Study Guide

Rebecca in The Red Tent

By Anita Diamant



Rebecca isn't the kind of grandma who makes cookies and kisses you on the cheek when you arrive at her house. She's a harsh matriarch with a hankering for some butt-kicking. If you don't do what she says, you'll get a mouthful—and not just the kind of mouthful that will leave you feeling disappointed, the kind of mouthful that will leave you banished from the family.

Her years proclaimed themselves in the deep furrows on her brow and around her mouth, but the beauty of youth still clung to her . . . Her black eyes were clear and sharp, painted in the Egyptian style. (2.5.11)

Yeah, don't mess with this old gal.

What happens when you do mess? Well, for example, when her daughter-in-law Adath doesn't listen to Rebecca with matters concerning Tabea's coming-of-age ceremony, Rebecca lashes out: "Don't dare to defend yourself, you ignorant nothing," she hissed. "You baboon! I told you what to do and you disobeyed me, and now there is nothing to be done" (2.5.47).

Er, okay. So Grandma's kinda sorta intimidating. Disobey her, and you're pretty much out of the family. See, Rebecca isn't just a mean-old grandmother. She's an oracle, and she wields lots of power. Like Dinah says, "She had become a force of the gods like a rainstorm or a brushfire" (2.5.25).

Rebecca does shows good qualities in her work as an oracle, for example when she rocks a deformed baby to sleep and helps its mother through her tough times. But still, Rebecca isn't a very friendly or easy-to-relate-to character, and she doesn't view Jacob's children with much respect:

She considered Rachel lazy—beautiful, but lazy. She called Bilhah ugly and Zilpah a superstitious stick. She grudgingly admitted that Leah was a good worker and clearly blessed to have delivered so many healthy sons. But even Leah was not good enough for Jacob, who deserved a perfect mate. Not a giantess with mismatched eyes. (2.5.80)

Okay, so Rebecca hates everyone. Kind of. Maybe it's tough love. Either way—yikes.