The Red Tent

by: Anita Diamant

Leah

Characters Leah

Leah is a determined, decisive, and capable woman. She marries Jacob, despite his love for her sister, and revels in the joy he finds in her arms. She’s taller than most men and more talented than most women: she brews excellent beer and effortlessly produces fine spinning. While Leah is probably the least self-centered character in the novel, she is self-conscious about her mismatched eyes. She takes care to hide them as much as possible and rewards those who can look into them.

As a mother, Leah is formidable. Bearing eight healthy children and breastfeeding many of her nephews barely distracts her from her daily duties as the head of Jacob’s household. She is surprisingly sexual, craving Jacob’s body and enjoying the pleasures they find in each other. Leah proves herself to be a skilled herdsman, noting the mating patterns of their flocks and helping her husband to grow their meager beginnings into more prosperous holdings. She even proves herself to be cunning at times, cleverly outwitting her father by stitching herbs and spices into the women’s clothes in order to smuggle them.

Yet even with all of her talents and triumphs as a mother, Leah is a somewhat tragic figure. Her sister Rachel remains the true love of Jacob’s life, and she loses her only daughter, Dinah, through circumstances beyond her control. She dies pining for the love and comfort of her only daughter.