The Devil's Arithmetic Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 33 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Devil's Arithmetic.
This section contains 485 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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The Devil's Arithmetic Summary & Study Guide Description

The Devil's Arithmetic Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen.

In Jane Yolen's novel, The Devil's Arithmetic, a girl from a Jewish family in New Rochelle, New York, finds herself magically transported to a village in Europe during World War II. The villagers, all Jewish, are taken by Nazi soldiers to a concentration camp. During the course of the story, many of the characters are sent to the gas chambers, "chosen" for death by the camp commandant. The girl, Hannah Stern, slowly begins to lose memory of her life and family in New Rochelle, as the terrifying events of her new life increasingly take over her consciousness. Her initial suspicion that she is in an elaborate dream gradually gives way to the grim reality of the camp. There, her name is Chaya Abramowitz, but even that is taken away by the Nazis, who tattoo the arms of all the prisoners with identification numbers. Hannah and her family are helped at the camp by a girl named Rivka whose own family has been killed by the Nazis over the past year in the camp, except for one brother, named Wolfe. Rivka teaches the others tricks of survival in the camp, but not everyone will listen to her. Hannah follows Rivka's advice. Occasionally, Hannah briefly recalls something from school about the Nazi atrocities. She tries to warn the others that six million Jews will be killed, but they think she is mentally disturbed and that there is nothing anyone can do, anyway.

The novel describes in detail the horrible treatment by the Nazis of their Jewish captives. They are starved, beaten, and rarely allowed to wash. They work long hours, sleep on boards without bedding, and are made to wear the filthy and ragged clothing of other people who have been sent to the ovens before them. The strongest-willed among them, including Rivka and Hannah's aunt, Gitl, regularly remind the others that good humor can produce hope, which can sustain life. Even so, the Commandant comes regularly to the barracks to do what the prisoners call the Choosing, which consists of selecting who will go that day to the ovens. Each day that someone is not chosen is one more day of survival, which is what Gitl calls the Devil's arithmetic. One day, Rivka is chosen, but at the last moment, Hannah changes places with her and is sent to the ovens. As she steps through the door, she returns home to New Rochelle, where she realizes that her Aunt Eva is actually Rivka, who has grown up and changed her name. Eva's brother, who is Hannah's Grandpa Will, also has changed his name from Wolfe. Eva tells Hannah that Gitl and her friend Yitzchak also survived the camps. Yitzchak became a politician in Israel and Gitl started an organization in Israel for camp victims that later became an adoption agency, which she named after her niece who died in the camps, Chaya, which means "life."

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This section contains 485 words
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