full title · The Red Tent
author · Anita Diamant
type of work · Novel
genre · Fiction; some consider it a midrash
language · English
time and place written · 1994–1996, Massachusetts
date of first publication · October 1997
publisher · St. Martin’s Press
narrator · The novel is a memoir of Dinah’s life, narrated in the first-person voice. She recounts her life from birth to death, as well as the lives of her mothers. She narrates the prologue as if she were offering her story from biblical times to people of modern, contemporary times.
point of view · First-person (Dinah)
tone · Dinah expresses sadness and remorse at how the story of her life has been boiled down to a few footnotes in the Old Testament and wants to share the truth about her life and her family. Her tone also conveys forgiveness for the past and hope for the future.
tense · Past
setting (time) · In the time of the Jewish Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The time period is somewhere between 1800 and 1500 b.c., also know as the Middle Bronze Age.
setting (place) · Haran (modern-day Iraq and Syria), Canaan, Shechem (Israel), and Egypt
protagonist · Dinah
major conflict · Dinah is the only daughter of the Jewish patriarch Jacob. When she falls in love with a prince from Shechem, her father refuses to give her hand in marriage unless all the men of Shechem agree to be circumcised and worship Jacob’s god in their temples. They follow his requests, but Dinah’s brothers nevertheless slaughter all the men of Shechem in their sleep, including Dinah’s lover. She curses her family and runs off to Egypt, pregnant.
rising action · Dinah’s growth into adolescence and desire to reach womanhood. Jacob’s growing unrest, even as his family properties increase, causes him to continually seek the bad counsel of his two evil sons, Simon and Levi. As Jacob desires more power and wealth, his judgment fails him.
climax · Dinah’s confrontation with her father about his role in the murder of her husband and her subsequent realization of his guilt. She curses him and her brothers, then walks away from her family, including her mothers, forever.
falling action · Dinah’s escape into Egypt and the months waiting for the birth of her son, Re-mose.
themes · The burden of memory; childbirth as a defining experience; the power of the moon and nature
motifs · Healing and renewal, mothers, dreams
symbols · Teraphim, the red tent, the midwives’ bricks
foreshadowing · The climax of the novel is heavily foreshadowed, primarily because of the information given in the prologue and the presence of Dinah in the Bible. Additional foreshadowing includes the prediction by her grandmother, Rebecca, the renowned oracle, that some sadness awaits her in life and the frequent references to Simon and Levi’s cruelty, as well as the graphic description of the ceremony to open Dinah’s womb after her first menstruation.
Nobody can change their customs fast. These two grew up as polytheists, so it is improbable that they would have been, at least during the time frame of the story, monotheists. That is why in Genesis 35:2, Jacob needs to say: "Remove the foreign gods which are in your midst..."
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