Over the years, "Ferula had come to love Clara with a jealous passion" while Esteban's "love for [Clara] had grown to the point where it had become an obsession." They enter into a rivalry which comes to a head when Esteban returns home from Tres Marias unexpectedly to find Ferula sleeping in Clara's bed. In a rage, he throws his sister out of the house; she leaves, cursing him to eternal loneliness. Clara makes a few attempts to find Ferula, but when she realizes that Ferula does not want to be found, she returns to devoting her time to her spiritualist activities and to raising Blanca as her mother raised her, while the twin boys are sent off to boarding school.

The family continues to return to Tres Marias at various intervals, during which Blanca and Pedro Tercero Garcia's love grows. Pedro Tercero Garcia also becomes increasingly involved in organizing for justice at Tres Marias. During this time, Pancha dies, leaving behind the son she and Esteban had together, as well as her grandson, also named Esteban Garcia.


Although it involves a great deal of serious social and political commentary, the plot of The House of the Spirits is driven by a series of romances: Esteban and Clara's, Blanca and Pedro Tercero's, Alba and Miguel's. Every great love affair and every marriage in The House of the Spirits is initiated on first sight at a very young age, although those involved often do not realize what is happening at the time. Blanca and Pedro Tercero are a prime example. Their love also represents the first great breach of class divisions in the novel.

The division between the big house on the corner and Tres Marias corresponds to the theme of culture versus nature or civilization versus barbarity. On Esteban's first trip to Tres Marias, it seems as if the divisions between each would be simple. Tres Marias was natural and uncivilized. While nature was bountiful and had restorative powers, it needed the influence of civilization in order to be productive in a useful manner. This trip to Tres Marias shows those divisions to be more complicated. It is only in Tres Marias that Clara becomes attentive to practical, productive detail, reversing the order of influence. While Pedro Tercero is described as a cannibal—the paragon of barbarism—his activity consists of playing with Blanca, while Esteban flies into wild destructive rages. The most striking moment of reversal, however, is the episode of the ants. The ants represent the destructive or barbaric side of nature. Esteban tries to get rid of the ants with all sorts of methods he brings in from "civilization." North America, or the gringos in the figure of Mr. Brown, represent the most extreme versions of civilization and progress, modernity, and science. Mr. Brown's method of removing the ants, however, while it may work takes too long. Pedro Garcia, an old peasant, is the only one who is able to cure the ant plague. He removes the ants in the most "natural" of means: singing and talking to them.

Esteban cannot tolerate Ferula's possible lesbianism, especially not when it may involve his own wife. Ferula's lesbianism is never confirmed or denied. Background suggestions of both lesbianism, in Ferula's case, and homosexuality, in the figure of the male prostitutes who work with Transito Soto, are found throughout the novel but are not a major theme. Esteban's violent reaction to finding Ferula in Clara's bed, however, has important lasting effects. The end of this chapter is in fact full if events that will attain great importance later. In addition to Ferula's curse, the communist teachings of Father Jose Dulce Maria, the figure of Esteban Garcia, and Pedro Tercero's song will re- appear. While many apparently unimportant details are signaled by the narrators as foreshadowing events to come, this is not always the case. The novel is also filled with details that have no lasting importance. The effect of the reappearance of some details with heightened importance later on puts an emphasis on detail in general, so that while the major romance plots continue, they diminish in relative importance.