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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In my mind, one of the fundamental statement of conflict rests with Hannah in the outset of the story.  From being a typical adolescent teen that is concerned with social avenues and "blending in," she must wrestle with her own identity of being Jewish.  How she is able to address both becomes one of the first conflicts we see.  The disdain which she possesses for the Seder traditions on the High Holy Days is quite evident and her internal dilemma between what she initially wants to do against what she is supposed to do represents one conflict.  The second conflict is her attempt to stay alive as she feels the realities of life of being Jewish at the time of the Nazis.  In this conflict, she no longer can deny her identity as being Jewish, and the condition of survival constitutes a conflict between what her own desires are and the societal demands of the time.

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