The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende is a Latin American novel following the Trueba family over the course of four generations. The novel begins with an emphasis on Clara del Valle. Clara has paranormal powers, predicting the accidental death of her older sister Rosa. After seeing the autopsy, Clara stops speaking, mortified of the thought that her prediction may have caused her sister’s death. Rosa’s fiancé, Esteban Trueba, channels his emotional grief into the restoration of his family’s hacienda, or farm. He is successful in turning the farm around, but soon is unable to control his grief, raping several of the peasant women working on the hacienda, one woman giving birth to Esteban’s illegitimate son, Esteban Garcia. Esteban Trueba briefly moves back to the city to take care of his mother and upon her dying wish, he goes to the de Valle house once again, seven years after Rosa’s passing, to ask for Clara’s hand in marriage. Clara agrees to marry Esteban, already having predicted the proposal two months prior. This is the first time Clara speaks in seven years. Esteban builds a large mansion for the family and Clara begins to focus her energy on further developing her psychic powers. Clara and Esteban bear three children, the eldest Blanca and twin boys Nicolás and Jaime. The family stays at the hacienda in the summertime and Blanca soon befriends the foreman’s son Pedro Tercero. An earthquake occurs, causing the family to take permanent residence at the hacienda. Blanca and Pedro become lovers. The family gets along fine at the hacienda until Esteban banishes Pedro for his revolutionary communist ideas. Blanca continues to visit Pedro until her father finds out, resulting in him beating Blanca and his wife Clara severely. Clara moves back to the Trueba mansion with Blanca, reclaiming her maiden name and vowing never to speak to Esteban again. Esteban blames his troubles on Pedro Tercero, eventually hunting him down and cutting off three of his fingers. Blanca soon learns that she is pregnant with Pedro’s child, but is convinced by Esteban to marry a French count, being told that Pedro has died. At first the arrangement between Blanca and her new husband is bearable, but she leaves him when she finds he is having several affairs. She moves back home until her baby daughter Alba is born. Esteban eventually moves back to the Trueba house also, developing a relationship with little Alba, however still not speaking with his wife or daughter. A few years later, Clara dies peacefully without being on speaking terms with Esteban. Blanca is reunited with Pedro Tercero, who is now a revolutionary songwriter and when Alba grows up she meets her lover, Miguel, who is also a revolutionary man. Esteban runs for the senator position of the Conservative Party. Esteban represents the conservative government and the opposing revolutionary views of the family clash, resulting in a military coup brought on by Esteban against the communist revolutionaries. The coup causes the death of Esteban’s son Jaime and sets Alba as a primary target. Esteban Garcia, the illegitimate son of Esteban Trueba also comes back into play as the leader of the opposing communist force. Esteban Garcia rapes Alba, in spite of her privileged lifestyle and eventual inheritance of his illegitimate father’s money. This action of rape completes the cycle that his father Esteban Trueba originally sets in place by raping his peasants in his grievances for his dead fiancée Rosa. Alba takes the terrifying event to heart and loses her will to live until she is visited by the spirit of her grandmother Clara who inspires hope. Esteban Trueba and Alba’s lover Miguel eventually come to save her. Esteban dies peacefully with Alba and the spirit of Clara holding him. The novel is ended by Miguel and Alba expecting a daughter in which Alba describes as the "daughter of so many rapes or perhaps of Miguel, but above all, her own daughter."
The “daughter of so many rapes or perhaps of Miguel, but above all, her own daughter." In Alba’s quote we see a progression of her moving on from her past to her future as the mother of her child. Do you think it is important to keep the past in mind as we move on to the future, or do painful memories hold us back from appreciating the present?
Clara believed her older sister Rosa died due to Clara’s prediction, do you believe in predictions and psychic powers, or is it all just coincidence we find after overanalyzing a situation?
Clara and Esteban’s grief over Rosa’s death represent the two extremes of coping methods. Esteban’s response is to lash out, raping his peasant workers, while Clara decides to keep to herself, never speaking a word for seven years. One could argue that each extreme is an unhealthy form of coping, but which had the better idea in mind? Taking action in anger or casting self blame for something no one had any control over? Is there a happy medium in dealing with personal grief?