Reclaiming a Voice and the Power of Story

Dinah is a minor character in Biblical lore, but The Red Tent gives her a voice. In Genesis, Dinah never speaks, and her name is only mentioned as the object of the revenge sought by her brothers Simon and Levi. The brothers claim that their sister was raped by the son of Hamor, and thus their rage is justified. As the narrator of The Red Tent, Dinah says that there is much more to her story than what the Bible tells, and she recalls her joys, trials, and loves.

In the novel, the red tent functions as a motif to symbolize the customs and traditions of women. When Dinah is born, her mothers rejoice because they now have someone to whom they can pass on their stories. From the moment Dinah is born, her mothers whisper stories into her ear, and Dinah cannot separate her actual memories from the stories instilled in her by her mothers. At the end of the novel, Dinah is appeased of her father’s ills only by the fact that her name lives on in the stories of the family’s women.


Dinah says that to know a woman means to know her mother, and this statement proves true as Dinah reveals her story. Her mothers rejoice in her birth because they know that she will provide them comfort during their lives. The mothers are judged by the births of their sons, and Leah often receives much praise for the multitude of sons in her family.

The reality of motherhood is also depicted as a defining characteristic in the lives of women, and although she has attended hundreds of births before she herself steps onto the bricks, Dinah only fully realizes the sacrifice that a woman makes to become a mother when she gives birth to Re-mose. Having her womb cut open to release the baby, Dinah enters the world of women for whom Death resides in the back corner. Dinah sees women die during delivery, delivers stillbirths, and holds babies who die in her arms. The life of a mother is a life of sacrifice.

Nature and Femininity

In the novel, the...

(The entire section is 858 words.)