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The House of the Spirits

Isabel Allende

Chapter 11, The Awakening

Chapter Ten, The Epoch of Decline

Chapter 12, The Conspiracy

Summary

During her eighteenth year, Alba enrolls in the university and falls in love with Miguel. Miguel is also a student and a revolutionary. They do not know that their families are already intertwined and that Miguel was present at Alba's birth. Out of love for Miguel, Alba becomes involved in revolutionary politics. She joins Miguel, Professor Sebastian Gomez, and a group of students in an occupation of the university. Just when Alba begins to doubt her interest in the cause, she becomes quite ill and is forced to leave before the end of the protest. The policeman who escorts her out is Esteban Garcia. He reveals to Miguel that Alba is Senator Trueba's granddaughter. Esteban Garcia also reminds Alba of her fourteenth birthday when he came to the house on business with her father and molested her a second time, simultaneously kissing and strangling her.

Miguel quickly decides that it is pointless to be upset at Alba for her grandfather's politics. They become consumed by their love for one another and spend an entire year devoted to making love as often as possible. After that, they return to their other occupations and continue their relationship. They do not move in together because Miguel realizes that he will some day have to devote himself to the revolution much more deeply than Alba will be ready for.

Years before, Jaime accidentally met the Candidate for the Socialist party, on a medical call. Over the years, when the Candidate ran for president unsuccessfully every year, they developed a deep friendship. Now the Candidate tells Jaime that this year the socialists will win the elections. No one aside from Jaime believes him. Miguel adds that even if the socialists come to power, little will change. The campaign is particularly nasty, and in protest of the Conservative parties' tactics, Jaime moves out of the family house and into the hospital where he works.

Jaime is the only person Alba tells of her relationship with Miguel. Jaime experiences some paternal jealousy over the relationship but keeps Alba's relationship a secret. Then Alba and Miguel come to Jaime to ask him as a doctor to look at Miguel's sick sister. When he arrives to examine her, Jaime recognizes Amanda. He only tells Miguel and Alba that they knew each other long ago; it has in fact been twenty years. Amanda is so strung out that she is almost dead. She does not recognize Jaime. Jaime prescribes hospitalization and detoxification.

Analysis

Each chapter up until now has picked up fairly close in time to when the previous chapter ended. It is not clear exactly how many years chapter ten covers, but at least several years elapse between the end of chapter ten and the beginning of chapter eleven. The chapter itself spans 23 years. It is one of the few in which Esteban's first person narrative voice is not present.

Chance or strange twists of fate recur repeatedly in The House of the Spirits. Alba's encounter with Miguel is no different. The two meet in the university cafeteria. Although neither one remembers the first encounter, on the day of Alba's birth, something immediately draws them to one another. Like her mother and her grandmother before her, Alba seems fated from a very young age to be with this particular man.

Miguel is a revolutionary; Alba is not. The mysterious question of motivation not only in love but also in ideological commitment arises. Alba participates in revolutionary projects out of love for Miguel, rather than out of her own interest. The difference is evident to everyone. Alba's lack of revolutionary commitment is not due to her class or to her gender, although people attempt to attribute it to both. Because her interest in the revolution only stems from her love for Miguel, Alba is not able to endure the same suffering as Miguel for the sake of the revolution. We find in subsequent chapters, however, that she is able to endure as much if not more suffering in order to protect Miguel.

Just as loves return and persist through a strange combination of chance and design, so do other connections. Esteban Garcia has followed Esteban Trueba purposefully, but his first three encounters with Alba seem to be dictated by chance. When Alba leaves the university occupation she has participated in with Miguel, it just to happens that Esteban Garcia is the officer in charge of escorting her out of the building. Fate is neither a benign nor a malign force; it crosses the paths of lovers—Alba and Miguel—of allies—Esteban Trueba and Transito Soto—and of enemies.

This third meeting between Alba and Esteban Garcia instigates a flashback to four or five years earlier. The scene Alba remembers from her fourteenth birthday parallels the one she does not remember from her earlier childhood as well as the one that occurs in the present time of the chapter. In each instance of her meeting Esteban Garcia, the same sequence of actions occurs. Esteban Garcia approaches her somewhat surreptitiously, begins to molest her and at the same time to strangle her, before he is suddenly interrupted. The specifics of each scene vary, but the structure is the same.

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