illustration of main character Hannah opening a door which leads to a barbed wire fence

The Devil's Arithmetic

by Jane Yolen
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Describe in detail how Hannah's character changes from the beginning to the end of The Devil's Arithmetic?

Hannah begins the book being a typical teenager who is bored with all the family holidays. She complains about having to go to her family's Seder. However, after her experience in the concentration camps, she has more respect for the holiday and what it means to her people.

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There is a definite connection between the beginning and the end of the book. In the beginning of the book, Hannah is a normal teenager going off to a family holiday called Passover.  She doesn't want to go.

"I don't want to go to the Seder.  Aaron and I will...

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There is a definite connection between the beginning and the end of the book. In the beginning of the book, Hannah is a normal teenager going off to a family holiday called Passover.  She doesn't want to go.

"I don't want to go to the Seder.  Aaron and I will be the only kids there and everyone will say how much we've grown even though they just saw us last month." (pg 4)

Her mother explains to her that Passover is about remembering.  Hannah complains,

"All Jewish holidays are about remembering, Mama.  I'm tired of remembering." (pg 4)

She is exhibiting the typical teenager reaction to family holidays in that they are boring.  When her mother explains that Grandpa Will lost everyone in the war except Aunt Eva, and that his whole family was wiped out, Hannah rolls her eyes.   She says sarcastically,

"I remember, I remember."  (pg 4)

However, AFTER her experience in the Jewish concentration camps, Hannah sits at the table during the Seder with more respect.  She notices her Aunt's number, the one the Nazis tatooed on her arm, and she tells her aunt what each number means.  Her aunt tells her that when she was in the camp, she was known as Rivka. Rivka was the person Hannah had traded places with when it was time to go to the gas chamber.   Hannah responds with,

"I remember.  Oh, I remember."  (pg 164)

The author ties the beginning and the end together with the same words.  However, the meaning of those words has changed drastically. At the beginning they are sarcastic; at the end they are respectful.

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