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The Devil's Arithmetic

by Jane Yolen

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What are Gitl's appearance and character traits in The Devil's Arithmetic?

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Gitl is a sturdy peasant woman; when we first see her she is "dressed in a dark skirt covered with a smudged apron, an embroidered blouse with the sleeves rolled up, and a blue kerchief on her head". Beneath the kerchief, she has thick, black hair which she wears in a bun (Chapter 4).  Gitl is a tower of strength, always caring for others, whether it be Chaya after her illness or the young people in the camp.  In the Epilogue, we hear that she weighed only 73 pounds upon surviving the camps because she insisted on sharing her meager rations with the children.

Gitl has a strong sense of her Jewishness, from which she draws dignity and strength.  She faces persecution with acceptance and grim determination to endure, declaring, "laughter is our only weapon" (Chapter 4), "without laughter there is no hope" (Chapter 12).

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