Literature Study GuidesThe Red TentPart 2 Chapter 8 Summary

The Red Tent | Study Guide

Anita Diamant

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The Red Tent | Part 2, Chapter 8 : My Story | Summary

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Summary

When Dinah returns to her home, Leah is horrified to see her covered in dried blood. She and her sisters wash Dinah, who is silent and filled with rage. When Dinah hears her brothers returning with plunder from the city, she goes out of her tent and shouts for her father. Jacob comes out of his tent, trembling. Dinah accuses Jacob's sons of committing murder and curses her father for conniving against righteous men. She says Jacob will never know peace again and calls on demons to devour him and his sons. Dinah then walks off into the night toward Shechem with the intention of committing suicide and being buried with her husband. She reaches the closed gate of Shechem. If Reuben had found her, Dinah believes she might have been sold into slavery with Joseph. But Reuben comes too late, and someone else carries Dinah away.

Jacob takes the name Isra'EL to keep from being recognized. People want revenge against him for the slaughter at Shechem. Rachel dies in childbirth, bearing a son named Benjamin. Reuben and Bilhah have a love affair, and when Jacob finds them he disinherits Reuben and beats Bilhah. Gradually Bilhah wastes away and dies. Jacob destroys the last little idol, the smiling frog god. As a result Zilpah becomes hysterical and dies of a fever. Leah loses the use of her once dextrous hands. When she is unable to stand she begs for death, which finally comes. Dinah might have witnessed all this if Reuben had found her at the gate at Shechem.

Analysis

Dinah's aggressive behavior toward her father and brothers demonstrates the relation between anger and feminine power. Enraged by the murder of her husband, Dinah curses her father and brothers and leaves home. Because of her anger Dinah probably doesn't weigh the risks of such action. In ancient Semitic society, women who act aggressively toward men put themselves in danger. For example, after Inna scolded a man for impregnating a girl who is too young to bear children, the midwife was almost killed. But Dinah's aggression stuns Jacob and her brothers, who cower under her curses.

In this chapter Jacob becomes more of a fanatical patriarch and follower of El. As a result he has a destructive effect on Zilpah and Bilhah. Jacob destroys the little frog god, which causes Zilpah to become hysterical and eventually die. When Jacob finds out about Reuben's and Bilhah's love affair, he beats Bilhah, breaking her teeth and causing her to waste away. Rachel and Leah also come to sad ends. All of these strong women weaken and die after the horrendous slaughter at Shechem, which was a disastrous attempt of Jacob's to show his power.

When Dinah leaves her father's tribe for Shechem she starts a new life. This new birth for Dinah comes about because of the tragic deaths of her husband, father-in-law, and the other men at Shechem. Indeed Dinah decides to kill herself, but this plan also contributes to her rebirth. She goes to Shechem to die and be buried with her husband. Instead she is found by a protector and savior.

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