evidence of the full extent of their power. When she tells Bruno how important it is to keep quiet, she is also reminding herself that she must keep a stiff upper lip in order to keep her job and stay safe. Yet we also see Maria involved in another kind of complicity—telling herself that there’s nothing she can do to change things, and so purposefully turning a blind eye to the atrocities she can see right out the window. Bruno senses that there are things he is not being told but is still meant to understand, and he runs out of the house in an attempt to get away from his new home.