Well, if Father’s job means that we have to move away from our house and the sliding banister and my three best friends for life, then I think Father should think twice about his job, don’t you?
Bruno knows there are rules about what he is and is not allowed to say in his home, how he can talk to authorities, and when he is expected to submit to his parents without objection. However, when he feels his opinion about moving has been ignored, Bruno bursts out with his honest thought that maybe his Father should reexamine his priorities for the sake of the family. Bruno does not understand the greater scope of the Nazi party, or how his father would have placed the family under suspicion of being unpatriotic had Father refused the promotion. He does have an inkling, however, that he might get in trouble for his honesty. And yet, he cannot lie to himself or to Maria. Bruno thinks he is the only one presenting his honest thoughts about the move, and he does not understand why no one else in his family will do the same.
But when he came to think of it, as he did now, [Bruno] had to admit that there must be more to [Maria’s] life than just waiting on him and his family. She must have thoughts in her head, just like him. She must have things that she missed, friends whom she wanted to see again, just like him.
Bruno’s commitment to self-honesty often leads him into empathy for the people around him. He is generally absorbed in his own world and does not always have a great understanding of what happens outside his immediate experiences. However, when he takes the time to examine and reflect on how he feels about others and how they might feel about him, Bruno is adept at realizing he is not the only person going through his experiences. The narrator primarily gives us Bruno’s interior perspective, but through Bruno’s habit of self-reflection, the novel shows Bruno’s ability to also reflect on the lives of others. Had he not taken the time to sit with his own thoughts, Bruno would likely have continued to take Maria for granted as someone who does whatever he needs without considering more about her.
“That’s all you soldiers are interested in anyway,” Grandmother said. “Looking handsome in your fine uniforms. Dressing up and doing the terrible, terrible things you do.”
Bruno’s father chooses estrangement from his mother, Bruno’s grandmother, because she asks the family to honestly confront their part in the Second World War. Grandfather, Father, and Mother all discuss what an honor it is for Father to be promoted, how he will appear in society, and even how well his uniform suits him. They will not, however, consider whether the benefits of a good social standing and handsome uniform outweigh the consequences of Father’s actions as a soldier. Grandmother tells Father she blames herself for encouraging him toward status rather than self-reflection and principles. Rather than consider her words, Father walks away from the complications of considering his actions.