What are three symbols in The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A symbol is something that stands for something else.  The opening of the door for Elijah, the bridal gown, and Rivka’s scarf are all symbols in The Devil’s Arithmetic.  Hannah is the character who is asked to open the door for Elijah at the Seder meal.  This act is done as a symbol of welcome to the Jewish prophets of old and of acceptance of the ancient Jewish ways.  (At this point in the story, Hannah is annoyed with this tradition).  The next symbol is the bridal gown.  The Jewish bride at the synagogue is dressed in her bridal gown and fancy earrings.  During the course of the train ride to the concentration camp, the bride rips her dress and has her earrings taken “for safekeeping.” The gown and the earring symbolize the pride of the Jewish people torn to shreds and/or lost due to the horrors of the Holocaust.  Finally, Rivka’s scarf comes to symbolize her character.  Hannah/Chaya snatches Rivka’s scarf as Rivka is asked to “run” and “remember.”  Because Hannah/Chaya is wearing Rivka’s scarf, Hannah/Chaya is mistaken for Rivka.  Hannah/Chaya, wearing Rivka’s scarf, is then marched off to the gas chamber and killed.

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The Devil's Arithmetic

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