Study Guide

The Red Tent Versions of Reality

By Anita Diamant

Versions of Reality

She dreamed of giving birth to a daughter, not a human child but a changeling of some kind, a spirit woman. (1.3.39)

You guessed it: this dream totally belongs to Zilpah. These sorts of dreams are a bit unsettling, as they have a sort of demonic feel to them. But hey, Zilpah's used to it.

It was time out of life. It was like a dream. (2.3.21)

Dreams are essentially like a time-out from life—they're when you live, but not in reality. Whoa, living while not living? It's like Inception.

This uncle haunted my dreams and turned the journey that I had loved into a forced march toward certain death. (2.3.79)

Nightmares can have the power to completely distort someone's feelings in the real world. For Dinah and her family, dreams are so powerful that the whole family could be affected by someone else's dream—in this case, the dream in question in Jacob's.

He cursed himself for occupying his thoughts for too long with demons and angels, and clouding his purpose. (2.4.5)

Jacob's dreams cloud his reason and cause him to stall on his journey, which sets off some very real consequences in the waking world. So remember kids, dreams are just dreams. Don't let them ruin reality.

I struggled against the dreams that left me drenched in sweat, soaking the pallet as Shalem's blood had soaked our bed, gasping for air and afraid to make a sound. (3.1.47)

That, folks, is called a nightmare. Nightmares=bad. But on another note, is Dinah somehow predicting Shalem's death in her sleep? Or does she somehow sense what is happening, even though she is asleep?

I hated to wake up and took to sleeping later and later only to remain inside this dream. (3.1.56)

And that, folks, is called a good dream. Dinah's dreams are very chaotic: one day, she's basking by the river, and the next day, she's covered in her husband's blood. But this is hardly a surprise. Dinah's life is chaotic, with huge swings from happiness to tragedy.

I dreamed in vivid detail in the nights following her death, and Re-nefer visited me in the form of a small bird flying out of a sunrise, screaming "Shechem" in a familiar voice that I could not name. (3.3.14)

In a way, we can interpret this dream as a reminder for Dinah: Re-nefer is telling her never to forget what happened at Shechem, despite her desire to repress the memory.

I might have lost heart except for the consolation I found in my dreams, where a garden of a thousand lotuses bloomed, children laughed, and strong arms held me safe. (3.3.23)

Once again, Dinah's dreams are all over the place. Here, she uses her dreams as a respite from reality where she can revel in the feeling of being safe and happy.

That night, I dreamed of Meryt and woke up laughing at something she said. The following night I dreamed of Bilhah. [...] One night later, Zilpah greeted me and we flew through the night sky, a pair of she-hawks. (3.5.36)

A sequence of dreams always means something important in this novel. In this case, Dinah seems to be having some kind of spiritual experience in which she remembers her past and the experiences that shaped her.

I died but I did not leave them. Benia sat beside me, and I stayed in his eye and in his heart. (3.5.190)

Whoa, this isn't a dream: this is where Dinah speaks to us from the dead. Creepy? Cool? We're not sure, but it does seem like the spiritual world in the novel is kind of vindicated. If Dinah can speak from the dead, then, well, there's something more to reality than just what we can see.