Download Milkweed Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Chapters 15-17 Summary

Chapters 15-17: "Autumn"

The Jews of Warsaw are confined to a ghetto the following autumn. Misha watches as a horde of solemn victims wearing white armbands with blue stars pass by in unearthly silence, while behind them, there is cheering and the sound of breaking glass. As the Jews leave their homes, other citizens rush in greedily to claim their abandoned dwellings. Unaware of the seriousness of the situation, Misha joins the melancholy throng. He tries to strike up a conversation with some of the exiles, but they are afraid of him because he wears no armband, and thus must not be a Jew.

Marching with the crowd, Misha sees the orphans, who are singing under Doctor Korczak's direction as they move along. Suddenly, to his delight, he spots Janina. He joins her and her family. Janina's mother is annoyed by Misha's inopportune questions and innocent lack of gravitas, but Janina's father, recognizing him as the boy who has so kindly been bringing them provisions over the past months, ignores her entreaties to send him away. As the people approach the area designated as the ghetto, there is a sudden sense of urgency. Upon entering the courtyard, individuals rush forward to claim tiny living spaces for themselves and their families. Janina, her parents, and her Uncle Shepsel manage to secure an abode the size of a closet. As Misha is leaving after having helped the family get settled, Janina slips him a treat—a half of a piece of candy, his favorite, buttercream with a hazelnut heart.

When Misha returns to the ghetto, he discovers that a wall is being built around it. He finds a place where it is not completed, and he manages to scamper inside. He is carrying with him a sack of food, pilfered from various places, and brings it directly to the room where Janina and her family are staying. Uncle Shepsel, a sardonic, self-absorbed man, calls Misha a "smelly nimble-footed thief," but helps himself shamelessly to the food Misha has provided. Janina's mother is bitter and ill, and she spends much of her time lying on the mattress in the corner of the room. During Misha's visit, a neighbor comes by, asking for medicine from Janina's father, who is a pharmacist. Although Uncle Shepsel warns him that if he starts dispensing his small stock of drugs in this place, it will be gone in a week, Janina's father ignores his unpleasant relative's counsel and generously gives the neighbor what he needs, refusing to accept payment. Misha is delighted to learn that Janina's last name is Milgrom. Having only recently been given the surname of Pilsudski himself by Uri, he is tickled to know someone else's full name, and the thought makes him exceedingly happy.

Misha continues to live on the other side of the wall with Uri at the stable. All the other homeless boys are hiding out with them. Now that the Jews have been...

(The entire section is 759 words.)