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The House of the Spirits | Study Guide

Isabel Allende

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The House of the Spirits | Quotes


She had a premonition that her daughter ... was not destined to last very long.

Narrator, Chapter 1

The narrator is describing Nívea del Valle's feeling that her beautiful daughter Rosa will die soon. Coming so early in the book, comments like this set the stage for the frequent premonitions, ghost sightings, and other supernatural insights that are a big part of the novel.


It would be lovely if we were all created equal, but ... we're not.

Esteban Trueba, Chapter 2

Esteban Trueba is muttering about the ingratitude of the people living and working at Tres Marías while also establishing his anti-Communist attitude. He is also indicating his belief in a class system that keeps the rich and powerful in charge.


But Clara lived in another world.

Narrator, Chapter 3

This succinct sentence expresses the truth about Clara. She is more spiritual than physical, never very interested in the things of the world that other people focus on, and tends to move in and out of reality throughout her life.


You can't find someone who doesn't want to be found.

Clara, Chapter 4

After Esteban Trueba throws his sister Férula out of the house, Clara uses her spiritual powers to try to find her. But the priest who knows where Férula lives warns Clara to stop looking because "she doesn't want to see you." That's when Clara remembers this comment from the Mora sisters about people not wanting to be found. It must comfort Clara to know people can protect themselves through sheer will.


That's the way it's always been, son. You can't change the law of God.

Pedro Segundo García, Chapter 5

After the big earthquake destroys Tres Marías, Pedro Tercero complains to his father about "breaking his back" to restore Esteban Trueba's wealth. His father's reply shows how deeply entrenched and accepted the class divisions are. Pedro Tercero's disgust with that will manifest itself later when he becomes a Communist.


Clara never spoke to her husband again.

Narrator, Chapter 6

When Esteban Trueba learns of Blanca's affair with Pedro Tercero, he beats his daughter with a horse whip. Then his violent temper spills over, and he hits his wife in the face, knocking out some of her teeth. With these actions, he has stepped over the line. Clara has had enough, and the damage is never undone in her lifetime.


Can't you see my soul is very old and you're still a child?

Amanda, Chapter 7

Amanda speaks these words to Nicolás after she tells him she is pregnant. For the first time, he realizes his has been a life of privilege and that he does, indeed, have a "lot to learn."


Of two evils, she chose the one that struck her as the lesser.

Narrator, Chapter 8

The narrator is explaining why Blanca agreed to marry Jean de Satigny. Having often been the victim of her father's violent temper, she thinks the count will be easier to manage than her father, who is enraged at her pregnancy and has planned the marriage to save face. However, Blanca will soon find out that it is not a decision she can live with, that Satigny's form of evil is so alien to her that she cannot accept it.


Here the madness was divided up equally ... there was nothing left ... to have our own lunatic.

Clara, Chapter 9

Clara is explaining to her granddaughter, Alba, that their family has plenty of people with one form of madness or another, and that every person is God's creature and therefore worthy of love.


Clara's death completely transformed life in the big house on the corner.

Narrator, Chapter 10

The novel feels almost like two different stories: life with Clara and life after Clara dies. She is so important to the family, touching every member of it on a deep level, that her absence marks a huge shift and a new type of spiritual void.


I don't want you to be poor like me or ... to depend on a man.

Blanca, Chapter 10

In a novel which emphasizes women, this is a potent and concise piece of advice from Blanca to her daughter, Alba, which also highlights the situational irony that exists in the Trueba household. A wealthy man, Esteban does not recognize that his own daughter exists in poverty, because since she is under his roof he assumes her needs are provided for, and yet he never gives her any money to live on.


Victory will only bring you suffering and loneliness.

Luisa Mora, Chapter 12

The only remaining Mora sister comes to the Trueba house to warn Esteban Trueba. Her premonitions prove accurate and painful. The powerful Senator Trueba usually wins his battles and enforces his will on the world, but he pays a high price for his victory.


For the first time in his life, Senator Trueba admitted he had made a mistake.

Narrator, Chapter 13

With many curses on his head and a dictator in charge who couldn't care less about him, Esteban Trueba must finally admit he has been wrong. He of course has been wrong about many things in his life, but he has finally admitted that he was wrong about the political turn his country has taken.


A century later Alba awoke wet and naked.

Narrator, Chapter 14

The horrifyingly violent things that are done to Alba by Esteban Garcia and his minions while she is held and tortured are nearly unspeakable. This brief sentence is more effective than any horrible details, indicating how close to death she comes and how stripped of all humanness she is.


I began to write with the help of my grandfather, whose memory remained intact.

Alba, Epilogue

Finally readers have a full picture of exactly who has pieced together the Trueba saga, based on memories and Clara's notebooks: Alba.

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