What is Rivka's Number and how does she remember it?

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lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shortly after all of the women arrive at the camp, they are tattooedd with a serial number as a method of accounting in the concentration camp. Chaya and the others are in complete shock over all that has transpired in the past few days, but Rivka has survived in the camp for over a year and she is wise to ways of survival. She helps the others by showing her fierce attitude about the value of her life and her will to remember and survive. This is revealed in how she explains her number. This occurs in Chapter 14. She says that she is an authority on what happens in the camp because she is a survivor:

J18202. J because I am -- like you -- a Jew. The 1 is for me because I am alone. The 8 is for my family because there were eight of us when we lived in our village. And the 2 because that is all that are left now, me and Wolfe, who believes himself to be a 0. But I love him no matter what he is forced to do. And when we are free and this is over, we will be 2 again.

This accounting of her number reveals her pride in her heritage, her connection with family members that have not survived, her connection to her brother, some hint that her brother has an awful job in the camps (it is later revealed he picks up dead bodies for disposal), and hope that this nightmare will end. All of these emotions are essential in all of these characters' lives.

Read the study guide:
The Devil's Arithmetic

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