Literature Study GuidesThe Red TentPart 3 Chapter 2 Summary

The Red Tent | Study Guide

Anita Diamant

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The Red Tent | Part 3, Chapter 2 : Egypt | Summary

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Summary

After Dinah's son leaves for school, Dinah feels an aching loneliness in her life. She spends most of her days helping workers in the garden of Nakht-re's house. Dinah probably will not see her son for several years. As a result she fears he will become a stranger to her. The midwife Meryt befriends Dinah and spreads the word about Dinah's amazing midwife skills. Meryt shares the story of her life with Dinah. But Dinah is hesitant to share any details about her past life. Meryt tries to get Dinah to accompany her on midwife calls. Dinah, though, worries about leaving the seclusion of Nakht-re's house, fearing she might be identified as a member of Jacob's tribe. If this happened then Dinah and probably her son would be exiled from Egypt.

However, when a problematic pregnancy arises, Meryt convinces Dinah to assist her. Dinah helps in the delivery of a stillborn child but sees the mother is bearing twins. The second baby is born alive, although the mother dies. Discouraged, Dinah doesn't expect any more requests to serve as a midwife. To her surprise, many people ask for her to deliver babies. Dinah grants these requests and with the help of Meryt begins a vocation as a midwife. One day at a marketplace, Meryt and Dinah talk to a talented woodcarver named Benia. Dinah senses that Benia is attracted to her. She also feels a stirring for him. Acting as matchmaker, Meryt tells Benia to bring a box he carved to Nakht-re's house in return for a trinket she gives him. Benia agrees.

Back at Nakht-re's house, Dinah meets her son Re-mose, who has returned home after spending several years in school. He is now a young man, recently circumcised. Re-mose greets Dinah with a formal affection. As Dinah feared there is a distance between them; Re-mose is becoming a prince of Egypt and, as such, will have few dealings with his foreign mother. A feast is given in Re-mose's honor. As they watch their son, Re-nefer and Dinah sit next to each other and hold hands. During the party a veiled female vocalist sings some beautiful songs. Dinah recognizes that the woman is Werenro.

After the festivities Dinah finds Werenro, who recognizes Dinah and asks her if she knows the face of death. Dinah says she does. Werenro removes her veil, revealing her hideously scarred face. Werenro tells how she was raped and beaten. A kind woman nursed her back to health and tended to her wounds as best she could. Not wanting to go back to Rebecca, Werenro faked her death and went to her homeland, Egypt. Werenro feels dead inside. An emotional dam bursts within Dinah as she talks in detail about the massacre at Shechem and her husband's horrible death. Werenro says, "Your story is not finished, Dinah." Dinah falls asleep on Werenro's shoulder, but the next morning Werenro is gone. A week later Re-mose leaves with his teacher, Kar, for Kush.

Analysis

Meryt's friendship with Dinah parallels Dinah's relationship with Inna, who like Meryt is a midwife. Meryt tells stories about her life, and she makes Dinah laugh. The main difference between Dinah's relationships with Inna and Meryt is that Dinah does not share any details about her life with Meryt. Nevertheless, the midwife tells stories around town about Dinah's skills as a midwife, building Dinah's self-esteem, and urges her to begin her vocation as a midwife. Dinah's positive effect on many families gives her a new sense of purpose.

Egypt offers Dinah other possibilities for growth, and she takes them. The male gardeners at Nakht-re's house allow Dinah to work with them. She speaks with Benia at the marketplace. As a result of this interaction, Benia and Dinah realize they are attracted to each other, which eventually leads to significant changes in their lives.

Dinah's growth is balanced by a sober reminder of women's place in a patriarchy, however. Werenro is brutally beaten by the men who raped her, scarring her physically and spiritually for the rest of her life. While rape is looked down upon as an abomination—Simon and Levi use rape as an excuse to massacre the men at Shechem—men can and do treat women as less than human, leading to abuse.

The protagonist's conversation with Werenro is healing. In grieving for her friend, Dinah is finally able to speak about her feelings about her husband's death: "I said 'Shalem' and my breath was clean after years of being foul and bitter."

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