illustration of main character Hannah opening a door which leads to a barbed wire fence

The Devil's Arithmetic

by Jane Yolen

Start Free Trial

What is a significant question and its answer about The Devil's Arithmetic?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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

A good question would be: Why does Hannah go by the name Chaya in the past?  The answer is that it’s her Hebrew name and the name of the woman she was named after.

Hannah is a young Jewish girl about thirteen years old.  It is Passover when the book begins, and she feels bored about her Jewish heritage.  Her relatives have all gathered, and they seem to be angry and reminiscent all at once, and Hannah does not know why.  All she knows is that she is tired of remembering.

When Hannah gets transported back in time, she realizes that she is being called “Chaya.”  The name sounds familiar to her.

Chaya.  That’s my Hebrew name, Hannah thought.  The one I was given to honor Aunt Eva’s dead friend.  Weird. (ch 4, p. 24)

The name is important, because Hannah is symbolically transmitted back in time into her aunt’s friend so she can understand why this friend was important to her aunt.  Hannah’s actions as Chaya are brave and selfless.  She even sacrifices herself at the end, before she is magically returned to her own time.

Hannah's becoming Chaya means she is accepting her role in her family, and her part in her family's history.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is a good question and answer for the book The Devil's Arithmetic?

A good question for The Devil’s Arithmetic would be: Why did Hannah change her opinion about Passover?  The answer is that Hannah was transported back in time to the Holocaust.

This is a good question because Hannah makes a big change of heart from the beginning of the book to the end.  At the beginning of the book, she says she is tired of holidays that focus on remembering.  She finds the Seder ceremony boring.  Perhaps this is the reason why she finds herself magically transported to the Holocaust.  She becomes Chaya, her Hebrew name, and lives the life of the girl she was named after.

Hannah finds that she does want to remember.  Remembering is imporant.

[She] realized with a sudden awful panic that she could no longer recall anything from the past. I cannot remember, she whispered to herself. I cannot remember. She's been shorn of memory as brutally as she'd been shorn of her hair... (p. 94)

Hannah experiences almost all of the horrors her namesake did, but when it comes to the time when she sacrifices herself, she returns to the present with a much better appreciation of the past.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on