What happens in chapters 16, 17, and 18 of Adam of the Road?

Chapters 16, 17, and 18 of Adam of the Road depict some major events in Adam's life, and he makes some critical decisions. He realizes that he wants to be a minstrel more than anything else, but he also discovers that not all minstrels are alike. After several harrowing experiences with the de Vesey family, he chooses to live an honest life as a true minstrel.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Chapters 16, 17, and 18 of Elizabeth Janet Gray's novel Adam of the Road depict several major events in the life of main character Adam Quartermayne, and he makes some critical decisions that help to solidify who he is as a person and what he wants to do in...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Chapters 16, 17, and 18 of Elizabeth Janet Gray's novel Adam of the Road depict several major events in the life of main character Adam Quartermayne, and he makes some critical decisions that help to solidify who he is as a person and what he wants to do in his life.

In chapter 16, Adam, who is in Winchester, climbs up a wall to watch the miracle play The Fall of Adam. He is fascinated by the characters (especially the demons) and the action on stage. He watches intently as the story of the temptation of Adam and Eve unfolds before him, and hardly even realizing what he is doing, he edges forward, closer and closer to the edge of the wall. Then, at the very climax of the play, caught up in the spectacle before him, Adam falls off the wall.

Chapter 17 picks up with Adam lying in bed, dizzy and with a sore head. He doesn't know where he is or who has taken care of him. Soon a man and woman enter his room. They are Dame Prudence and Master Walter, the parish vicar, who picked him up after his fall and have tended to him compassionately ever since. Adam stays with them for some time as he recovers, and in gratitude and real affection, he strives to please them, reviewing and reading Latin, wearing somber clothing rather than his minstrel attire, helping the clerk, and singing in the church choir. While he realizes that Dame Prudence and Master Walter treat him well and even come to love him, Adam is not happy with them. He misses his life as a minstrel. He misses performing his favorite songs and tales and playing his harp. He quickly tires of this life that doesn't suit him.

One day while out looking for Roger and Nick, Adam meets a family of minstrels: Jack de Vesey, his wife, Alison, and their sons Lawrence and Andrew. Adam decides, quite on the spur of the moment, to leave Dame Prudence and Master Walter and travel with the family. He believes that the life of a minstrel is better than anything else, and he is so eager to get back on the road that he fails to notice how thin, poor, and ragged this family is. He spends all his money on a meal for them, and then they leave Winchester. Adam, unaware that the family has just taken advantage of his generosity, feels “wildly excited and almost happy” to resume his life as a minstrel.

However, things do not go as Adam hopes in chapter 18. Instead of going up to London, the de Vesey family and Adam wander throughout the countryside, performing here and there but not telling beautiful stories or singing noble songs as Adam is used to. No one respects them; in fact, the locals are more likely to shoo them away than anything else. Adam is only rarely allowed to perform, and he is appalled at the rude tales and silly tricks in which the family specializes. He learns quickly that not every minstrel is the same, and not every performer is like Roger. Adam also realizes that the de Vesey family isn't particularly honest or kind. In fact, they are harsh and rough toward each other and toward Adam, and the whole group often goes hungry and cold. This is certainly not the minstrel life Adam had been seeking when he joined the de Veseys.

Then Lawrence steals some food. Adam, who is dreadfully hungry, eats his share gladly until he suddenly comprehends something. Lawrence doesn't have money to purchase all that food. He has stolen it! Adam is horrified and soon has to make a mad dash out of town with the family to avoid being caught. They arrive in Guildford after curfew and are stopped by a watchman. The chase begins again, and Adam only escapes because he hides under a bridge. He decides not to return to the de Veseys. They are not the kind of minstrels he wants to be. He will head out on his own once again and resume his honest life—the life of a true minstrel—and his search for Roger and Nick.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Adam climbs to the top of a high abbey wall in St. Giles to watch a miracle play about Adam and Eve in Chapter 16.  He falls from his perch, providing a touch of ironic realism to the theme of the biblical Adam's fall from grace.

Adam, knocked unconscious by his fall, finds in Chapter 17 that he has been rescued by one of the actors, who happens to be a priest.  Adam's injury is serious and his recuperation long, but the priest and his sister are very kind.  Unfortunately, when he is finally well, his benefactor's desireis that he stay on and work at the vicarage as a parish clerk.  Adam wants to continue searching for his father and Nick, but the priest does not approve of the secular life of a minstrel and wants him to use his talents "in God's service".  One day Adam meets the de Vesey family, a band of minstrels, in a back alley.  They have heard of Roger, and report that he has gone to court to get Nick back from Jankin and lost.  The de Veseys think Adam might find Roger in London, and offer to take him there.

The de Veseys are kind, but Adam finds in Chapter 18 that they are irresponsible and tell stories that are rude and coarse.  They make little money, and frequently go hungry.  One day they steal some food and are accosted by a watchman, who raises a "hue and cry", summoning the villagers to help him catch the vagrants.  Adam manages to escape, but loses his harp. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team