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 is a good question and answer about The Devil's Arithmetic?

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A good question and answer for The Devil’s Advocate would be: WHy does Hannah get transported to the Holocaust?  The answer is that she was ungrateful to her relatives and did not understand what they had been through.

At the beginning of the book, Hannah is ungrateful and kind of bratty.  She does not seem to care about the suffering her relatives have undergone.  Instead, she focuses on the negative.  She is bored with the Seder ceremony, she finds her relatives depressing, and she doesn’t understand why there is so much food.

“Passover isn't about eating, Hannah," her mother began at last, sighing and pushing her fingers through her silver-streaked hair. "You could have fooled me," Hannah muttered.”  (p. 4)

Hannah does not have any appreciation for what her relatives or her religion have been through.  When her mother tells her Passover is not about eating, but remembering, she says, “All Jewish holidays are about remembering.” (p. 4).  Her mother tells her to act like a young lady and gets frustrated when she does not try to understand, even though she is almost thirteen years old.

Perhaps because of her ungratefulness, Hannah is transported back to the Holocaust.

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