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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What quick observation does the Badchan make of Hannah in The Devil's Arithmetic?

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It is interesting how Jane Yolen presents the Badchen.  Hannah cannot figure out who he is, and she doesn't seem to have an exact translation for the word, but as she watches him, she figures out that he must be some kind of comedian.  In truth, a badchen is a comedian or entertainer who was and still is hired to entertain guests, especially at weddings. The badchen in the story goes to each group of guests, and when he leaves them, they are all laughing uproariously.  Then he gets to the girls. He made up a little tune about each one of them.  When he got to Hannah, he sang,

"Pretty girl, with faraway eyes

Why do you look with such surprise?

How did you get to be so wise,

Old girl in young-girl disguise."  (pg 55)

He made the quick observation that she was a wise soul, one who knew a lot.  Hannah, at this time, remembers her life in the United States and can tell them many things that are going to happen in the future.  However, the only indication she has given them so far is the stories she has been telling.

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