She is the main protagonist of the novel, Estaban Trueba’s wife, Blanca, and the twin’s (Nicolas and Jaime) mother. She has the gift of foresight, as she is able to foresee the future, although she cannot change it. Another supernatural gift that she has is the power to speak with spirits. She is the character that binds the intertwined families together. She has a tendency to resemble that of a mute after encountering domestic problems with her husband Esteban, but her love for her family prevents her from leaving the house of Esteban.
Clara’s character is static. She remains the same, calm, woman all throughout the novel—from the beginning right up to the end. Esteban Esteban is the head of Clara’s family because he is the husband of Clara. He is also the father of a number of illegitimate children at the Tres Marias because of his insatiable appetite for sexual pleasure. He co-narrates the novel along with his granddaughter Alba.
He is from a class lower than that of Clara’s family, but through persistence and hard work at the mines in Tres Marias, he was able to make a fortune, thanks mostly to the efforts of the peasants at the mines whom Esteban maltreats, especially the women—as he was able to rape almost every young peasant girl in Treas Marias. Despite obsessively loving Clara, his violence has caused conflicts within the family. Alba, his granddaughter, is the only person apart from the prostitute Transito, whom he was able to get really close with. Blanca Blanca is the daughter and first born of Clara and Esteban and the mother of Alba.
She is the lover of Pedro Tercero; her love for him is what describes Blanca best, despite her and Pedro Tercero not being officially together. She was once married to Jean de Satigny, a French man who was arguably more interested in gaining power in marriage than marrying out of love, but she divorced him because of his disturbing sexual practices. Pedro Tercero Pedro Tercero is Blanca’s faithful lover all throughout the novel, even if they are separated most of the time. He was a revolutionary; when the Socialist government came into power he opted to join them.
Ironically, he saved Esteban’s life despite the latter hating him so much because of his relationship with Blanca. Conflict / Plot Summary The conflict of the novel is divided within the three generations of the women in the Trueba family. The main conflicts are: Clara’s conflict with her husband Esteban, Blanca’s conflict with her love for Pedro Tercero, and Alba’s conflict at the hands of Esteban Garcia. Additional conflicts which are present all throughout the novel are the conflicts of Esteban Truebo and the sociological conflicts between the socialists and the conservative parties. Esteban was not an inherently rich man.
Though he was definitely a class above the peasants that he treats badly, he was far from being as rich as the del Valle (Clara’s family). Despite being significantly poorer than the del Valles, he was able to persuade the family into agreeing for their daughter to be married to him. He was supposed to marry Rosa at first, the sister of Clara, but while he was away trying to earn a fortune at the mines, she died before they were able to be wed. Wanting to fulfill his promise to his mother who just died, Esteban looked for a wife again, and he opted not too look far, thus marrying Clara.
With his fortune established and his promise to his mother fulfilled, Esteban was still far from resolving all his conflicts because more would come after his wedding. After the wedding of Esteban and Clara, Ferula, Esteban’s sister, moves in with them. Clara and Ferula became really close friends, so close that Esteban was suspiciously jealous of her affections for his wife. One day, Esteban came home ahead of schedule and found Ferula sleeping on the bed of Clara. This prompted Esteban to kick Ferula out of the house. Ferula, on her way out, curses Esteban to be lonely for the rest of his life.
Blanca, the first born of Clara and Esteban, was born a year after her parents’ wedding. During a trip to the Tres Marias, she met Pedro Tercero, son of Pedro Segundo, the caretaker of the Tres Marias. Blanca and Pedro Tercero fall in love. As their relationship matures, they realized that Esteban would not approve of their relationship because first, Pedro Tercero was just a son of a peasant, and second, he was a revolutionary, a fact that would not go well with Esteban because Esteban was a conservative. The conflict that the relationship of Blanca and Pedro Tercero created would result in the conflict between Clara and Esteban.
Jean de Satigny, a prowling opportunist, revealed the love affair of Blanca and Pedro Tercero to Esteban. Outraged, Esteban sent Blanca away and threatened to kill Pedro Tercero. However, Esteban only managed to sever three fingers of Pedro Tercero. While in his enraged state, Esteban hit Clara. He hit Clara so hard that several of Clara’s teeth broke loose. Clara never spoke to him since but remained in the house of Esteban all her life, in a civil relationship minus the conversations. Several years after, a change in government would result into more trouble for Esteban.
The socialist party won the election, and the peasants at the Tres Marias revolted, taking Esteban as a hostage in the process. Fortunately for Esteban, her daughter Blanca loved him very much despite his outrageous reactions to her relationship with Pedro Tercero. Through Blanca’s special request, Pedro Tercero was able to convince the peasants to let Esteban go. Esteban was forced to stay inside his house because the new government was looking for him. Esteban was oblivious to the fact that the new head of the government was his own grandson, Esteban Garcia.
Esteban Garcia was the grandson of Pancha, one of the numerous peasant girls whom Esteban Trueba raped during his early years at the Tres Marias. Now, the grandson wanted revenge for the ill-treatment that her grandmother received. However, instead of focusing his revenge towards the real culprit, he instead harassed and molested Alba, the granddaughter of Esteban and Clara, on several occasions. When he attained power in the new government, he abducted Alba and placed her inside a concentration camp where she was raped and tortured by several men including Esteban Garcia.
Esteban Trueba was able to save her thanks to the help of an old friend, Transito Soto, a prostitute that asked Esteban Trueba for money to start her own whorehouse. With Alba recovered, Esteban Trueba and Alba wrote the story of the family. Esteban Trueba died soon after, but Alba continued to write the story while pregnant with her kid. Technique Allusion to Real Life Events Although the setting of the novel was unspecified by Allende, there are events in the novel that resemble that of Chile and the events that happened before the novel’s publication.
Allende alluded to these real life events in order for his novel to become partly biographical and to make it as an allegory to enable the readers, especially Chileans, to relate to the story more. The political unrest present in the novel parallels that of the conflict in Chile during the 1920’s. The 1920’s were turbulent times for Chile—strikes and collision between political parties were prevalent. Another real life event shown in the novel is based on a natural disaster. In chapter 5, a very strong earthquake is mentioned, much like the great Chilean earthquake in 1939.
Even some of the characters in the novel are based on Allende’s family. Narrative Irony Irony is also present in some parts of the novel. The behavior of the two opposing classes provides the irony. The upper classes often see themselves as more civilized than the lower class, but in the novel, their behavior suggests the other way around. For instance, in the story, Esteban Trueba is a violent man, and he exploits the workers at the Tres Marias, while the peasants appear to react in a more calm and react appropriately at the face of adversity.
The irony presents the characters in a more realistic way. Authorial Reticence Magical Realism uses authorial reticence in order to justify the “magic” in the text. By excluding the clear opinions of the characters towards the magical elements in the novel, the text becomes realistic while obviously fantastic. For example, Clara is clairvoyant, but nobody seems to mind or be surprised about it. On the other hand, Rosa is described to be over the top beautiful, but she had green hair, yellow eyes and transparent skin. Themes / Key Quotations
One of the major themes in the novel is the oppression that women experience. Esteban Trueba is the epitome of a woman exploiter in the novel. He treated them like property, only existing for his sexual satisfaction and an object to continue on his genes. In chapter 3, when Esteban was looking for a wife, even after the de Valle family revealed to him Clara’s supernatural powers, he concluded that “none of these things posed any obstacle to bringing healthy, legitimate children into the world” (Allende, 1985, p. 88).
His primary concern was to have a wife that would bear his children no matter how peculiar the qualities of Clara were. Another theme is the concept of luck. The first instance of luck was Esteban’s luck at the mines. The Tres Marias was already a shabby place when Esteban decided to gamble all his money into its renovation. Luck struck him as the mines proved to be very productive. Ironically, Alba was the luckiest of them all, as Clara claimed, “There’s no need to worry about this little girl. She will be lucky and she will be happy” (Allende, 1985, p. 223).
Despite being captured, molested, and tortured by Esteban Garcia, Alba was still considered to be lucky because ultimately, she was able to escape and able to elude Esteban Garcia’s attempts to kill her. One prominent motif that appears throughout the novel is writing. The whole story is in fact, the combined writing efforts of Esteban and Alba. As Alba recalled, “it was my grandfather who had the idea that we should write this story” (Allende 1985, p. 366). Throughout the novel, the characters were involved in writing, from Clara to Alba. Reference Allende, I. (1985). The House of the Spirits (M. Bogin, Trans. ). New York: Bantam Books.