The Devil’s Arithmetic: An Thematic Analysis
The Devil’s Arithmetic is a film filled with themes of the importance and necessity of memory, love, and redemption. Hannah, the protagonist of the film initially is very irritated when her grandparents speak of the war and the Nazi party. She does not, at the onset, believe that there is an importance in remembering the history of the atrocities of the Jewish people during the Holocaust. Through a supernatural twist of fate, however, Hannah learns of the importance of remembering history through her being forced to live it. These events, too, teach her how to love both herself and her culture and through these acts of love and learning she is redeemed. Although, she is a young girl, this redemption is important as her grandparents are quite elderly and she can understand them and love them for the short time she has left with them. Therefore, the themes of the importance of memory, love, and redemption will be explored here.
When Hannah goes back in time, she is part of a new family, who become bombarded by the Nazi party and subjected to their cruelty. Hannah befriends her cousin, Rivka and is taught by her how to hold her held up high, despite the atrocities around them. Hannah wants to fight, but Rivka tells her that she is being heroic just by living everyday and loving herself, no matter how much the Nazis hate her. Hannah sees the deaths of others and learns to appreciate how important love is when so many of the people around her lose some if not all their loved ones. In an attempt to save her cousin Rivka, Hannah volunteers to go to the gas chamber in her place and when she is taken back to the present time, she realizes that the family she had in Germany was her real family in their younger days. This makes her love and appreciate her family even more.
Just as Hannah learns to love her family and her history even more after her time travel, she learns to appreciate remembering. As soon as she returns from the horrible experience of the concentration camp, she listens much more intently to her grandparents stories. The theme of remembering becomes important too, because it is possible that if a similar type event were to happen now, if no one remembered that it had happened before, they would not believe it. When Hannah realizes that she has been taken back in time, she tries to warn everyone of the horrible things that will happen, but no one listens to her. This is a very powerful moment in the film and reminds us that we must never forget, ourselves, and we must tell others about the Holocaust too.
Finally, through the memories of the back that Hannah is forced to encounter and the love she becomes to appreciate more, Hannah becomes redeemed. The act of saving Rivka, actually is found to be the act of Hannah saving her own grandmother, as Rivka was her grandmother’s name before she changed it. This final act of sacrifice and redemption is the last thing Hannah experiences before she is taken back to the present time. Through both this act and the act of knowing about her family’s past and loving them more for it, this young girl is redeemed.
In conclusion, this is a very moving and memorable movie, full of the themes of the importance of memory, love, and redemption. The powerful images and the atrocities of the Holocaust make remembering this event as important to the main character, Hannah, as it is for the audience. Her gift of being able to love her family and appreciate them more makes the audience, similarly, want to care more for their elders and to ask questions about their history too. We, like Hannah, can all redeem ourselves by asking these questions of our family and sharing these important stories of history to all, so they are not forgotten.