The Devil's Arithmetic Chapter 5 Summary
by Jane Yolen

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Chapter 5 Summary

Hannah awakens early and feels her way through the unfamiliar darkness to the front door of the cottage. She opens it and sees the first signs of dawn beyond the rim of the field. She is overcome by a terrible longing for her family; it begins to seem like they exist only in a dream. Shmuel, who cannot sleep because of anticipation for his wedding day, joins Hannah, whom he calls Chaya, at the door. Hannah tries to tell Shmuel that she is not Chaya from Lublin but Hannah from New Rochelle in America—but Shmuel does not understand. Hannah accepts that to pursue her explanation is hopeless, so she decides that she has no choice but to go along with what is happening. She follows Shmuel to the barn, where they tend to the horses in “companionable silence.”

At breakfast, Hannah, who is used to having cereal or doughnuts or white bread for toast, is disappointed when Gitl places only a jug of milk, some coffee, and a loaf of dark bread on the table. She pours herself a glass of milk but chokes on it when she discovers that bits of cream are floating in it; it is fresh from the cow. Shmuel does not eat, claiming that he is keeping the traditional groom’s wedding fast; Gitl teases him, saying that he is not eating because he is so nervous.

There is a knock at the door, and Hannah hopes for a moment that it is her mother or father or Aunt Eva coming to get her. Instead, Gitl opens the door to a man “with shoulders as wide as the door itself, wiry red hair, and a bushy red beard.” The visitor is Yitzchak, the butcher, whom Shmuel greets heartily, inviting him in and introducing him to their newly arrived niece, Chaya. Yitzchak has brought some chickens as a gift for the wedding couple.

Gitl is gruff toward Yitzchak, who is seeking her hand in marriage. She grudgingly serves him coffee and, with annoyance, wipes up after him when he spills a little on the table. Yitzchak asks if he should leave the chickens there at the cottage or load them in the wagon with the other gifts to be taken to the ceremony. Gitl tells him they will take the chickens so that the bride’s family in Viosk “will not think [they] do not honor [their] own.” Shmuel laughs and explains to Yitzchak that he and his new bride, Fayge, will be returning that night to stay alone in the cottage while Gitl and...

(The entire section is 640 words.)