Study Guide

The Red Tent Youth

By Anita Diamant


Rachel stuck out her lower lip in a pout that would have been childlike only a few hours earlier. (1.1.6)

Dinah is suggesting that Rachel was a child before Jacob showed up, but his proposal kicked her into adulthood. For women in this novel, sex and childbearing are the primary markers of adulthood. How is it different for the men?

The sound woke Rachel out of her childhood. (1.1.18)

That would be the sound of a man's pleasure. Now, that's one way to wake a girl out of her childhood.

Age made two separate tribes among the children of Jacob. (2.1.5)

When we're children, it's normal to separate into groups based on age. Here's an example of a clique in Dinah's family. Does age matter as much once these people reach maturity?

"Look at how the babes lead the bigger boys by the nose! Wait until we tell our father that Zebulun and Dan are donkeys for the bare-behinds." (2.1.10)

And here is a minor example of bullying: Simon and Levi jeer at Dan and Zebulun for playing with their younger siblings, ultimately pressuring them into doing more "manly" things. Does anything similar happen among the girls?

I did not matter to her the way she mattered to me. I wanted to cry, but I realized that I was too old for that. I would be a woman soon and I would have to learn how to live with a divided heart. (2.1.60)

Dinah's story is a coming-of-age story, and part of that coming-of-age story is Dinah's realization that she isn't the focus of everyone's life. Once she figures that out, she can actually start to become an adult.

I felt misused and ignored, but no one noticed when I brooded, so I stopped feeling sorry for myself and did as I was told. (2.2.43)

Again, Dinah's spoiled tendencies cause her to remain a child for longer than most girls of her time. Given that youth and childhood are pretty short at this time, is this longer youth good for Dinah, or bad?

I was near the end of childhood, and I was freer than I had ever been or would be again. (2.3.104)

Though she doesn't realize it at the time, Dinah's childhood is when she enjoyed the most freedom. Unfortunately, she's not like Peter Pan—she grows up.

It seemed that I would reach womanhood first. Tabea sighed and I shrugged and then we laughed until our eyes filled with tears. (2.4.40)

Like we said earlier, growing into womanhood is like a race to Dinah. Ready-set-go. What's the rush? Well, if you're a young woman at this time, you've got to find a husband—fast—because the only way you're going to survive in this world is if you've got one. And there's a lot of competition.

I raised my eyebrow—doing my best to copy my mother's most disdainful gesture—to show that I was too old to be taken in by such nonsense. (2.4.94)

Imitating her mother isn't actually an indicator that Dinah is too old to be taken by nonsense; in fact, it's an indicator that she's still childish, as she's pretending to be older than she actually is.

When Joseph was finally named as the youngest son, the Grandfather pulled him down into his lap, as though he were a baby and not a boy nearing manhood. (2.5.21)

Now that's an interesting image. Parents and grandparents never want their children to grow up, so why not hoist a young man up and treat him like a baby? That'll work… right?