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He could hardly guess that the solemn, cubic, dense, pompous house, which sat like a hat amidst its green and geometric surroundings, would end up full of protuberances and incrustations, of twisted staircases that led to empty spaces, of turrets, or small windows and could not be opened, doors hanging in midair, crooked hallways, and portholes that linked the living quarters so that people could communicate during the siesta, all of which were Clara's inspiration.

Esteban builds the big house on the corner, described here, during his courtship of Clara. This description of the house is given as Esteban is building it but foreshadows what will happen to the house throughout the course of the novel. The elements that Esteban and Clara contribute to the house reflect their respective characters. Esteban is practical and serious while Clara is imaginative and creative.

The big house on the corner is a metaphor for the novel. On the surface it is straightforward, if somewhat ostentatious. Similarly, The House of the Spirits can be read as a traditional romance novel, following a single family over several generations. However, the house Esteban builds ends up full of complicated, twisted, and impractical additions. Despite its apparently traditional structure, The House of the Spirits contains an enormous number of complicated twists of plot. The title of the novel underlines the association: The House of the Spirits refers both to the book as a whole, and also to the big house on the corner, which, thanks to Clara, is always full of ghosts and spirits.