In The Devil's Arithmetic, which two characters would be good to compare and contrast?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Two characters which would be very good choices to compare and contrast would be Hannah, the protagonist of this story, and Rivka, the girl that Hannah befriends at the concentration camp who actually turns out to be her aunt, Eva. The chief comparison to be drawn between them is the way that Rivka acts initially as a guide to Hannah and the other girls with her to the concentration camp, and most importantly how to survive it. When Hannah first arrives at the camp, she is in danger of becoming overwhelmed by the enormity of what she is experiencing and how many people are dying. She is fearful, weak, vulnerable and lacking in strength and resilience. Rivka, on the other hand, is characterised by a burning desire to survive and to continue living, no matter what tragedy she witnesses and experiences around her. Note what she says to the girls after they talk about the losses that they have suffered. After she tells them about the deaths of her family members, she says:

We all have such stories. It is a brutal arithmetic. But I--I am alive. You are alive. As long as we breathe, we can see and hear. As long as we can remember, all those gone before are alive inside us.

Rivka, through her inner strength and resilience, teaches the other girls how to survive and to fight in any way they can, and this is something that Hannah learns well, as she gives food to those in need and comes to develop relationships that are characterised by warmth and love even in the unconducive atmosphere of the concentration camp. Two characters who could be used to compare and contrast with each other therefore would be Hannah and Rivka.

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