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The House of the Spirits | Chapter 6 : Revenge | Summary

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Summary

Within about 18 months, Tres Marías has once again been turned into a "model estate," and Esteban Trueba has survived injuries that would have left anyone else "an invalid." He explains away his increase in temper tantrums as necessary to his survival. He notices Clara's change and feels her leaving him more and more, and his obsessive love for her makes him crazy. He also comments on his inability to get close to Blanca.

When the narration shifts to the omniscient third-person narrator, a new character is introduced: Count Jean de Satigny. He presents himself as a wealthy Frenchman who doesn't need to work, but at the same time he comes up with a scheme he wants Esteban to invest in: raising chinchillas to sell their fur. Satigny practically sets up residency at Tres Marías, slyly observing what goes on in the household and trying to insinuate himself as a possible candidate for Blanca's hand in marriage. He speeds up the process when he discovers her sneaking off at night to meet Pedro Tercero. Afraid he will lose the possibility of having a rich wife, he abruptly asks Esteban if he can marry her. Esteban is thrilled, but Blanca is furious and for once her father does not enforce his will.

Next the twins are finally developed as characters, as they arrive at the estate for the summer of their 21st year. The young men couldn't be more different from each other. Jaime is tall and well-built but shy and studious. He has quirky habits, but he is kind and likes to help people solve problems. He becomes good friends with Pedro Tercero, a friendship that "linked the two boys until death."

In contrast, Nicolás is small and delicate with a beautiful face. His intelligence is far superior to his brother's, but he is mostly interested in the spiritual, supernatural world. He is also interested in girls and brashly seduces every adolescent for miles around while Jaime tries to protect the girls from his brother's callous ways.

As the narrative shifts to the political climate of the country before a presidential election, another important character is developed: Esteban García, the bastard grandson of Esteban Trueba. Now 10 years old, it is he who discovers that his grandfather, the beloved Pedro García, is dead. The child is filled with hatred for "Esteban Trueba, his seduced grandmother, his bastard father, and his own inexorable peasant fate."

The wake and funeral for Pedro García are huge events, with the Truebas sparing no expense. Disguised as a priest, Pedro Tercero comes for his grandfather's funeral and continues spreading his message of socialism. The Socialist Party presidential candidate even comes through the area, but the peasants are so afraid of Esteban Trueba and the other landowners that they are scared to vote.

Following the funeral, Blanca begins to feel lazy and weak. Jean de Satigny is the only one who notices, as he watches her in hopes of figuring out a way to win her as his wife. He spies on her constantly and knows of her nocturnal visits to someone, but he doesn't know who that someone is. Growing weary of waiting, he follows her one night and finds her and Pedro Tercero sleeping naked in each other's arms. He awakens Esteban Trueba with the news, counting on his "ever-ready anger" as "the best means for solving the problem."

The Count is not wrong: Esteban explodes. He mounts his horse and rides toward the lovers. When he encounters Blanca returning home, he beats her viciously with a whip, then picks her up and returns to the house. After a shocked Clara tends to her badly injured daughter, she confronts her husband. Her words only increase his anger, and he hits her in the face, knocking out several teeth. Although he is immediately mortified and repentant, Clara's anger is complete. She walks out of the room, collapses into Pedro Segundo's arms, and closes her heart to Esteban Trueba forever. She never speaks to him again.

As soon as they are well enough to travel, Blanca and Clara return to the city. Pedro Segundo takes them to the train station, says a tender goodbye, and then packs his things and also leaves Tres Marías. "I don't want to be here when you find my son," he tells Esteban Trueba.

The chapter ends with Esteban once again narrating. He is obsessed with finding and killing Pedro Tercero, whom he views as responsible for ruining everything. He offers a reward to anyone who will tell him where Pedro Tercero is. The one who takes up his offer is his hate-filled bastard grandson, Esteban Garcia. The child takes him to Pedro Tercero's hiding place, where they find him sleeping. But as Esteban Trueba raises his gun to shoot him, he suddenly awakens and leaps to his feet. In a short struggle, Esteban loses the gun, grabs an axe, and swings it at the young man. Pedro Tercero blocks the blow with an arm, but the axe slices off three of his fingers. Then he flees on horseback.

Esteban and the young boy return to Tres Marías. When the boy asks for his reward, Esteban denies him. As the chapter ends, both of the Estebans are weeping with rage.

Analysis

Since violence is a theme of the novel, readers probably are not surprised by the detailed descriptions of blood and pain. What is perhaps more jarring is to have them appear side-by-side with scenes of tenderness and love, as if to say violence is just as "normal" as the elements of magical realism that are presented so matter-of-factly throughout the novel. At this point, readers might be longing for the return of spirits, magic tricks, and other strange but harmless things, wishing that atmosphere was "normal" again rather than this shocking violence. Only the odd Jean de Satigny bears any resemblance to the previous world of the novel, but since he is instrumental in bringing about Esteban Trueba's extreme reaction to Blanca's love affair, he is easy to dismiss as part of the problem.

What's more troubling is the persistent feeling that the violence has not ended, that the country's political unraveling will be associated with violence on a much larger scale. Allende uses foreshadowing to remind readers that Esteban García "would one day be the instrument of a tragedy" for the family.

When Jean de Satigny finds Blanca and Pedro Tercero on the night he betrays them, the description of them sleeping provides a flashback to Chapter 4 when they are found sleeping together as young children and when the narrator comments that "a whole lifetime would not be long enough for their atonement." It gives the feeling that the tragedy and violence of their love story is far from over.

The tie between people's sexuality and personality is picked up in this chapter as the new characterizations emerge. Nicolás, the free-spirited twin, is extremely casual and careless about sex, while Jaime is intent on protecting women from such men. As Esteban Trueba descends deeper into his brooding and anger, he obsesses more and more about his wife's refusal to have sexual relations with him anymore. He says that every night he starts "to hound her as soon as the sun [goes] down." He believes he can have whatever he wants by sheer force of will, and his sexual need for her reflects this trait. And although readers do not yet know what kind of sexual proclivities Jean de Satigny has, there are hints that he is as odd in this area as he is in the rest of life. He likes women who remind him of his mother, who are "placid and well rounded." He likes to pose Blanca in strange ways and photograph her.

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