What are the key events in Chapters 17 and 18 of The Silver Sword?

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Chapter 17: In this chapter, the most important events are Edek's discovery of Jan's clandestine actions and Edek's subsequent arrest by Captain Greenwood.

In Chapter 17, we discover that Jan is working at a farm, while Ruth is working as a cleaning lady at the local school. Meanwhile, Jan invariably returns home every day with cans of meat and fish. For her part, Ruth suspects that Jan is stealing. She thinks that he is stealing from the Americans, however.

The next day, Edek follows Jan after the younger boy leaves his farm job. Eventually, Edek discovers what Jan has been doing in his spare time: cutting signal wires in order to stop inbound trains. This is how Jan has managed to steal cans of food. For his part, Edek tries to stop Jan but is apprehended by Captain Greenwood in the process of doing so.

Chapter 18: In this chapter, the most important events are Edek's trial and his consignment to jail for seven days.

In Chapter 18, we see Ruth, Bronia, and Jan try to explain the truth to the court. Jan admits that he was the one who tried to stop the train. He also tells Captain Greenwood that Edek came to stop him from cutting the signal wires. During the trial, the captain asks Jan why he stole from the trains. After all, he can get plenty of food from the army kitchens.

Jan rationalizes his actions by arguing that he has a right to steal from the Nazis. After all, they ravaged his country. For his part, Captain Greenwood informs Jan that he has actually been stealing from the Americans, who have been sending food to help refugees like himself.

Jan eventually breaks down and insists that he must steal when his family is hungry. The kindly captain then tells Jan that he must either pay a fine of 200 marks or spend seven days in prison. Jan chooses to accept the prison sentence, as the children have little money to spare. Both Ruth and Bronia are saving portions of their pay to buy some boots for Edek (so he can travel later). After receiving Jan's answer, Captain Greenwood promises to take good care of him while he is in prison.

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Here are the important events from these two chapters in point form for you. 

In Chapter 17:

  • Edek is still suffering from ill health so Ruth decides to stop travelling and rest for a week.
  • The children camp in a meadow.
  • Jan and Ruth find temporary work in a village nearby.
  • Jan starts coming back with tins of food.
  • Edek realizes Jan must be stealing the food.
  • Edek follows Jan to the train track and discovers Jan cutting signal wires to stop trains.
  • Edek is the one who gets in trouble for this stunt.

In Chapter 18:

  • The American military charges Edek with being part of a local gang that has been robbing trains.
  • Edek tries to explain what happened, and Ruth, Bronia, and Jan show up at the hearing.
  • Ruth persuades Jan to admit that he was the one working with the gang.
  • Captain Greenwood, the judge at the hearing, is understanding but tries to convince Jan of the unlawfulness of his actions.
  • Jan promises to listen to Ruth in the future.
  • Captain Greenwood gives Jan the choice of paying a fine or spending time in prison.
  • Since the children don't have any money, Jan has to accept the prison term.

You can read more summaries and analyses of The Silver Sword on eNotes here. 

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