How do Gitl and Shmuel react to Hannah telling them she comes from New Rochelle, NY in Devil's Arithmetic?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shmuel is at first nonplussed when Hannah says that she comes from New Rochelle, New York.  When Hannah persists, however, insisting that New Rochelle was her former home, he and Gitl attribute her perceived confusion to her illness, and do not take what she says seriously.

In a strange instance of time-travel, Hannah has found herself transported from her modern-day New York home to a Jewish village in Poland during World War II.  To Shmuel and Gitl, she is their niece Chaya, recently orphaned when her parents died of illness during a fever epidemic in the nearby city of Lublin.  Chaya herself had also been seriously ill but had recovered; Gitl says "it was a miracle (she) survived at all".  Chaya apparently "easily...gets upset and forgets things", a condition her aunt and uncle attribute to her recent illness, as well as the traumatic loss of her parents.  Shmuel remembers "how (Gitl and he) were when (their) parents died, and (they) so much older at the time too".  Taking into consideration also the fact that Chaya has not yet "recovered in her strength", Shmuel and Gitl make allowances for her strange behavior.

After his initial confusion at Hannah's insistence that she is from New Rochelle, Shmuel decides to play along with her in what he perceives is her delusion.  He takes it as "a joke to help (him) forget about (his) marriage fears", and Gitl does the same, bantering with Hannah that if there is a New Rochelle, there must be an Old Rochelle as well (Chapters 4-5).

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The Devil's Arithmetic

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