The House of the Spirits | Study Guide

Isabel Allende

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The House of the Spirits | Chapter 7 : The Brothers | Summary

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Summary

When Blanca and Clara get back to the city, Clara—who has "no patience with misfortune"—goes into a frenzy of activity to open the house and bring back the lightness and joy that was once so prominent there. As her spiritualist friends once again fill the rooms and Clara turns her back on the drudgery of daily life, the job of running the household falls to Blanca. She has her hands full, with so many people always there and her twin brothers as permanent residents.

When it becomes obvious that Blanca is pregnant, a telegram is sent to Esteban Trueba advising him of the news; he predictably responds with rage. He goes to Jean de Satigny and tells the surprised count that he must marry Blanca. Without wasting any time, they board the train to the city.

Still in a rage, Esteban arrives at the big house and gives orders to lock Blanca up until the day of her wedding, which he decrees will be in two weeks. Clara avoids him entirely, and Blanca is reduced to prolonged weeping when he claims to have killed Pedro Tercero.

Everyone unhappily complies with Esteban Trueba's brutal orders so that the wedding will be exactly the way he desires. Guests seem blissfully unaware of the misery behind it, and the event is viewed as a big success. Afterward, Blanca finally stops crying when her mother assures her that Pedro Tercero is still alive. But since Blanca and Satigny are sent to live in the far north, Clara becomes depressed at being separated from her daughter. The relationship between Jaime and Nicolás becomes too strained for them to be around each other, so she also loses the peaceful coexistence she had enjoyed with her sons.

Nicolás's girlfriend, Amanda, introduced briefly in the previous chapter, is a free-spirited, exotic-looking bohemian who is nevertheless quite responsible when it comes to taking care of her younger brother, Miguel, whom she loves fiercely. Amanda and Miguel are at the house often, and the one thing Jaime and Nicolás seem to share is a deep attraction to her. This is what will eventually bring them back together for a time. It happens when she becomes pregnant with Nicolás's baby and Jaime, not yet a doctor but experienced in medicine and with access to a clinic, performs an abortion on her.

Even as Jaime becomes involved with socialism, Esteban Trueba becomes active in the Conservative Party and decides to run for senator. Politics becomes the new focus of his life. Gradually, things begin to thaw between him and Clara, although she still will not speak to him, but his relationships with his children remain practically nonexistent. He's outraged at Jaime's political leanings and Nicolás's continued wild schemes and adventures. Esteban, convinced for some time now that he is shrinking, travels to the United States for medical advice—only to be told there is nothing wrong with him.

Meanwhile, Pedro Tercero moves to the city. Still active in the Socialist movement, he has also become a popular singer. Since Esteban doesn't have a radio, he is uninformed about this development. He is also unaware of Jaime's friendship with Pedro Tercero.

Analysis

This chapter introduces additional significant characters while it reveals more about the adult twins. The huge differences between the two are magnified as they reach adulthood, and these differences along with the presence of Amanda drive an irreconcilable wedge between them. Still, when a serious situation (Amanda's pregnancy) presents itself, the ties of family are strong enough to allow them to cooperate to solve it.

The brothers' approach to family problem-solving is different from that taken by Esteban Trueba with his dictatorial manner of imposing his will on others. His approach makes the gaps between him and others in the family even bigger.

For the first time the name Alba is mentioned. Close reading begs the question: "Who is Alba?" The text says that Miguel sees her born in the Trueba house while he and Amanda are there as she recovers from the abortion. Who else in the story is pregnant? The only one who comes to mind is Blanca, but she has not been mentioned in this chapter, so there is no way of knowing whether it is she or someone else who will deliver a baby named Alba.

Politics continues to take a central role in the story and in the relationships between characters. Remembering the previous linkage of political change to violence and to knowing of Esteban Trueba's horrible temper, readers must worry that things will likely get more explosive now that he has entered politics.

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