Spirits Subtext Context and Other Essay

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Class struggles are one type of such instability, and this instability is hinted at again and again throughout the novel. Esteban's rape of one of the servants at the hacienda is indicative of the subjugation and authority that exists within the household, and the fact that this union ends up resulting in a child can be seen as indicative of the generative power of such a power and class structure. This child also ends up having a child, however, and the grandson of this class rape completes the cycle of violence by imprisoning and raping Esteban's granddaughter, showing a new type of class dominance that is representative of the equal evils yet changed perspective of the socialist/Communist regimes.

Gender Struggles and Female Power/Independence

Another very evident strain throughout the House of Spirits, and one that can be seen in both instances of rape along with may other events and details of character and plot, is the struggle for gender equality or enhanced feminine independence and political power. Though not directly an example of class struggle, the struggle for gender equality in both economic and political opportunities and access has long been linked to the struggle for greater class mobility and general class struggles, and these links are quite apparent in this novel (Garcia-Johnson). From Nivea, mother of the central female figure Clara, through Clara's daughter Blanca and to Blanca's daughter Alba, a trajectory of feminist progression both in perspective and in the specifics and level of success of each woman's struggles can be seen as again being both symbolically and directly represented (Garcia-Johnson).

According to this interpretation, Nivea represents the early movement for basic rights like voting, while Clara is demanding of a more full and personal range of freedom and power. Blanca shows a move towards a greater realization of these freedoms and of a recognized female passion, and finally Alba suggests the most recent representation of the feminist struggle in a consolidation of the women that came before her, and in bearing the brunt of the masculine reaction (Garci-Johnson). Each generation represents a view of the feminine struggle in the twentieth century that is at once distinct yet fluid, differing from yet building upon and contributing to the previous and next generation of struggle (Garcia-Johnson).

Each of these characters can also be seen as in a form of class struggle as an inherent part of their struggle for greater economic and political as well as personal power. Nivea's attendance at suffragette meetings and her protection of Clara's interests and activities are not viewed positively by the patriarchal powers that be, and Clara's growing use of her supernatural talents make her less economically dependent on either her father or her husband, allowing her political and economic access at the same time as she moves towards personal fulfillment. Blanca's decision to leave her husband is spurred by his affairs with those that are supposed to be serving them, which can be seen as an example of not only sexual infidelity but also an example of class abuse, and finally Alba's rape by a General shows her resistance to the new power structure, as does her involvement with the anti-establishment activist, Miguel, in a more active and positive light. In each of these ways, the feminist struggle was in addition a class struggle for each of these women in the House of Spirits.


The struggle for independence, power, and equality is never ending in most human societies -- any human society above a bare subsistence level, really. The consolidation of wealth to any degree necessarily comes with the consolidation of power to a commensurate degree. In the absence of a system that limits such consolidation, there are likely to be instabilities as the struggle to correct perceived imbalances goes on. These imbalances are well-captured by Isabel Allende in the House of Spirits.

Works Cited

Allende, Isabel. The House of Spirits. New York: Dial, 2005.

Garcia-Johnson, Ronie-Richele. "The Struggle for Space: Feminism and Freedom in the House of the Spirits." Revista Hispanica Moderna Volume 47, Issue 1 (1994), pp. 184-93.

Hamner, Lucia C. & a. Harron Akram Loodhi. "In the House of the Spirits: Toward a Post Keynesian Theory of the Household?" Journal of Post Keynesian Economics


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