The Red Tent Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The following questions are designed to help you guide your students through a discussion on the characters, plot, and themes of Anita Diamant's 1997 novel 'The Red Tent'.

The Red Tent

The Red Tent is a 1997 novel by Anita Diamant that builds a fictional exploration of a minor character in the Judeo-Christian Torah/Bible, Dinah, a daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph. The novel explores concepts of gender and gives a voice to a character whose entire role in the Bible consists of a single chapter. It's an intriguing work of fiction, and one that can get students talking about a number of topics. This discussion is intended for high school students, but can be easily adapted for other ages as well.

Questions about Characters and Plot

  • How are we introduced to Dinah? How does she describe herself? How does the use of first-person perspective help us to understand Dinah? What are the advantages of this writing style? What are the risks? How does the author deal with those challenges?
  • How does the start of the novel set the tone for the entire story? What ideas are we immediately presented with that will be important to the rest of the novel and our understanding of Dinah? How does she present each of the four women who raised her? Why is this significant?
  • What is Dinah's young life like? What does the Red Tent represent to her tribe? What does it mean to the women of the tribe? What does it mean to Dinah as a young girl? What does it mean to her once she is formally initiated as a woman?
  • What is significant about Dinah's training as a midwife? Why is this significant on a personal level? Is there a symbolic significance to this as well?
  • How is Dinah's relationship with Shalem presented? Why is this very important? How does Dinah discuss this relationship? Why doesn't her family approve? How is she impacted by her brothers' actions?
  • What is Dinah's life like after escaping to Egypt? Why does her relationship with her son change? Is she liberated, or lost? How do you interpret this part of Dinah's story?
  • How does this novel end? What do you get from this ending? Why was Dinah forgotten by the men of the tribe? Why is she remembered by the women? What role did the Red Tent play in preserving her memory? What do you think this novel is trying to say?

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