Explain the role reversal in The Silver Sword.

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The Silver Sword reveals such tragedies during World War II that it is VERY important that role reversal be present in this book!  The best example of role reversal in The Silver Sword is how Ruth, especially, becomes a parental figure.  Edek and Bronia do as well, but to a lesser degree, as all three are left to live on the streets of Warsaw after dad is sent to a concentration camp and mom is taken to a forced labor camp. 

As a perfect example, let's look at how Ruth takes Jan under her wing.  Jan is on the streets, living off stolen food, and is very sick when Ruth meets him.  Ruth immediately is moved by Jan's predicament, as she is moved by ALL.  Note her response here:

As Ruth looked at them – the haggard old men, the bowed women, the children with gleaming eyes – there was no room in her heart for anything but pity.

Ruth, of course, is first mother to her OWN siblings, and then to her school classmates, and of course, to Jan. Jan is very suspicious, but Ruth wins him over with love and empathy.  Even further, Ruth convinces Jan (through her own actions) to join the good fight and choose ways of compassion over the ways of immorality.  Here is one of Jan's turning points:

In Ruth’s face he saw what he had hardly noticed before, though they had long been there – courage, self-sacrifice, and greatness of heart.

In conclusion, Ruth becomes a beautiful "mother figure" for Jan.  This is a complete role reversal of her being "daughter" before World War II.  Up until Ruth, Jan has lived his life through stealing.  Ruth has taught Jan that only through sacrifice and loyalty and love can one succeed in life and survive.

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