The Red Tent | Study Guide

Anita Diamant

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The Red Tent | Prologue | Summary



The spirit of Dinah speaks to modern readers. Dinah talks about how she has become a footnote in the Bible, a person with no voice. She implies that her portrayal in Genesis as a victim of rape is incorrect. Dinah claims that many significant aspects of her life have never been told. She speaks of her four mothers, her birth mother, Leah, and Leah's three sisters—Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah. Each of these women taught important lessons to her. These women gave Dinah's father, Jacob, many sons. However, Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah yearned to have daughters to help with domestic chores and to keep their memories alive. In the red tent, the menstrual tent, they shared their stories, "offerings of hope and strength." Dinah kept these stories alive for the next generation, but eventually they were lost. She is grateful that modern readers have come to learn about her lost story. Dinah says, "I will pour out everything inside me so you may leave this table satisfied ... fortified."


In the Prologue the themes of patriarchy and female empowerment are introduced. Dinah suggests that the patriarchal system has stifled her story and the stories of her "four mothers." The reason for this seems to be that men were valued more in ancient Semitic society than women. For example, women viewed their primary role as providing sons for their husbands. Giving birth to daughters was considered less important, even though, according to Dinah, women secretly yearned to have daughters. Men were dominant leaders and thus were viewed as more important than submissive women. As a result many of the biblical stories about women have been lost, including most of Dinah's story, except for a brief incident in which she is a victim with no voice.

Dinah claims that one source of female empowerment is the sharing and passing on of women's stories. Dinah says, "The more a daughter knows the details of her mother's life ... the stronger the daughter." By learning her family history, a daughter keeps the memories of women alive. Diamant also introduces the red tent, both a symbol for female empowerment and the sheltering environment where women's stories can be told.

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