How did the silver button prove to be significant for David?

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Alan’s gift to David of a silver button cut from his coat (Chapter XI) has symbolic significance. The gift comes in recognition of David’s bravery in the battle of the round-house, in which he killed two men and possibly wounded more, despite having no experience with firearms. It is the symbolic equivalent of a medieval knight winning his spurs in battle: an acknowledgement that a rite-of-passage has occurred. David is no longer a child, but a man, and a courageous one at that. Later in the novel, the silver button becomes symbolic of Alan’s guidance and spirit even when he is not physically present with David. In Chapter XVI, for example, David is able to show the button to the skipper of a ship on which he is traveling and thereby earn the protection that would be given to Alan.

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