Literature Study GuidesThe Red TentPart 3 Chapter 4 Summary

The Red Tent | Study Guide

Anita Diamant

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The Red Tent | Part 3, Chapter 4 : Egypt | Summary



Re-mose visits his mother, Dinah, and asks her to help deliver the child of his master's wife. The wife has had several miscarriages. Re-mose and Dinah are politely affectionate, but she feels her son has become a stranger to her. Dinah learns that Re-mose does not care for his master, Zafenat Paneh-ah, the vizier to the king. Zafenat is a foreigner and doesn't know how to read. Dinah agrees to accompany her son to his master's house, which is some distance away.

Dinah travels with Re-mose to Zafenat's home and helps deliver a healthy boy. Afterward Dinah becomes ill and is nursed to health by Shery, a servant of Zafenet's. Shery tells Dinah about her master's background. He is a Canaanite who was sold into slavery. Back then his nickname was Stick. When Stick's master discovered that the slave was having an affair with his wife, he sent Stick to prison. However, Stick befriended the warden, who treated him well. News spread about Stick's ability to divine the future by interpreting dreams. At the time the king was troubled by a dream and asked Stick to interpret it. He did so, which pleased the king greatly. The king made Stick his vizier and gave him the name of Zafenat Paneh-ah. When Shery mentions that Zafenat had his infant son circumcised, Dinah realizes that Zafenat is her brother Joseph. This realization mortifies Dinah.

Re-mose tells Zafenat that his mother referred to him by the name of Joseph and demands to know what this means. Re-mose says his mother's name is Den-ner, which is the Egyptian version of Dinah. Stunned, Joseph (Zafenat) believes Re-mose is referring to his sister, who is believed to be dead. Joseph relates how his brothers, Simon and Levi, murdered Dinah's husband and father-in-law. Joseph claims he knew nothing about this. Re-mose declares that Joseph's sister is alive and is his mother. Then Re-mose shouts that he will get vengeance against Joseph for being involved in the murder of his father and grandfather. Re-mose does not believe that Joseph had nothing to do with the killings. Joseph places Re-mose under guard. Dinah meets with Joseph, who tells her about Re-mose's threat to kill him. Joseph agrees not to execute Re-mose if he promises not to seek vengeance and to work as a scribe at a distant seaport. He asks Dinah to talk to her son about this. She agrees. Dinah tells Re-mose the story of her love for his father and then says good-bye to her son.


In this chapter Diamant shows that the closer humans are to an authentic, natural way of being, the more clearly the natural cycles of life and death assert themselves. When Dinah arrives at Zafenat's house to help his wife give birth, the wife fears her child will die, but Dinah assures her that her son will live and he does. Joseph, who has long believed his sister was dead, learns she is really alive. This knowledge starts a renewal or rebirth of his relationship with Dinah. When Joseph sees Dinah for the first time in 20 years, he says, "The grave has set you free." In contrast death threatens Re-mose because of his desire to seek vengeance on Joseph. Through Dinah's ability to make him see reason, Re-mose is given a new chance on life.

Dinah discovers her strength in several ways. First, through her skills Dinah has established an excellent reputation as a midwife. Joseph's wife has heard about Dinah's skills and asked her husband to "search out the foreign-born women with the golden hands." In addition Dinah shows her confidence in herself by taking aggressive action toward her son. Dinah rebukes Re-mose when he treats her like a servant. Because of Dinah's seriousness, Re-mose bows down before her, asking for forgiveness. Later Joseph gives an example of Dinah's influence when he says, "She [Dinah] cursed us all. Some of my brothers fell ill, others saw their sons die."

Power corrupts, even for Joseph, an honored official and unquestioned leader of his family. Because of his superior position as a patriarch, Joseph has grown pompous. Indeed Shery calls him "an arrogant son of a bitch." Like Rebecca, Joseph's sense of superiority results in haughtiness and coldness.

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