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The Red Tent by Anita Diamant March 1, 2007

Posted by pvccbookclub in Current Discussion.
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Even people well-acquainted with the Bible, may not be familiar with the story of Dinah. She was thRed Tente daughter of the great patriarch, Jacob, and his wife, Leah. According to the biblical tale, Dinah was “defiled” by the prince of the region, Shalem. Shalem falls in love with Dinah and attempts to negotiate a marriage deal with Jacob and the male members of his family. However, Jacob’s sons betray the conditions of the arrangement in a particularly violent way.

Anita Diamant tells this story from the perpective of the women involved, and as you can imagine, it reads as an entirely different story. It also gives us insight into the lives of women during early Biblical times.

Questions to consider for discussion:

1) Read Genesis 34 and discuss how The Red Tent changes your perspective on Dinah’s story and also on the story of Joseph that follows. Does The Red Tent raise questions about other women in the Bible? Does it make you want to re-read the Bible and imagine other untold stories that lay hidden between the lines?

2) Discuss the marital dynamics of Jacob’s family. He has four wives; compare his relationship with each woman?

3) What do you make of the relationships among the four wives? And of Dinah’s relationship with each of her “mothers”?

4) Childbearing and childbirth are central to The Red Tent. How do the fertility childbearing and birthing practices differ from contemporary life? How are they similar? How do they compare with your own experiences as a mother or father?

5) Discuss Jacob’s role as a father. Does he treat Dinah differently from his sons? Does he feel differently about her? If so, how?

6) Female relationships figure largely in The Red Tent. Discuss the importance of Inna, Tabea, Werenro, and Meryt.

7) Dinah’s point of view is often one of an outsider, an observer. What effect does this have on the narrative? What effect does this have on the reader?

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Comments»

1. Paula - March 21, 2007

I realized after reading this novel how few biblical stories I could remember that centered around women. So many more stories are written about men, but that certainly reflects the hidden lives that women lived during the biblical era. For example, how sad is it that Jacob always introduces his wives and daughter last, after his sons, and after presenting his livestock to family and friends.

I think one major flaw of the novel (and I guess by extension the biblical story) was the incomprehensible reaction of Jacob to Shalem’s offer of marriage to Dinah. I didn’t really think that he would logically have refused her bride price, seeing as an affiliation with King Hamor would only serve to enhance his standing in the world.

2. Dixie - April 2, 2007

This is certainly a story with a shocking twist. I teach bible study to 3rd graders, but I was not familiar with this story. I read it again in the International version of the Bible. Its interpretive footnotes contained an interesting comment. The chapter for this one ends with the word “God” and the chapter after this one starts with the word “God” but God is never mentioned in Dinah’s chapter. God’s counsel and guidance seems to be far away and Jacob’s treachery seems so unlike the good and wise patriarch we see before this.

As disturbing as the treachery inflicted on King Hamor is, there is still a lot of joy and positive elements in this story. The focus on the communal lifestyle and the nuturing woman figures, helps us see a woman’s viewpoint in the Bible.

I like the contrast of the Jewish and the Egyptian cultures with good and bad elements in each lifestyle. Anita Diamant’s writing style flows with the ease and imagery of a desert breeze. I found the Red Tent an enjoyable and insightful story.


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