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Comparison Essay: The Genesis and The Red Tent

The Genesis, the part from the Bible, and The Red Tent by Anita Diamant are two different books, which describe events from the period of early Christianity. Describing almost the same period of time, two books give two different perspectives of same events and use different means in delivering the message to the reader. Written in different epochs, by different authors and even in different countries these works still have things that unite them. They touch fundamental aspects of Christianity and give different perspectives of the events that became the core stone of all Christian faith.

The books like The Red Tent by Anita Diamant are not only entertaining reading, but are also very useful as they give the readers deeper understanding of the Bible. Such books make the distanced characters from the ancient times more understandable for average people and thus help readers to understand more complicated concepts put in the Holy book.  

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The book of Genesis is a first book of the Old Testament.  Chapters 12-32 describe the story of Abraham, the man chosen by God, and his family. It tells the story of Abraham and his wife Sarah, their son Isaak and their grandsons Esau and Jacob.  Being a part of the Bible, Genesis gives partially historic, partially symbolic recall of the events that followed after creation of the world. The Bible causes a lot of disputes and arguments all over the world. It can be disliked or denied, it can be adored, but it can’t be neglected. In addition, it possesses high literary value and can be regarded as a piece of art. In the Genesis events are described in chronological order. The word “Genesis” is translated as “the source” or “the beginning” and this title is very appropriate as the book gives explanation of the events since the creation of the world, creating of the first man and origin of the people of Israel. Despite the great symbolism of the Genesis, it’s written in a simple and literate language. It contains a record of the traditions of Israelites through the depiction of their origin and transformation. Despite the text of the Genesis, which went to many editions since it was originally written many centuries ago, it still can be difficult for comprehension.  Some facts, such as incest or selling people, can be even shocking for contemporary reader.

The Red Tent tells a story of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, raped by Shalem, son of a ruler of Shechem. Dinah tells the story of her life and shares secrets, grief and hopes of her mother and three other wives of her father Jacob. This story originates from the Genesis but Anita expended it and added a lot of details to several paragraphs written in the Bible. The book is written in a form of a first-person narration and gives a unique view on the events described in the Genesis from the perspective of a woman, who played minor role in the original book of Genesis. The title of the book stands for the place, where women stayed together during menses, birthing or illnesses. So, red tent was a special place, where women of different social levels and with different level of income gathered together for special events in their lives. Under the red tent they could share everything – good and bad, grief and happiness. In this tent Dinah learned the stories of all four wives of her father. Each woman has her own story to share. “Like any sisters who live together and share a husband, my mother and aunties spun a sticky web of loyalties and grudges. They traded secrets like bracelets, and these were handed down to me the only surviving girl. They told me things I was too young to hear. They held my face between their hands and made me swear to remember.” (Diamant, 89) Diamant added a lot of imaginary details to the historical facts and made the narration more personal and touching. Women, paid so little attention in the Bible, are depicted like living creatures of flesh and blood, but not only as the supplementation to men. Women, depicted in the novel, lived in patriarchal society and had practically no voice and could not take any decisions. Anita added not only real and imaginary facts to the narration. She filled her book with feelings and emotions. When reading her book the readers see real characters, who breathe same air as the readers do.  Anita has reach an important goal – she created a bridge between Biblical characters and readers. This bridge helps ordinary people to get the message of the Bible, which can be difficult for comprehension.

There are a lot of disputes about the authorship of the Bible, but there is a one certain fact about it –it was written by men. That is why women are described there only fragmentary and always shaded by the great deeds of men. The Bible reflected the patriarchal structure of the epoch described and gave a man-oriented depiction of events. That is why Anita’s attempt to show the events through the eyes of women of those times is very valuable. Reading the Red Tent, the readers get a better idea about the life of women during the times described. We can see differences in the traditions and attitudes, household and family structure. At the same time the author managed to touch eternal themes of love, betray, hatred, which make the readers feel compassionate to the characters of the story and remind about things, which do not change through the centuries.  The Red Tent depicts the events of the Genesis in a new light. The book makes the reader not only a distanced observer, but also a compassionate participant of the events described.

The Genesis and The Red Tent are very different books. They describe same events, but depict them from completely different angles. The books were written with different purposes. The Bible was created as a chronological recall of events and moral guidelines for the Christian people. The Red Tent is a literary work, which combines educational and entertaining purposes.

When reading the Bible it’s necessary to remember about the time it was written.  It was written a long time ago when all customs and traditions were different and it pursued another purpose than aesthetic depiction of events. That why books, such as The Red Tent by Anita Diamant are very important as they make the stories from the Bible more understandable for average people. Anita made the characters from the Bible lively and interesting to the reader. It seems that she added another dimension to the dull recall of events from the Genesis. There will be a lot of readers, who will want to reread the Bible to read the original story, retold by Diamant. So, Red Tent by Anita Diamant is not only an entertaining reading but also an insight into the times when the history was creating. It’s a new vision of Bible, which is, in contrast to the Genesis, gives literary version of the evens of early Christianity and centers on the life of women, poorly described in the Bible.

Sources

Diamant, Anita. The Red Tent. Picador USA, 1998.
The Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments. Translated Out of the Original Tongues, with the Former Translations Diligently Compared and Revised. Cleveland: World Publ., 1975.

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