The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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 and citation info for the quotes below refers 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
Page Number: 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
Page Number: 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)
Page Number: 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
Page Number: 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
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

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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
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

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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
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

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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
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

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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
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

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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
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

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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
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

What a horrible man, thought Bruno.

Related Characters: Bruno (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Fury
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

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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
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

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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)
Page Number: 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
Page Number: 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
Page Number: 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
Page Number: 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
Page Number: 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
Page Number: 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)
Page Number: 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)
Page Number: 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
Page Number: 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
Page Number: 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)
Page Number: 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
Page Number: 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
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:

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Get the entire Striped Pajamas LitChart as a printable PDF.
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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... (full context)
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Bruno races Mother down to the dining room. She tells him there is nothing to worry... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Bruno’s family soon travels far away to move into their new home, which Bruno decides is... (full context)
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Bruno tells Mother that he thinks moving was a bad idea, and she chastises him for... (full context)
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Bruno goes to help Maria unpack, peering into rooms in the house as he goes. He... (full context)
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Bruno, now very upset, tells Maria about his fear of not having any other children to... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Bruno, who often does not get along with his twelve-year-old sister Gretel, secretly wishes she could... (full context)
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Bruno runs into Gretel’s room to find her arranging her dolls in her new bedroom. The... (full context)
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Bruno tells Gretel that he doesn’t like it in the new house, and she agrees with... (full context)
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Bruno finally gives in to Gretel’s demands that he explain what he meant by seeing other... (full context)
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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Bruno decides that he must speak with Father about how much he dislikes their new home.... (full context)
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Bruno had not yet seen his father since arriving at Out-With. He hears a commotion downstairs... (full context)
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Bruno creeps down the stairs and decides to try and see Father in his office. In... (full context)
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Bruno asks Father when the family is returning to Berlin, but Father counters by saying a... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Bruno begs Maria to tell him how she feels, because he still hopes to convince Father... (full context)
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Bruno admits that how his father had treated Maria and her mother was very nice, and... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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From inside the house, Bruno notices a large oak tree with a wide trunk, and decides it is the perfect... (full context)
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Bruno successfully constructs the tire swing, but after a few hours of use, he falls off... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Though Bruno misses his three best friends very much, the two people he misses the most from... (full context)
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Bruno remembers how the play they had performed at their last Christmas in Berlin had ended... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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.... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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A few days later, Bruno is in his room, thinking about all the things he was able to do in... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Bruno walks along the length of the fence for a long time. It feels as if... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Bruno tells the boy that he has been out exploring, but that he has not found... (full context)
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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,... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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.... (full context)
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Shmuel tells Bruno that there are hundreds of other people on his side of the fence, and Bruno... (full context)
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Bruno decides he has had enough exploration for the day, and returns home, excited to tell... (full context)
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... (full context)
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At the fence, Bruno finds Shmuel waiting for him. He gives Shmuel the food, and asks if he knows... (full context)
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Bruno asks Shmuel what he wants to be when he grows up, and Shmuel says that... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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... (full context)
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One day Bruno asks Shmuel why he and everyone else only wear the striped pajamas. Shmuel says that... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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... (full context)
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One day Bruno is reading Treasure Island in the living room, a book that Father gave him. Kotler... (full context)
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Angered, Bruno goes into the kitchen and is shocked to find Shmuel sitting there. Shmuel says that... (full context)
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Bruno rummages for something to eat in the refrigerator, settling on some cold chicken with sage... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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... (full context)
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Bruno feels almost happy when they return to Out-With, since it has now become his home.... (full context)
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Bruno is pleased to see that Shmuel seems happier lately, though he is still very skinny.... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Bruno is still confused, but Gretel interrupts their conversation to shriek that she has found a... (full context)
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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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... (full context)
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Bruno wishes they could play together just once before they have to part, and Shmuel lifts... (full context)
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... (full context)
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Bruno is shocked at the world on the other side of the fence. He thought it... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Bruno is never heard from again. Soldiers search every part of the house and the village,... (full context)
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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... (full context)