The Silver Sword

The Silver Sword Literary Elements


Children's Fiction

Setting and Context

Poland, 1939-46 World War II, under Nazi Occupation

Narrator and Point of View

Third person narrator telling story chiefly from the point of view of the Balicki family

Tone and Mood

Threatening, dangerous, yet also hopeful and optimistic of better things to come

Protagonist and Antagonist

Balicki family members are the protagonists; the occupying German Nazis are the antagonists

Major Conflict

Whether the children will locate their parents.


Ruth waking to find not only her father, but also her mother, sitting at her bedside.


-“But if there were any who faced them with as much courage, unselfishness and common sense as [Ruth] did, I have not heard of them” (14). This, coming on one of the first few pages of the novel, gives an idea of what we can expect from Ruth.
-“One day something happened which was to change the whole course of her life, and to give hope to her flagging spirit” (56).
-Storm clouds gather as the children explore the lake, suggesting that they are soon to be cut off from the mainland.
-“They did not know that what was in some ways their most dangerous ordeal still lay ahead” (169).


-Joseph notices the Warsaw people are hungry, which is a terrific understatement: food is scarce and they are literally starving.
-Jan says, “I borrowed it when the cart came around” (88), meaning that he stole.


-Shangri-La is the name of the soldiers’ nightclub; it is a fictional place in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon known for its magical, harmonious atmosphere.
-Ruth alludes to the story of Daniel and the Lions to describe the family's situation.


See this guide's separate Imagery section.


The people of Warsaw are living in deplorable, sub-human conditions, yet their pride and defiance allow them to decorate the cellars and tunnels they live in as if those were their homes.


There is a parallel between Jan and the lost son of Herr and Frau Wolff, as both dearly loved Ludwig the dog and, in turn, were adored by him.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

With respect to the camp wanted Edek to stay until he was healthier: the word "camp" is used to represent the superintendent of the transit camp and his co-workers.


-“Darkness swallowed him” (40).
-Jan states that the sword would not have allowed him to stay with Herr and Frau Wolff, thereby attributing intention and authority to an object.