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In The Silver Sword Joseph's daughter is portrayed as having great emotional and moral resilience. Her caring yet firm actions show that she is dependable and can win the trust of others, thus displaying the strength of character to get through the war with hope and dignity. For example, she takes Jan under her wing when he is found on the streets and very unwell. This ties in with the lines which talk about Ruth's attitude to those who suffer:
“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.”
Her resilience strengthens throughout the story because at first she feels a bit swamped by the enormity of events and is understandably very confused. However she is a fast learner and her inner sense of direction starts to come through, moved to pity by the suffering of those around her. In her case, sorrow and empathy drive her forward into real actions. Trying to survive without her mother or father, she matures as she gradually assumes her new position as substitute mother to the family and then to her new school students, including Jan who is initially suspicious and cynical due to his early experiences of war, suffering and soldiers.
Jan perceives human relationships in a very bitter way and has a particular fear and hatred of soldiers. It does not matter which army they represent as they all remind him of his own troubles and pain. However he trusts animals more as they seem unlikely to betray him, and after a lot of hard work he comes to put his trust in Ruth too. She gradually melts his resistance and shines a light through his hostility. Although it will be a long time before he can drop his dishonest and self protective ways, he does become less selfish. This "epiphany" is illustrated by a quote which shows him slowly forming new more wholesome attachments"
"With great effort of will he shed Ludwig from his mind and turned to his friends."
His actions become more trusting also as he places more responsibility for his well being with Ruth:
"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."
He is finally able to put his newfound progress into action when he is able to place the needs of others before his own. During the storm he has to choose between the safety of his dog and that of the drowning Edek. He eventually chooses to help Ruth to save him, ending his own years of bitter self isolation and moving towards the ways of empathy and compassion.
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