There are a lot of important quotes in The Silver Sword. Some of them are about the setting, some are about the characters, and some are about the themes. Let's begin with these four:
In Chapter 4, Joseph (the children's father) returns to Warsaw. He discovers that his house has been bombed and his family is gone. On page 18, Serrallier describes Warsaw very vividly using simple imagery so the reader can understand exactly what a WWII bombing looked like: “But now, on his return, there was hardly a street he recognized and not an undamaged building anywhere.” “Windows were charred and glassless. Public buildings were burnt-out shells.”
Later in Chapter 4, Joseph meets Jan, the young boy who will ultimately be responsible for bringing the family back together. When Joseph meets him, however, he is a little thief trying to survive on what he can scrounge, beg, and steal. Joseph tells Jan he is looking for his children, but Jan replies that all children look alike under the circumstances: "'Warsaw is full of lost children,' he said. 'They’re dirty and starving and they all look alike.'" This quote shows that the bombed-out city is a horrible place filled with children who have been orphaned or separated from their families. It shows that life in the city is far from normal, with families having been ripped apart by the war and livelihoods taken away, so that all the children who survived the bombs have to scrounge and steal food and hide out in the bombed out buildings, which is exactly what Ruth, Edek, and Bronia are doing.
In Chapter 12, the children stop at Posen on their way to Switzerland. They join a queue of people waiting for food. When a bowl of stew is accidentally spilled, the people in the queue are so starved that madness breaks out as the orderly queue becomes a stampede: “Now, in a moment all control vanished. The sight of spilt food was too much for the orderly queue.” This quote shows that the devastating effects of the war are felt by people everywhere, and the children keep seeing the devastation everywhere they go. Along with the quotes from Chapter 4, this keeps the setting of a Europe ravaged by the Second World War consistent through the entire novel. Today's readers have no idea what it must have been like to live through such a horrific, wide-spread destruction as the Second World War, so these descriptions and events are important to keep the reader aware of the setting and the horrors the children experience on their way to find their parents.
Towards the end of the story, the children make it through a terrible storm and find themselves on a boat heading for Switzerland. Jan is forced to choose between Ludwig the dog and Edek, and this decision completes his character arc, because when the children first meet Jan he is self-centered and only cares about himself and animals. But now, finally, he realizes that he cares about other people, too. He has learned how to care for others through having Ruth for a role model, as this quote shows: “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.” Ruth's courageousness and willingness to sacrifice for others are themes of the novel, and at this point Jan realizes that he wants to continue to be part of Ruth's family. He asks Margrit, the children's mother, to adopt him.
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