Despite the obstacles of family and natural disaster, as Blanca and Pedro Tercero Garcia grow up, their love and commitment deepens. They continue to spend summers together. At thirteen, Blanca is the first of the two to enter adolescence. Althoug h this marks a shift in their relationship, it is a gradual one and only in the direction of greater commitment and greater resistance to the outside forces that would keep them apart. That year, Blanca tells Pedro Tercero that she wants to marry him when she grows up. He shares the sentiment, but already has a much more developed sense of the great social barriers between them. They begin to hide their attachment from others.
That winter, Ferula dies. The family learns of her death when Ferula's spirit comes to bid Clara farewell on her way out of this world. Clara is the only one who realizes what has happened. She whisks Esteban off with her to find, with the hel p of Father Antonio, Ferula's body. They discover that since she was kicked out of the house, Ferula lived in one of the poorest parts of the city, refusing to open the letters or use the money that Esteban sent her. The only indulgence she allowed he rself was dressing up in the fancy clothing and wigs she found in the trash. Ferula's refusal of his money succeeds in making Esteban feel incredibly guilty, but he turns the feeling into anger towards his sister, still failing to realize that this very a nger had turned Clara away from him when he had kicked his sister out. Clara washes Ferula's body herself and has her buried.
By the next summer, Pedro Tercero has also entered adolescence. The development of his body, is accompanied by his growth as a revolutionary thinker. He and Blanca begin meeting secretly every night that summer and develop elaborate coded systems by which to communicate during the rest of the year. This continues for three years. Then, announced as usual by Clara, a tremendous earthquake rocks the entire country.
Every building at Tres Marias is decimated, and Esteban is crushed under the house. He lives, but every bone in his body as broken, and he is confined for months to a bed and then to a wheelchair. Nana, in the city, dies of fright. In the wake of the trem or, disease and poverty ravage the country. Out of necessity, Clara for the first time in her life has begun to attend to everyday, material chores, assuming along with Pedro Segundo Garcia responsibility for rebuilding Tres Marias. The children are sent back to school in the capital, but after a few months Blanca convinces the nuns at her school that she is coming down with tuberculosis, and she returns to Tres Marias. Clara is aware of the real reason for Blanca's return, but does not tell Blanca, hopin g that this will somehow help to quell the relationship. Blanca continues to feign any number of illnesses so that she can remain near Pedro Tercero. While she was at school, news of Pedro Tercero's revolutionary activities—distributing communist pa mphlets—caused him to be banned from Tres Marias. He returns as often as possible under various disguises, to meet Blanca. Clara keeps Blanca busy helping her with the chores, and Pedro Garcia teaches her to work with clay. She becomes an expert at making creches (nativity scenes) and quickly gains fame. Esteban in his confinement becomes increasingly despotic, and Clara's benign indifference toward him is replaced by active dislike. Blanca also witnesses her father's mounting violence.
The issue of class struggle comes to the fore of the characters' consciousness. It takes the form of a growing conflict between Marxist/Communist/Socialists, whose main figure here is Pedro Tercero, and Conservatives, whose main figure is Esteban. At this point there is little division between Marxists, Communists, and Socialists. This division of political groups reflects historical events in much of South America, at the approximate time of the action of the story, around the 1920s. As in The House o f the Spirits, in Latin America the Catholic Church tended to be on the side of the Socialists. The growing social unrest is paralleled by a natural unrest. Nature explodes first, in the form of the earthquake.
Although her relatives think Clara will be unduly upset by the death of her parents, Clara does not see death as a cataclysmic event. This is in part due to the fact that her clairvoyance allows her to commune with the spirits of the dead. Clara views lif e and death as part of a unified cycle, not as opposite poles. She experiences no great distress at any of the deaths in the novel.
Modernization in the form of technology gains importance. Its ambivalent status has already been portrayed by Severo and Nivea's car, which both allows them great freedom and causes their death. Technology arrives in Tres Marias in the form of a telephone . It is still new and unstable, however. The changing status of the world is also reflected in Jaime and Nicolas's schooling experience. In the previous generation the primary foreign influence was Spain, as evidenced in the reference to royalty v ia Dona Ester's maiden name. For Esteban and his children, Britain and the United States become the most important foreign powers. This shift is emphasized when Clara and Blanca notice that Jaime and Nicolas's schooling has led them to speak "Spanish with an Oxford accent".