How is Aunt Rose related to Hannah?

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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In The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen we meet a character called Rose when she greets Hannah and her family as they arrive at her grandparents' house in the Bronx. Aunt Rose welcomes them at the door and remarks upon Hannah's appearance and in particular how pretty she has become. Aunt Rose then gives Hannah a kiss which leaves a lipstick stain. Hannah goes to the bathroom and tries unsuccessfully to clean the lipstick off. Hannah then feels ashamed of herself because she has mixed feelings about her aunt. She is fond of her but is also beginning to see her more critically. For example, she is suspicious of her Aunt's opinions as she can see for herself in the mirror that she is fairly plain and doesn't like her brown hair and braces. She is also unsure about being named for an Aunt's deceased friend. Hannah reflects that Aunt Rose sometimes exaggerates which shows that she is developing more adult critical thinking skills and is starting to leave childhood behind. As she exits the bathroom to rejoin her family she is nervous about running into other people who she may feel uncomfortable with. She feels that she was right about her worries on her journey from New Rochelle to see her grandparents for Passover Seder in the Bronx. She had said that she didn't want to visit her grandparents, guessing that she and her brother Aaron would be the only children there. She had been worried about being bored as the grown ups joked in Yiddish and told the children how much they'd grown.

Hannah goes back into the sitting room but no one seems to acknowledge her as they are huddled around Grandpa who is watching television. He angrily pushes his fist towards the television because he sees pictures of the Nazis and concentration camp victims. Everyone can see his wartime number tattoo as he has rolled up his sleeve on his left arm. Aunt Eva starts to apologize for him but Hannah is very familiar with his volatile reactions to the war. She even remembers being fascinated by his camp tattoo when she was was a little girl. She had even made a tattoo of her own in blue ballpoint ink on her arm, hoping he would like it. However he had frightened her with his angry response and his shouting had caused her to have bad dreams. Only having a child's understanding of his trauma, Hannah has found herself unable to forgive him for his verbal attack on her. She then finds herself critical of both of her aunts as Eva's apologies seem pointless.

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