I was wondering if you could help me figure out why coming of age is an important theme. ThanksI need this to help me write a summary about the devil's arithmetic. All help is appreciated. Thanks

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lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The theme of coming of age is an important one because everyone goes through this stage of development, and it is especially relevant to young people who are currently experiencing the many life events that will force them, or allow them, to leave their childish ways behind and embrace their adulthood. A loss of innocence is usually seen as a bittersweet thing: exciting, yet sad; interesting, yet painful. The loss of innocence of a character like Hannah/Chaya is very difficult because the reason for the loss of innocence is the worst imaginable horror: the Jewish Holocaust during WWII.  Yolan does an interesting thing in this novel with her "dual" characters because with this, Hannah actually goes through a "dual" loss of innocence. In the opening chapters of the novel is she a rather moody, petulant teenager who is bored by the family Sedar meal and all the tradition of it. But once she is transported back to Poland, 1942, it is a new story. She is thrust into the peril of mere survival in the concentration camp and chooses to make the ultimate sacrifice so that someone else can live. She switches places with Rivka and goes to the gas chamber in her place. Rivka eventually comes to the United States, and it is revealed in the end of the novel that she is Hannah's aunt, and that Hannah is named in memory of Chaya: the woman who let Rivka/Ana live. Hannah has a completely renewed appreciation for her faith and her heritage once she loses the innocence of thinking that the Holocaust is just a story in the textbook at school.

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The Devil's Arithmetic

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