Literature Study GuidesThe Red TentPart 3 Chapter 5 Summary

The Red Tent | Study Guide

Anita Diamant

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The Red Tent | Part 3, Chapter 5 : Egypt | Summary

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Summary

Dinah returns to her house and enjoys with renewed appreciation her home and loved ones, including her husband, Benia, and her friend Meryt. Dinah shares the full story of her life, including her first husband's tragic death, with Meryt and later with Benia. Dinah attends to Meryt as she dies. After Meryt's death Dinah has a dream about Bilhah. During the following nights she sees Zilpah, Rachel, and Leah each in a dream. Dinah thanks Meryt for sending her mother and aunts to her.

After many years Joseph visits Dinah. Jacob is dying and wants to give his blessing to Joseph's sons. Joseph thought he had finished with his father and brothers. Years before the brothers were starving and came to Joseph to ask for help. Joseph forced them to grovel before he forgave them and Jacob. Now Joseph feels he must see Jacob and asks Dinah and Benia to accompany him on his journey. Dinah and Benia agree, feeling they can hardly refuse the request of the king's vizier.

Dinah, Benia, Joseph, and his two sons travel on a luxurious boat to Jacob's home. When they arrive Dinah is amazed by the large size of Jacob's tribe. The members have become shepherds to the king of Egypt.

Judah greets Joseph and says Jacob is near death. Dinah recognizes some of her other brothers, including Dan and Zebulun. She is annoyed but also relieved when her brothers fail to recognize her. Joseph goes into Jacob's tent. Later Joseph tells Dinah that their father is blind and partly delirious. Jacob has blessed Joseph's two sons and asked for forgiveness for abandoning Rachel's corpse. Dinah wonders if Jacob repented for the murder of her first husband. Joseph says Jacob mentioned nothing about the incident or about Dinah.

As Dinah and her relatives wait for Jacob's death, she befriends a girl named Gera, who thinks Dinah is the nurse of Joseph's sons. Gera tells Dinah stories about Dinah's brothers and wives. Dinah learns that Reuben, Simon, and Levi are dead. Also Gera relates the story about Dinah's first marriage to a prince of Shechem, the circumcision of the men of Shechem, and the manner and circumstances of their massacre. Gera says the prince's bride was named Dinah. Legend has it that Dinah died of grief, but Gera plans to name her first daughter after her. Dinah is pleased that her story and her name is not forgotten. Jacob dies, and Judah prepares his burial. Then Judah puts his hand on Dinah and tells her that Leah never forgot her. Judah gives Rachel's lapis ring to Dinah as a gift from Leah.

On the trip back to her home, Dinah wonders why Leah would want her to have Rachel's ring. Benia thinks perhaps Leah wants Dinah to know that she had forgiven Rachel and "died with an undivided heart." Perhaps Leah wishes the same for Dinah. Dinah says good-bye to Joseph for the last time and returns home with her husband. Dinah enjoys her last years with her husband and Meryt's daughter and granddaughters. As Dinah dies she sees the shining faces of Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, Bilhah, Rebecca, Ruti, and other female ancestors she has never met. All of them welcome Dinah. Dinah's spirit lingers in the world and stays with Benia until his death. Even after this her spirit remains with people she loves. Dinah speaks directly to readers, thanking them for listening to her story. She blesses the readers and says, "Selah," a word of blessing.

Analysis

The chapter is a literal and figurative journey for Dinah. After she shares her tragic history with Meryt and Benia she feels unburdened and ready to enjoy life. Eventually Dinah's healing enables her to view her tragic history as "a story from the distant past."

After Meryt dies Dinah receives vivid dreams about her mother and aunts. Dinah believes Meryt sent the spirits of these women to reconnect with her. The death of Meryt, therefore, results in a spiritual renewal for Dinah. She becomes the wise woman to whom her neighbors look for advice.

Just as Dinah gains in stature and authentic values, Jacob, the patriarch, fails. His attitudes have taken their toll on him in his old age. He is wracked by guilt about the way he has treated Joseph. Interestingly Jacob especially curses his memories of Levi, Simon, and Reuben. Levi and Simon's arrogance likely spawned the plan to dispose of Joseph, while Reuben's corruption extends to an affair with his father's wife. Jacob, however, also feels guilt about not forgiving Reuben. He has a divided heart; he is torn between the angry, prideful patriarch who wants to punish Reuben and the loving father who wants to forgive Reuben. Indeed Jacob has a divided attitude about all his sons, cursing them in one breath and blessing them in another. Despite his guilt Jacob mentions nothing about Dinah and the massacre of the men at Shechem. Apparently Jacob has not relinquished his patriarchal pride in sufficient measure to admit any wrongdoing with his only daughter.

When Dinah returns to her family, she finds herself in the interesting position of being both an outsider and an insider. Most of her brothers fail to recognize Dinah, thereby seeing her as a stranger in her own family. Dinah is annoyed by this but also relieved. Her annoyance is easy to understand. She is a member of Jacob's tribe and wants to be recognized as such. Dinah's relief also makes sense in a subtler way. Dinah has established a full life outside her restrictive family. As an outsider she does not have to deal with the pain of being thrust back into this system, even for a few days. However, when Dinah listens to Gera tell the story of Dinah and the tragic death of her first husband, she realizes she will always have a place inside her family. The narrator says, "Gera had given me peace. The story of Dinah was too terrible to be forgotten."

At the novel's end the major themes come together: life's stages, female empowerment, and birth and death. After Dinah dies she has a vision of all the significant women in her life along with female ancestors she has never known. All these women form a kind of female divinity or great mother goddess who supports and blesses Dinah. They suggest the history of all women, whose continuity constitutes a narrative of women's strength. In her newfound wisdom Dinah notes, "There is no magic to immortality." In other words there is no mystery, no deception to immortality; it simply exists.

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