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One day, Re-mose appears at Dinah’s door. Though their
greeting feels stiff and formal, Dinah invites him in and offers
him fruit and beer. Re-mose explains that his master has sent for
her to attend as a midwife to his wife’s labor. Dinah can hear in
Re-mose’s voice that he does not care for his master,although he
feels that he must carry out his duty. She agrees to go and collects
her kit and herbs. They stop by Meryt’s on the way out of town to
invite her to come along, but she cannot join them. Dinah bids farewell
to Benia, who is unhappy that she is leaving. Re-mose brings Dinah
to the river, where one of the king’s boats speeds them to Thebes,
and she enters the chamber of the mother-to-be. After a difficult
labor, the woman gives birth to a healthy son, and she expresses
her gratitude for Dinah’s skills as a midwife. Dinah is given a
bed and collapses into sleep contentedly, but she wakes up with
a fever and a sore throat. Several days pass before she feels better.
In the meantime, one of the servants begins to chatter to Dinah
about her master, Zafenat Paneh-ah. The servant tells her that he
is handsome and arrogant and mentions that he is of Canaanite origin.
Dinah learns that his brothers sold him as a slave when he was a
young man but rose to power because he could divine the future by
interpreting dreams. Dinah finally realizes that he must be her
brother Joseph, at which point the servant informs her that Zafenat
Paneh-ah demanded that his son be circumcised eight days after his
birth. As she falls asleep, she mutters his true name aloud.
The servant tells Re-mose that Dinah has mentioned the
name ,Joseph. Re-mose approaches his master, addressing him as Joseph and
asking if he knows a woman named Dinah. Joseph replies that he once
had a sister named Dinah who died. Re-mose insists upon hearing
the story, and Joseph complies. Re-mose informs Joseph that not
only is his sister not dead but that she is the midwife who delivered
his son. With this realization, Re-mose refuses to call Joseph uncle
and accuses him of the murder of his father. He raises his arm to
harm Joseph, but guards intervene and he is led away.
Dinah wakes up and learns that Re-mose has been placed
under guard. She insists on speaking with Joseph, and she is ushered
into his hall, where they are left alone. Joseph and Dinah immediately recognize
each other. She asks him why her son has been placed under guard.
Joseph says that Re-mose knows the story of Shalem’s death, and
because he threatened Joseph’s life, he must be sent away. Joseph
begs Dinah to convince Re-mose to go so that the guards will not
kill him. Dinah goes to Re-mose and tells him he must go away and
that she can never see him again. She apologizes for not telling him
the story of his father and explains her agreement with Re-nefer. She
blesses him and wishes him contentment. He does not utter a word,
and at last she leaves him.
The confrontation between Joseph and Re-mose parallels
the battles between another uncle and nephew, Laban and Jacob, in
Part One of The Red Tent. Laban and Jacob had many
quarrels—over the bride-prices for Laban’s daughters, Jacob’s property
rights as overseer, and the theft of the teraphim. In all of these
disagreements, the nephew engendered sympathy, while the uncle came
across as cruel and unreasonable; the same is true in the struggle
between Joseph and Re-mose. When Joseph describes the unfortunate
story of his sister and her marriage, he claims to hold no responsibility
in the matter and calls himself a victim, since he was later sold
into slavery by the same villainous brothers that killed Shalem.
Re-mose does not accept his claims, calling Joseph a murderer and
a liar for doing nothing to halt his brother’s plot. His hatred
of Joseph mirrors Jacob’s hatred of his uncle after Laban tried
to cheat him out of his fair due as overseer of the herds. Joseph
has assumed the position of his grandfather, Laban, while Re-mose
has taken that of his grandfather, Jacob.
In this chapter, Dinah speaks up for herself for a third
time and fully asserts her control over her destiny. For most of
the novel, she has remained passive, serving primarily as the narrator
of the story rather than as its protagonist. She first asserts herself
after Shalem’s murder, when she marches up to Jacob, condemns him
for the crime, and curses him forever. Afterward she slips back
into her noncommittal personality, floating along with the current
and accepting whatever happens to her. She barely blinks when whisked
away from Shechem to Egypt and does not utter a word of protest
when Re-nefer takes away her child. Dinah finds her voice again
when Re-mose comes to her as a young man and demands that she deliver
the vizier’s baby. After finding contentment with Benia, Dinah has
had enough of being ordered around. She refuses to hear orders from
her son and puts him in his place. Once she learns of her brother’s
position, she demands a private audience with him, despite her lowly status
as a midwife. Dinah’s growing acceptance of her past alerts her
to the power she holds over her life, which, in turn, compels her to
finally stand up and speak her mind. Dinah’s newfound assertiveness
saves her son from death.
Joseph’s return into Dinah’s life prompts her to tell
her son, Re-mose, the truth about his father. Though the accounts
of Joseph’s ascent to power have roots in the Bible, he does not
dominate the narrative of The Red Tent. Instead,
Joseph’s story forces Dinah to level with her son. Alhough she had
sworn to Re-nefer that she would never reveal anything to Re-mose
about Shalem or his murder, she finally breaks down and tells him
her story. She explains the truth about the role of her father and
brothers in Shalem’s death, as well as the promise she made to Re-nefer
to keep the story quiet. Dinahs faces her greatest challenge as
a mother by sending her son away with the knowledge that she will
likely never see him again. Dinah believed that hiding away in Egypt
would prevent her past from catching up to her. However, when she
breaks her promise and tells her son the truth about her relationship
with Shalem and his murder, she feels nothing but relief. With a
blessing she bids him farewell and leaves “brokenhearted but free.”