Literary Analysis: The Red Tent
The author and her times
Anita Diamant, author of the historic fiction novel, The Red Tent, is a devout Jewish-American living in Newtonville, Massachusetts with her husband and daughter, Emilia. She has written five books about contemporary Jewish life, The Red Tent being her first novel.
Diamant may have been influenced by the recent resurgence of creating Midrashim, or stories that attempt to explain the Torah by examining its subtexts. Modern women have taken a keen interest in this practice, hoping to expand on the minute biblical mentions of women like Dinah.
Form, structure and plot
The Red Tent is organized in a seemingly complicated yet beautifully simple way. There are three main sections; Dinah’s mothers’ story, her childhood, and her life in Egypt. Each is further divided into chapters.
Although the story is divided into sections, the plot progresses intact. The exposition consists of Jacob’s arrival and subsequent marriages to Leah, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah. Twelve of thirteen children are born, including Dinah, narrator and only daughter. Dinah grows up helping her aunt/mother Rachel, who brings her to the city of Shechem. The initial incident occurs when Simon and Levi, two of Dinah’s oldest brothers, enter the city of Shechem and murder all of the resident men, including Dinah’s beloved husband, Shalem. Cursing her entire family, a pregnant Dinah is taken to Egypt by Shalem’s mother, Re-nefer. In the rising action the child is born, a boy who Re-nefer names Re-mose and raises as her own. He becomes a superior Egyptian scribe, and is eventually assigned to the king’s right-hand-man. In a climactic irony, Re-mose’s employer turns out to be Joseph, Dinah’s youngest brother. The truth about Shalem’s murder is revealed to Re-mose, who in turn vows to avenge his father’s death on Joseph’s head. He is thwarted by Dinah, who convinces him to remove to the north. Joseph and Dinah attend the death of Jacob in the falling action, both forgiving the wrongs committed against them in their father’s name. The story concludes with Dinah’s death. Point of View
Diamant has Dinah effectively tell her story from three different narrative perspectives. The bulk of the novel is related by Dinah in first person, providing a private look at growing up and personal tragedy: "It seemed that I was the last person alive in the world" (Diamant 203). Dinah tells the story that she says was mangled in the bible. Understandably, Dinah’s relation of her mothers’ stories is done in third person narrative, since she herself was not yet born. Dinah exhibits a deep understanding of the feelings of her mother and aunts, giving her a definite omniscient quality and demonstrating the closeness the women shared: "She began to nurse dark fears about the future" (Diamant 24). The feelings of her mothers toward Jacob are described, as well as their thoughts on motherhood, faith and various other aspects of life. Second person narrative is used in the prologue and at the conclusion of the novel, both parts being separate from the story itself. Dinah charms the reader with sweet-spoken phrases such as "You crave words to fill the great silence that swallowed me, and my mothers, and my grandmothers before them." (Diamant 3) and "Wherever you walk, I go with you" (Diamant 321). Spoken in the present tense, the reader nearly feels Dinah’s presence as the pages are turned. The Red Tent is primarily Dinah’s reminiscence about her life and the stories told to her by her mothers. With the exception of the second person narratives, which are spoken in present tense, the story is told in the past tense. For the most part, Diamant tells a story accurate to the Book of Genesis.Dinah and Shalem’s love story, however, is based completely on opinion. In an interview with New Jewish...
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