House of Spirits – Ghost, Spirits, Supernatural Women
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende is captivating novel full of the supernatural and realistic sides of the Trueba women. Allende’s use of the supernatural heightens suspense, enhances the setting, and complicates the plot (Jenkins). The novel goes through three generations of women each one more involved with spirits than the previous. Clara is the mother of Blanca and grandmother of Alba which expresses the realism of spirits as Clara passes on.Allende uses her experiences as a woman to personify them through the three generations, emphasizing the bond between the three in form of ghosts and spirits and illustrates their power through their silence and voice truly creating a threat to the society. The silence allows for them to be in total control of every situation at all times.
With her supernatural powers, Clara is the spark for the revolutionary change in the Trueba family and surrounding society.
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Her silence is a weapon against Esteban in which he knows he cannot control.Here role in the story is vital to the development of the plot, Clara in Spanish means clear or purity, also it is known for clairvoyance, in which Clara does portray all these qualities in that she, despite her experience, is pure and will never become tainted for she can see into the future and may play off that as a form of warning. In the novel, she knows that she will become best friends with Esteban’s sister, but at the same time she understands that her death will come sooner than expected. Her Special powers also make her common tasks more difficult.Yet she does yield a tremendous amount of responsibility and power with her voice alone. Such authority, especially where the supernatural is incorporated into cultural beliefs and experiences, proves a genuine challenge to patriarchal authority (Jenkins).
“Women writers use supernatural or fantastic to recreate reality and traditional evaluative standards prescribing a formal realism “(Jenkins). This statement is true in that Allende uses her own experiences of her father to portray in the novel with Blanca and Esteban.Esteban loses the election to the people’s party; Isabel Allende’s father was kicked out of power as well in a similar situation. The women portrayed in the novel all have an angelic feel to them, or that they are constantly being followed by a ghost. This out of body presence is that of their family. Blanca and Alba experience this when Clara passes away in that her spirit is always with them and her ghost is constantly on earth, as though she is unable to leave. The Empowering distinction of the women with spirits is a great threat to the fabric of Chilean society for women feeling power to equality with men would start a revolution.
As Jenkins states in her essay on Supernatural, ghost, spirits, and women “”Allende reproduces the silences of Clara that reflect a kind of subversive mimicry of patriarchal scripts of female submission rather than a complicity in such scripts”. (Jenkins). Despite not direct influence on Alba, once Clara has passed she still is influence Alba’s life and what she does. Clara’s spirit inspires Alba to begin writing as her grandmother once did, which in turn rescued Alba from possible psychological and physical pain. The power behind the voice of women in the novel and roles played mirror the way ghosts and spirits indentify in the novel.The author employs many forms of realism in her writing to incorporate the lives of Clara, Blanca, and Alba. This is evident through Clara in that her spirits are going against religion and good manners.
The Supernatural aspect of Clara’s life proceeds on through those she encounters, with Esteban’s sister, Ferula becomes entranced with the out of world like experience of being around Clara in which she falls in love with Clara. “Women explore the authority provided by ghosts and spirits to articulate an alternative story from those endorsed by patriarchal cultures” (Jenkins).Clara, Alba, and Blanca all go through supernatural experiences in which they live their lives by, which take away their vulnerability to oppression or any psychological games. The Supernatural realism in the novel is one of Allende’s techniques of employing a Magical and Mystic feel to the novel. Each character is followed by a spirit which holds people accountable in every aspect of their lives. The spiritual survival through the cultures and history is the true meaning to the novel, in that all spirits are there to carry on the culture on to the next generation as for it not be lost.