The House of the Spirits

The House of the Spirits Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11-12

Chapter 11 - The Awakening

When she is eighteen, Alba falls in love with a leftist law student named Miguel. She hides her identity as a Trueba from him, but boasts that she knows the leftist singer Pedro Tercero García. She ends up at his side in the heart of a leftist encampment at the university. Also leading the sit-in is Professor Sebastian Gomez, who fascinates Alba. He calls her Countess because of her surname, Satigny. When Alba is struck by an unusually strong menstrual flow accompanied by great pains, she is sent out of the encampment. She is met by a pistol-toting Esteban García, who is with the police force. He unmasks her as Esteban Trueba's granddaughter, causing Miguel to turn his back on her. Jaime finds Alba to be perfectly healthy, but she is haunted by memories of Esteban García from when he first molested her as a young girl and from her fourteenth birthday, when he forced himself on her again. She has a premonition that he will be waiting to torment her at every stage of life.

Miguel forgives Alba and the two become passionate lovers, romping secretly in the ruined basement of "the big house on the corner." As the country's next elections near and a catastrophic political atmosphere develops, Jaime moves out of his father's home and into the hospital. He is unable to reconcile his Socialist beliefs with his father's eternal conservatism or with the extremist views of Alba's Miguel, whom he has not met. One night, Alba asks Jaime to accompany her to help Miguel's sister, who is very ill. Jaime is shocked to find that this is the same Miguel he knew as a little boy, and whose sister is Amanda. Amanda is now emaciated and has countless infected punctures in her arms and thighs from injecting narcotics. Jaime is tortured by the sight of his tormented old love, and declares that she must be hospitalized for detoxification.

Chapter 12 - The Conspiracy

In a massive political upset, the Socialists win the presidency. Food and supply shortages begin, and people find themselves standing in endless lines to buy provisions. Pedro Tercero García and Blanca's relationship deteriorates, and they part angrily. Pedro Tercero takes a job with the government, and Blanca starts an underground network of supplies. Esteban Trueba stores weapons in the house, which Alba and Jaime steal and bury in the mountains. Meanwhile Amanda, having overcome her drug addiction, falls in love with Jaime, but he no longer returns the sentiment.

When Esteban Trueba finds out that Tres Marías is being taken away from him, he grabs a machine gun and drives to the property, where he is taken hostage by his former servants. The situation becomes a national scandal, and Blanca takes Alba to Pedro Tercero's office to ask for help. There Alba finally discovers her father's identity. They drive to Tres Marías, where Pedro Tercero rescues his former patrón, who cut off his fingers so many years before. One day, Luisa Mora, the last of the Mora sisters, visits Esteban. The spirit of Clara accompanies her. Luisa tells Esteban that a bloodbath of unprecedented scale will ensue in the country. He will be victorious, but miserable. Then she gives Alba a message from Clara: death is following Alba, and she best cross the ocean to escape it. Esteban is furious and sends Luisa away, but will recall her prediction about a year later, when Alba is taken away in the middle of the night.


Until Chapters 11 and 12, the characters seem to be more or less in control over the events in their lives. When the political atmosphere in the country comes to a head, even Esteban Trueba, the most controlling character of all, becomes a victim to chance and the actions of others. Even he is no longer able to ignore the fact that ruin lies ahead. It is at this point in the novel that the family's history becomes inseparable from the country's. As the novel nears completion, the reader can view the characters' stories with a wider perspective. Instead of seeing the characters as individuals, we see the way they fit into the larger sphere of existence.

The novel's growing aura of inevitability stems from the fact that several relationships are now coming full-circle. Alba brings Jaime and Amanda together again, but this time it is Amanda who falls in love with Jaime. Having awaited her affection so long, Jaime is ironically no longer interested in being with her. He sees her as a patient: someone to rescue, but not someone to love. In another ironic twist, Esteban Trueba finds himself being rescued by the man he despises most, Pedro Tercero García. He later saves the fugitive singer, whom he once came close to murdering, and arranges his escape to Canada with Blanca. As the title of Chapter 11 suggests, the characters begin to awaken to the fact that as the country becomes increasingly dangerous and divided, they must put aside their differences and work together in order to survive.

Despite Esteban Trueba's spiritual awakening in Chapter 10, he returns to his practical, materialistic ways. Even though Clara's spirit accompanies Luisa Mora on her visit to Esteban, he refuses to heed her warnings. As we see, Esteban's physical belongings are not enough to protect him or Alba once the Terror begins. In fact, before her kidnapping, even Alba undermines Esteban Trueba by hiding fugitives within his four walls. Still, as long as Esteban feels as though he has control over his property and his titles, he allows himself to enjoy the illusion of safety.

Alba emerges as Allende's vehicle for exploring the issue of identity. Alba is biologically a García/Trueba, legally a Satigny, and raised as a Trueba. However, she must hide her identity as a Trueba from her leftist friends, especially Miguel. When they discover that she is the granddaughter of the enemy, even though she has allied herself with them, they turn their backs on her. In Chapter 12, Esteban García also unfairly punishes Alba for being a Trueba, simply because he feels that he has been robbed of the title. As we see in the next two chapters, his thirst for revenge is so overwhelming that it almost destroys Alba. Even though in her own lifetime, Alba has done nothing to deserve hatred and violence, she is a constant target. She is the family martyr, paying for the sins of the generations before her.