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The House of the Spirits

Isabel Allende

Chapter 7, The Brothers

Chapter 6, Revenge

Chapter 8, The Count

Summary

Back in the city, Clara puts Blanca to work helping her out around the house and resumes her psychic pursuits with the three Mora sisters and any number of others who wander through. When Jaime and Nicolas finish high school, they return to the big house on the corner. Jaime enters the university to study medicine, and Nicolas searches "for his destiny". Although she has never been very close to her two sons, Clara builds a comfortable adult relationship with them. Jaime finally notices that Blanca is pregnant and tells Clara, who already knew. Blanca admits it as well. Nicolas feels that they ought to tell their father and sends him a telegram. Esteban is again infuriated, but this time he takes slightly calmer action. He finds Jean de Satigny and informs him that he must now marry Blanca, in return for access to the family money. Esteban and Jean de Satigny come to the city. Blanca at first refuses, but acquiesces when Esteban tells her that he has killed Pedro Tercero. Esteban devises an outrageously ostentatious wedding with such a huge gown for Blanca that no one notices her pregnancy. After the marriage, Esteban sends Blanca and Jean de Satigny to the North. Before they leave, Clara tells Blanca that she is sure Pedro Tercero is alive.

Esteban stays on in the house in the city, getting involved in politics with the Conservative Party. Although they share the same house, he and Clara's paths rarely cross. Nicolas learns Flamenco and begins offering classes. Esteban quickly puts a stop to this activity, but Nicolas only turns to other unusual pursuits and begins to smoke a good deal of hashish, which no one notices. His girlfriend Amanda and her five-year-old brother Miguel also become part-time residents at the Trueba house. Jaime is quite different from his twin brother. He lives an austere life, devoted to his studies and to helping the poor at the hospital where he works, whom he often brings home for Clara to help care. He does however develop a deep, hidden—even to himself—love for Amanda.

Esteban is running for the Senate. As the elections near, he turns to Clara. Without ever talking to him, Clara tacitly supports Esteban. Esteban accepts Clara's silent civility, and she attends social events with him after he is elected. Esteban realizes, however, that he is no closer to his family than before. He has also noticed that he is slowly shrinking. He goes so far as to travel to the United States to consult doctors there, who tell him he is imagining things.

With the help of Father Jose Dulce Maria, Pedro Tercero heals and moves to the city. He continues his revolutionary activities and maintains his friendship with Jaime. Not wanting to be associated with his father's conservative politics, Jaime decides to change his last name. Esteban at first tries to forbid this, but when Jaime resorts to giving away his pants in public, Esteban gives up.

Nicolas becomes so involved in his eccentric pursuits, such as trying to fly a hot air balloon over the mountains, that he forgets about Amanda. After several weeks, he notices her absence and goes to look for her. Nicolas finds Amanda and her brother in their small apartment, realizing for the first time that they are poor orphans, and that Amanda is pregnant. Amanda does not want to marry Nicolas because she does not love him, which incites Nicolas's first, and only, deep feelings for her. She asks Nicolas to help her have an abortion. Nicolas turns to Jaime for help. Although he has not yet finished medical school, Jaime agrees to perform the abortion. During and after the operation, Nicolas keeps an uncomfortable distance, while Jaime devotes himself to Amanda's care. Amanda and Miguel are still living with the Trueba's when Blanca's daughter Alba is born.

Analysis

Whereas the first five chapters have each spanned a number of years, the amount of time covered in a single chapter slows significantly starting in chapter six. Chapter seven covers a few months.

With Blanca's wedding, Esteban employs the power of an ostentatious show to distract attention from other events. The fact that Blanca is quite pregnant makes it difficult to believe that no one noticed. This leads to the conclusion that either everyone agreed to be duped or else that the dress she wore was of exceedingly excessive proportions. Esteban and others employ similar tactics, both before and after this event, in more political arenas. When Pedro Garcia died, Esteban used an elaborate funeral to cover the fact that he did not treat the man with the respect he deserved during his lifetime. During the military dictatorship, huge walls and fancy gardens are built to keep people from noticing the ever-increasing numbers of beggars. All of these tactics employ the valuation of form over substance.

Blanca's marriage to Jean de Satigny also reemphasizes the importance of genealogy according to name. Esteban is willing to accept a grandchild he knows to be born out of wedlock as long as the child has an appropriate last name. The blood relationship in this genealogy is unimportant, but the official bearing of a socially correct last name is of utmost importance, destroying the notion that genealogy passes through biology or blood lines.

Although the events in Blanca's life are key to this chapter, its title, "The Brothers," shifts the focus to Jaime and Nicolas. While they were physically removed from the big house on the corner and Tres Marias, they were also absent from the story; now they return home and enter the plot. Like every member of the del Valle-Trueba family, Jaime and Nicolas are eccentric, each in their own way. Nicolas resembles Uncle Marcos. Jaime's commitment to social justice gives him a more important place in the remainder of the novel, which increasingly focuses around the family's involvement in political events. This does not constitute a shift in focus, but rather represents the ways in which political events became inseparable from private events. While Jaime is described as having the constitution of a priest, Nicolas is the one who becomes more involved in strictly spiritual pursuits. Clara's observation of this fact allows Jaime to express, in so many words, the Marxist view that religion is the opiate of the masses. Although this observation seems to be played out in Nicolas's relative lack of involvement with politics, it is countered by the active role priests such as Father Jose Dulce Maria and later the Vatican embassy play in ensuing events.

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