The House of the Spirits

The Inevitable End of Familial Relationships

May 24, 2019 by Essay Writer

Francis Scott Fitzgerald, a celebrated U.S. author, once alleged, “Family quarrels are bitter things. They don’t go according to any rules. They’re not like aches or wounds, they’re more like splits in the skin that won’t heal” (1927). The Trueba family in Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits reflects this through incessant bickering, which eventually forces most of the family apart. The remaining relationships are severed through death. While the termination of physical familial relations is inevitable, some contact may live on in a plane of spirituality.The bond between Alba and Esteban Trueba comes to a close because of his demise. Since they had a pleasant relationship in life, Alba “[sits] beside him to wait with him, and death [is] not long in coming, taking him by surprise as he [lies] sleeping peacefully”(430). After this point, Alba no longer thinks of him, but of more important matters, such as the story of her family. She only considers him for the role he plays in the story Clara chronicles in her notebooks. She does, however, attempt to portray him in an objective manner. Unlike Clara, Esteban lacks the ability to communicate with the living after his death. This leaves Alba clutching nothing more than memories and her grandfather’s belongings. Although neither one desires this separation, life’s inevitability takes its course.The relationship between Senator Trueba and Nicols comes to a halt due to a disagreement that grows out of proportion. For example, Esteban, ashamed of his child, proclaims, “If you don’t die of a snakebite or some foreign plague, I hope you return a man, because I’m fed up with all your eccentricities” (271). Esteban does not care about the fate of his own son so long as Nicols does not cause him any further embarrassment. This self-centered disposition leads to the alienation of various members of his family, especially Nicols. A bitter resentment begins to grow between the two of them. The last time Esteban sees him, he “[grabs] Nicols by the collar, [pushes] him onto an airplane, and [ships] him overseas with the instructions not to return for the rest of his life” (299). Esteban despises his son to the point that he never wishes to set eyes on him again because of the disgrace Nicols brings upon his family. Instead of trying to reconcile his connection with his family, the senator chooses to break off all ties to him. All of the relationships that end because of quarreling involve Esteban in some way, primarily due to his narrow-mindedness and his rejection of other people’s ideas.Although she has died, Clara has the ability to communicate with the living after her death. For instance, when Alba is in the doghouse, “her Grandmother Clara, whom she had invoked so many times to help her die, [appears] with the novel idea that the point [is] not to die, since death came anyway, but to survive, which would be a miracle” (414). Clara’s spirit speaks to Alba to give her the hope necessary to go on living. This message also shows Clara’s rationale for keeping her essence among the living; she wants to survive past her own death. Furthermore, Esteban senses Clara’s presence many times after her death. At the time of his own passing, “she [does] not leave him for a second” (431). As his rage and temper wane with his old age, Clara’s spirit increasingly tries to reconcile her relationship with Esteban. They begin to spend much more time with each other and they eventually become even closer than they had been in life. Clara wishes for her loved ones to remember her, so she visits them often through her spirit.Relationships between the members of a household are bound to conclude at some point; the way in which they end is the choice of the individuals involved. They could face the natural separation brought about by death or they could face the agony of spending years of their life apart when they know the other is still alive. Death is a natural part of life, but it does not necessitate loneliness. The premature severing of familial ties is an easily avoidable event, however, many people lack the foresight to acknowledge this before it is too late. Ultimately, familial relationships are broken far too often for unjustifiable reasons.

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The Anti-Universal Human Experience: The House of the Spirits

March 29, 2019 by Essay Writer

Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits is a whirlwind of color, sound, and magic, set in the midst of Chile’s 1970 socialist revolution. Although the novel paints a lucid portrait of Chile in tragedy, I would like to focus on the conclusively transcultural and transhistorical aspects of the novel; more so, on how Allende herself concentrated on the idea of the foundation of humanity along with its quests and experiences, rather than the periodical facets of the novel. Allende focuses greatly on the universal themes of predetermined or free fate, the role of the mind in reality, and the power of testimony. However, I believe Allende herself, in the presentation of these themes, actually seeks to defy the misconception of a universal human experience, for every human story and reality is different. Ultimately, through the magical and fantastical aspects that well define her novel, Allende reveals the colorful cacophony that is our universe in tandem with our minds, and why the two make for a universal human experience to be unattainable.

Allende unites humanity under the human endeavor of questioning. Questioning is the universal motion and pandemonium of the human pursuit to discover one’s place in our macrocosm. The novel spends its story searching for the truth of one’s place in the universe, but the reader is unaware of it until the Epilogue. Alba eventually reflects on her role in her own fate, finding what is ultimately true; that every person and event is one link in a perpetual chain of history and future, and that “nothing that happens is fortuitous, that it all corresponds to a fate laid down before… birth” (Allende 431). She came to the realization that every event “{adds} another link to the chain of events that {has} to complete itself” (Allende 431), and although her fate was, perhaps, written in the stars, she declares at the conclusion of the novel, “I have to break this terrible chain” (Allende 432). The eternal struggle, as it may be, is deciding between two realities- that of a fixed and unyielding fate, or that of a free, malleable one. What I believe is universal is the choice between the two. Man’s awareness of his own mortality may also compliment this idea of the decision between free will or determined fate. Humankind is plagued with a lifelong confrontation with the nature of mortality, and I feel that Allende sought to express that the true struggle of mankind is the settlement of whether or not to succumb to a predetermined mortality. She applauds the courage to defy the idea of predestined fate; as Clara’s spirit came to Alba in the doghouse, she “appeared with the novel idea that the point was not to die, since death came anyway, but to survive, which would be a miracle” (Allende 414). The reality of one’s life experience is determined by the way one answers the questions of life and fate. The human venture to answer these questions is universal, but the answers and outcomes are not. Alba discovers herself that humankind is caught in “an unending tale of sorrow, blood, and love” (Allende 432), and that she wants to be the one to break the cycle for herself.

The House of the Spirits is effectively transcultural and transhistorical through its ultimate focus on individual human realities, rather than a single universal one. The novel does a remarkable job of exploring the idea of individual and moldable realities through its focus on the magical and sublime. In fact, Allende immersed nearly all of her characters in an enchanting and ethereal environment where “divine good humor and the hidden forces of nature acted with impunity to provoke a state of emergency and upheaval in the laws of physics and logic” (Allende, pg 267); in other words, the line between possible and impossible was abolished completely. The magic was not meant to be from another world, for “magic realism is not ‘the creation of imaginary beings of worlds, but the discovery of the mysterious relationship between man and his circumstances’” (Milne). In this case, I believe man’s circumstances to be the reality he has constructed for himself. Ultimately, Allende seeks to prove that what is magic for one is another’s reality. For little Alba, “who was completely ignorant of the boundary between the human and the divine, the possible and the impossible” (Allende 301), the levitating chairs and the spirits that roamed the halls of the Big White House on the Corner were reality. The novel therefore explored deeply the idea that reality and consciousness are much more malleable and versatile than we believe we know. Although it is a rarity to find incidents concerning the ever present supernatural or a piano that plays Chopin by itself, the fantastical and magical facets of the novel were to illustrate the vastness of individual reality. The House of the Spirits encourages the ubiquitous idea of truth that is not universally alike, but equally as different in every person.

The novel did not paint a picture of the universal human experience. Allende was, in fact, seeking to prove that there is no such thing. In The House of the Spirits, a reality or truth of a single human experience is a facade, because the idea of a single truth is a deceptive concept, and it must be cast aside. The fantastical aspects of the novel worked to show just how chaotic and lawless are the elements that make up human consciousness. The truth, if one can call it so, is that reality and truth itself are subjective. Blanca Trueba, having fleeing the “evil kingdom of the Incas” (Allende 261) and Jean de Satigny, seemed to simply erase the Count from all past, present, and future, telling Alba that “her father was a distinguished and intelligent aristocrat who had unfortunately succumbed to fever in the northern desert” (Allende 265), inventing a new reality that would be Alba’s for many years. The novel seeks to express that there are infinite truths, because truth is a construct, and human experience and life is dependent on one’s respective reality. Therefore, a single human experience would be deceit.

One’s human experience ( the life one has on mortal Earth) is different from all others and must be shared to contribute to the ever extending human mosaic of life in history and future. As is learned in The House of the Spirits, human testimony must be shared to exist and must be shared to alter the chain of time, because every link of every life is validated through story and testimony. This theme is overpoweringly transhistorical- in the context of nearly every majorly calamitous conflict of humankind, human testimony has bore its witness.

The idea of bearing witness to life is the most interesting from the novel. The Trueba saga teaches that one must bear their own witness to their own life. Due to the fact that all people’s realities and physical life experiences are different, one must illustrate their realities; otherwise, they cease to exist. It is possible to deny history, for history is remembrance, and it has happened before. The reason Clara suggested to Alba that, while in the very core of an excruciating and brutal hell, she should write her testimony, was so that she “might one day call attention to the terrible secret she was living through, so that the world would know about {the} horror that was taking place parallel to the peaceful existence of those who did not want to know… and of those who could deny that they were on a raft adrift in a sea of sorrow, ignoring… that only blocks away from their happy world there were others” (Allende 414). Single events are isolated and floating in a sea of time, and testimony chains them to the line of history. The present is composed of the past, and history is what creates humanity’s sense of its own humanity. The novel profoundly proves about the universal human experience is not there is a single one, but that each one must be shared.

Although Allende did succeed in unifying humanity universally under an umbrella of questioning and answering, what I believe she triumphed in illustrating vividly was the idea that the human experience is not defined by any one element, for the human experience is a melangerie of color and chaos, varying across all mankind. The House of the Spirits is ultimately transcultural because at its core, it explores the ethereal and celestial makeup of the human body and spirit. Thus, the lives and times of Allende’s characters may be considered transhistorical as well, for she has proved that reality is subjective to a specific mind. The Three Mora Sisters are said to have “{seen} the spirits of all eras mingled in space” (Allende 432), because the celestial and physical foundation of a person has no root in any specific culture, time, or place. Allende showed the versatility of the reality of one’s human experience through her presentations of the powers of the mind in the determination of one’s fate and reality. At humanity’s core, the bases of soul and body are the same. Allende has proved that the reality that one constructs is what makes the human experience disparate universally.

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Nevertheless, She Persisted: Female Superiority in Isabelle Allende’s House of the Spirits

February 12, 2019 by Essay Writer

The female characters in Isabel Allende’s novel, House of the Spirits, are generally depicted as the stronger of the sexes. It becomes apparent to the reader very early on that the author has a lot of respect for women; this is manifested in the fact that even characters who have many negative qualities are depicted sympathetically and as strong people. The three female characters who stand out the most in terms of these extremes are Clara, Tránsito Soto, and Amanda. Though Amanda is demeaned, Clara is honored deeply and Tránsito Soto is given equal status to every successful man mentioned.

At the beginning of the novel, Amanda is described as individual, unique, and strong-willed; however, by the end, this has all changed, and her poor circumstances have gotten the best of her. When Nicolás, her boyfriend, first comes over to her house after learning she is pregnant, he realizes for the first time that her strong, independent façade is just that: a façade (“He saw the disorder Amanda lived in and realized that until then he had known almost nothing about her…Poverty to him was an abstract, distant concept…” (234)). This is the first time the reader understands in just what level of squalor and deprivation she is living, and we are able to see her true life and background as opposed to the face she puts on for everybody else. The fact that she tries to create a personality for herself which contradicts this shows that Allende still wishes to depict her as a strong woman, but the fact that she has to live under these circumstances because of her own mistakes shows that she has some weakness in her. Another instance in which this shows is when Jaime is called upon to help Amanda, who is so sick from drug use that she must be hospitalized, and he sees that her situation has declined even further. “Her eyes were red and bloated, without luster, and her pupils were dilated, which gave her a frightened, helpless look” (337). This describes the exact extent to which her situation has harmed her. She is too weak to break out of the world into which she was born, which, granted, is a hard task, but this weakness could be interpreted as being demeaned, at least by the author, who did not give her enough ambition to accomplish what she wants to, which contrasts with virtually all the other female characters, who ultimately end up happy.

This is a stark contrast with Tránsito Soto, a prostitute whom Esteban visits frequently and who has so much ambition that it all but exudes from her pores. During one of Esteban’s first visits to her, she asks him if he will lend her fifty pesos; when he asks why, she says, “For a train ticket, a red dress, high-heeled shoes, a bottle of perfume, and a permanent. That’s everything I need to start…” (69). It is implied that, at this point, she is not more than fifteen or sixteen years old, but even at fifteen, she knows exactly what she wants and is determined to do whatever is necessary to get it. She wants to make something of herself, and even before the reader ever sees her again, this passage invokes a feeling that she will succeed, or die trying. At the end of the novel when Esteban goes to pay her one last visit, this time for a favor of a different sort, she has changed and, lo and behold, accomplished what she had been determined to fifty years previously. “She looked more like a concert pianist than the owner of a brothel…I [Esteban] was unable to be as informal as I’d been before” (416). This illustrates both the change Tránsito has gone through as well as the fact that her ambition is the one thing that has stayed consistent throughout her life, and that it has paid off. She has used the fact that she is strong and driven to achieve her goals and make herself just as successful as any man; in a time during which women were generally thought of as inferior, the fact that she achieves a relatively equal status is astounding and very respectable.

Arguably the most sage character, male or female, Clara is depicted as very honorable throughout the novel, both in the opinion of the author and in the opinions of the other characters. After learning that Esteban is going to marry off their daughter, Blanca, against her will, Clara does not respond with violence or anger, but simply with silent coldness: “Clara continued with her life, ignoring her husband and refusing to speak to him” (214). This reaction is definitely the most honorable way to handle the situation she is in, and her responding with such class shows the reader that Allende herself respects Clara, which is very important. Because Clara has been drawn as a very potent woman who has connections with the spiritual world, the author could have allowed her to react in many furious ways, but she did not. An instance in which it is proven that Clara is honored not only by the author but also by the other characters in the novel is after she is dead, and everybody she had helped in the past comes to her funeral: “Clara’s funeral was an event. Even I [Esteban] could not explain where all those people appeared from to mourn my wife. I hadn’t realized she knew everyone” (294). This shows that, in life, Clara had always put others before herself and made friends with everybody. There are people who Clara had barely known who show up to mourn her death, which reveals that she had left such an impression upon them that they were compelled to come back for her funeral. If that isn’t honor, then what is?

Though the women in House of the Spirits cover a wide array of personality types and lives, their individual tales and characteristics acknowledge Allende’s belief in strong females as role models. However, the fact that there are a few characters, such as Amanda, who do not achieve all they had planned to in life shows that the author has a realistic outlook on the world and does not believe that all women are all-powerful; she only hopes to help the reader understand that they are just as important as men, which she illustrates through Tránsito Soto, and that they deserve respect and honor, which she illustrates through Clara. These strong women play a large role in steering the direction of the novel, the same way that strong women play a large role in steering the direction of the world as a whole.

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