Three days later, Esteban receives a letter from Ferula with the news that Dona Ester is dying. It has been years since Esteban has seen his mother. Esteban puts Pedro Segundo Garcia in charge of Tres Marias and leaves for the capital.
Class emerges as a key theme. The del Valle family is clearly a part of the wealthy upper class. They are also politically liberal. Esteban Trueba's experience adds nuance to the upper class. Money alone does not define class. Esteban's family is of the upper class because of his mother's family name, which situates her in Peru's upper class. Specifically, Dona Ester's maiden name belongs to "the viceroyalty of Lima." This situates Esteban in relation to the Spanish crown. His family as well as the del Valles, are criollos. They live and were born in South America but are the direct descendants of Spaniards.
However, Esteban's mother married an immigrant below her class and in addition, has lost all of her money. Esteban must therefore work to make a living, but still remains part of the upper class. When Esteban moves to Tres Marias, another class status is introduced: the peasants. Although Esteban has relatively little money compared to the del Valles, he possesses a great deal more money than the peasants in Tres Marias. He also holds the official title to the land. Esteban views the peasants as less than himself. He sees Tres Marias's decline since his father's death as not a result of an absence on capital investment, but of an absence of work.
Linked to the question of class is a question of genealogy. Since it is to a great degree independent of material wealth, class status is primarily passed through genealogy. It is not, however, simply tied in with biological parenting. Esteban's refusal to acknowledge any of the children he fathers in Tres Marias, and most significantly his refusal to allow any of them to carry his last name, cuts those children out of his genealogy. As they do not inherit his name, Esteban's bastard children will not inherit any of his estate.
Gender complicates class analysis. Although the narrators never explicitly condemn gender inequality, they consistently explain the different experiences of men and women. In the face of his financial situation, Esteban is able to go out, find work, and better his situation. His sister Ferula on the other hand could only have bettered her lot by marrying someone with more money. Even that option was not quite open to her since, as the daughter, the care of their mother fell on her shoulders. Gender also comes to play in the peasants' class situation. When Esteban arrives in Tres Marias he notices that very few men of working age remain. Those men left their families to find work while the women stayed at home, parallel to the Trueba family situation. Esteban perpetuates gender inequality as he distributes Christmas bonuses only to the men, considering that only men head households.
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