The House of the Spirits | Study Guide

Isabel Allende

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The House of the Spirits | Chapter 11 : The Awakening | Summary

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Summary

When Alba has finished school she goes on to the university to study philosophy and music. Before long she falls in love with a student in his final year of law school. It turns out to be Miguel, Amanda's little brother.

Miguel is a passionate leftist leader, inflamed by the idea of a violent revolution to achieve justice, but he is equally passionate about Alba. She is sick of politics, having grown up surrounded by it, but her love for Miguel leads her to join him in protests, including a sit-in at the university that lasts several days. Miguel and a professor are the leaders, but Alba is scared and miserable. When she gets her period and has no supplies, she gives in to the professor's urgings to go home. Miguel negotiates her safe passage and release into the hands of the police, and when the exchange is made, Alba is delivered to a man "with the eyes of a rodent." It is Esteban García, and he recognizes her as well. When he identifies her as Senator Trueba's granddaughter, Miguel feels betrayed; he did not know this fact.

Safely home and confined to bed for two days, Alba has time to remember how she knows Esteban García. She cannot recall much about the time in the library when she was six, but she does remember a second encounter with him, on her fourteenth birthday. She is waiting for Uncle Jaime in the garden of the house and can see a policeman with her grandfather in the library. When the policeman comes out he comes near her and asks if she remembers him. All she knows is there is something wrong about him. He kisses her, a "birthday present," his hands sliding around her neck to strangle her as before, but she gets away. He has been in her nightmares since then, "a green beast that tried to ... asphyxiate her by shoving a slimy tentacle down her throat."

Miguel soon forgives Alba for not being honest with him, and their relationship evolves into a love affair. They have trysts in the basement of the big house on the corner, hidden away in a romantic nest they create. When Miguel first sees the house he tries to recall why he knows it, but his childhood memories are too dim. After a year Miguel finishes his studies and gets a small apartment where they can make love. Miguel will never let Alba live with him because he knows his future will be too dangerous.

The political upheaval in the country is getting more and more worrisome. Jaime and Miguel are convinced that Socialism is about to win out, but Jaime believes it will be within the existing political system whereas Miguel thinks a revolution is required. Jaime is close friends with the current Candidate for the presidency, and he feels sure of victory in the election. However, he is fearful of the violent turn politics has taken and becomes less active politically while still working 14 hours a day to provide medical services to the needy. Miguel views the upcoming election as a joke and wishes for a radical, violent end to the system.

Because Jaime and Miguel hold such differing views, Jaime likes to avoid him—until Alba begs him to look at Miguel's sister, who is very ill. He is shocked to see that it is Amanda and heartbroken to see that she is in the throes of drug addiction. He determines that she must be placed in rehabilitation.

Analysis

The political unrest that has been gnawing at the country for decades is reaching a fever pitch. A student sit-in is responded to with tanks and threats of violence, and the young people seem to welcome it. Clearly those favoring the status quo are still in denial, and the more moderate Socialist leaders like Jaime still believe in the system. But this has been going on for so long and there is so much unrest, spreading even to the peasants in the countryside, that a totally peaceful conclusion does not seem possible.

In a particularly bleak instance of foreshadowing, Allende writes of Alba's early nightmares featuring Esteban García as a beast waiting to jump on her that "She could not know it was a premonition." There is a real sense of foreboding that this cruel, violent sexual predator is going to get his hands on Alba again. Especially horrifying is his sadistic comment when he sees the blood on her pants as she is handed over to him at the protest: "What's the matter with you? It looks like an abortion." Her response, however, reveals her strength: "That is none of your business. Take me home!" She is not a weak, pampered young woman and is not likely to back down when threatened. Maybe she can survive what is to come, especially since her grandmother Clara declared at Alba's birth that she could only be lucky and happy in life.

The healthy sexual relationship between Alba and Miguel—in which Miguel teaches her how to see herself as beautiful—mirrors the strong mental condition of both of these people who come from unusual childhoods. They are the products of deep love and protection showered on them throughout childhood. Allende is giving the message that honest, mutual love can exist as long as both partners are healthy and secure with their identities.

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