The House of the Spirits

Suggested Essay Questions

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  1. 1

    Imagine that one of the following characters narrates the book instead of Alba: Clara, Pedro Tercero García, Jaime. How would the story be different in terms of structure, tone, and plot? Make sure you justify your assertions with specific evidence about the character you choose.

  2. 2

    Explore the connection between mothers and daughters in the novel. Why do you think these special bonds do not occur between mothers and sons, or between fathers and sons? Are there any exceptions to this tradition?

  3. 3

    Explore the issue of paternity in The House of the Spirits. What are the characters' attitudes toward paternity throughout the novel? Do they change or remain constant?

  4. 4

    Make a case for whether maternity or paternity is more important in The House of the Spirits.

  5. 5

    Explain the significance of the supernatural world in the novel. Does it have significance to all the characters, or only to those who can communicate with it and who believe in its power? Could the family's story survive if all instances of the supernatural were removed? If so, how would it be different?

  6. 6

    Consider the way in which love and suffering connect in The House of the Spirits. What message does Allende send by highlighting the ways in which they are inseparable? Use specific instances from the text to support your opinion.

  7. 7

    Explore the role of silence in the novel. In your analysis, you may want to consider Clara's bouts of silence, Esteban Trueba's refusal to allow radios in his house, and instances in which characters keep silent in one another's interest or in order to save one another.

  8. 8

    How does the novel portray sex? In your analysis, consider instances of rape, prostitution, passionate consensual lovemaking, and consensual lovemaking without passion.

  9. 9

    Explore the significance of one of the following minor characters and make a case for why his or her subplot is essential to the story: Transito Soto, Pancha García, Old Pedro García, Amanda.

  10. 10

    In The House of the Spirits, romantic love is essential but often forbidden. Why do you think Allende creates a story where love is taboo? In your analysis, make sure to examine the relationships between Clara and Esteban, Blanca and Pedro Tercero García, and Alba and Miguel. Additionally, consider the question: what types of love are expressly allowed in the novel?

  11. 11

    What message does Allende send about the power of writing and the imagination? What is the value of writing or other expressions of imagination for the characters? Some characters you may want to explore in your analysis: Clara, Rosa, Blanca, Alba, Pedro Tercero García, and Esteban Trueba.

  12. 12

    Examine the importance of destiny in The House of the Spirits. Does the novel as a whole favor the idea that the future is pre-planned, or does it suggest that events are up to chance? Use specific incidents in the Trueba family history to support your claim.

  13. 13

    Find instances of dismemberment in the novel. What does the act of dismemberment represent beyond its physical consequences?

  14. 14

    Allende includes the following quote by Pablo Neruda as the epigraph to the novel: "How much does a man live, after all? / Does he live a thousand days, or one only? / For a week, or for several centuries? / How long does a man spend dying? / What does it mean to say "for ever?" Using specific evidence, explain how the epigraph relates to the novel's greater message.

  15. 15

    Evaluate the significance of names in The House of the Spirits. What do characters' names tell us about their personalities and destinies? Some to consider: Nívea, Clara, Blanca, Alba, Pedro Segundo/Pedro Tercero, Esteban Trueba/Esteban García, Transito Soto.