The Devil's Arithmetic Questions and Answers
by Jane Yolen

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What are two examples of foreshadowing in The Devil's Arithmetic?

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Rebecca Karli eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As stated above, foreshadowing can be anything that gives a hint that something will happen later in a story. There are many examples of this throughout The Devil's Arithmetic. When Hannah goes back in time as Chaya and comes to live with her aunt and uncle, her uncle, Shmuel, is preparing for his wedding to a woman named Fayge. He tells Chaya that he is nervous about the wedding, and when Chaya later talks to Fayge, she says that a part of her is afraid, too, as if the women know it is too good to be true. Along the same lines, Fayge also predicts that "Life will be good to us forever and ever." This is an instance of ironic foreshadowing—a character believes she will have good fortune, but the reader knows that something bad is going to happen to them.

Hannah herself becomes a vehicle for foreshadowing since she is from the future and already knows about the fate of the Jews during the Holocaust. She tells the girls old stories she knows, like that of Hansel and Grettle, which is about two children who are thrown in an oven by a witch. The Jewish girls giggle at how silly it seems, having no idea that they might suffer a similar fate. Later, when they are put in the train car and then arrive at the camp, Hannah tries to warn the people, because she knows what's going to happen to them, but no one believes her. This adds to the suspense of the story, because the reader knows that something bad is going to happen, but most of the characters don't.

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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When an author uses foreshadowing, he or she is giving the reader a hint about what will happen later in the story.  There are many examples of foreshadowing in The Devil’s Arithmetic.  Many of these examples are from before Hannah is fully immersed in the past. 

One example is from the car ride (during the present time) when Hannah tells her brother a “harrowing tale” of the “walking dead.”  Of course, Hannah’s real story will eventually reveal the horrors of the Holocaust.  The Holocaust is both a literal and a “harrowing” tale of the “walking dead” who were killed in the concentration camps.  This particular part contains another example of foreshadowing, too.  When Hannah does enter the time of the Holocaust, she is continually called “Chaya.”  Hannah/Chaya sacrifices herself for Rivka by walking into the gas chamber and telling Rivka to “run” and “remember.”  In this way Hannah/Chaya literally becomes the “walking dead” through Hannah.

Another example is when Hannah first enters into 1942 and sees a figure approach singing a song.  The song is as follows:

Who asked you to be buried alive? one forced you took this madness on yourself.

This morbid song definitely foreshadows the death of Hannah/Chaya at the end of the book before Hannah comes back to the present time.  Hannah/Chaya is alive when she “took this madness on [herself]” by walking into the gas chamber, but only Hannah comes out alive.

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