Women are sometimes undermined by the culture in which they live in. Only recently have they begun to be looked at as near equals to men and given a voice. Still, in some countries women may be pushed aside and left without a say in important decision-making. In the momentous novel The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende, the wife of each generation is a matriarch in her family. Individually they rise above cultural trends, and their husbands or lovers, to exercise the fact that women are important. Women can be as powerful as men, even in a male-dominated society.
This is why Nivea, Clara, Blanca, and Alba make their voices and actions heard during difficult times in a developing country. American women were willing to go to extreme lengths to make their voice heard and receive the right to vote. Their efforts did not go unnoticed. News articles stated that “Their issues are legitimate and cut across socioeconomic and party lines,” (Brenner,1-2) and that the Suffragist’s would be willing to hold an all night vigile to make sure their right to vote was no longer delayed(New York Times, 1). The House of the Spirits takes place in Chile during the 1900’s.
The story begins in the Del Valle household. Nivea is the current matriarch. She is a firm believer in women’s suffrage and equality. Nivea was the first woman of the novel to display her affection towards the underprivileged. She stood on crates and boxes to preach to the hard-working women wearing rags and working in factories that paid next to nothing. She brings Clara along with her after discovering that her family does everything they can to avoid Clara’s clairvoyant powers. Nivea and her suffragette friend inspire Clara at a young age to understand and grasp the absurdity of the issue.
Her trends are absorbed by the following generations of women in her family. Esteban Trueba is Clara’s husband, an angry man who is violent to his many workers and doesn’t take rule from anyone. His success and authority of Tres Marias, his father’s old hacienda, turned him into a tough skinned man that not many people had control over. His mother’s death causes him to, one day, look for a wife. Esteban decides to go to the Del Valle house and inquire about a daughter able to marry him. Nivea offers him Clara, her last available daughter (88-89). Clara instantly has a power over Esteban.
Her laugh and her smile are astonishing to Esteban Trueba, her beauty takes over him and he decides to marry her (90-91). Though Esteban is a dominating character he finds that he is unable to control Clara. I wanted to possess her absolutely, down to her last thought, but that diaphanous woman would float by me like a breath of fresh air, and even if I held her down with my hands and embraced her with all my strength, I could never make her mine. Her spirit wasn’t with me. (Allende, 177) Clara’s place as Esteban’s wife, and only love, capture him completely.
She was the only person that could influence him and the only person that he would listen to. At one point he even changes the currency used on Tres Marias, a territory forbidden strictly to Esteban Trueba’s rule, because Clara feels that it would be nicer for the tenant’s to have a form of paper money. Esteban indeed stops handing the tenant’s pink slips and begins paying them with real money (178). Blanca and Alba are mother and daughter, both who have lovers involved in a revolution against the Conservative Government.
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