The House of the Spirits

The House of the Spirits Summary and Analysis of Chapters 5-6

Chapter 5 - The Lovers

The family declares Blanca "the only normal person for many generations." She is not interested in her mother's spiritual ventures, and does all the things expected of an adolescent girl. Blanca awaits her latest visit to Tres Marías with great anticipation, because she is falling more deeply in love with Pedro Tercero García. They begin a nightly ritual of meeting at the riverbank to spend time together, and the two young lovers "come to love each other with the ecstatic passion that [torments] them for the rest of their lives." Back at "the big house on the corner," Férula interrupts the family's dinner by entering unannounced. She ignores everyone but Clara, whom she kisses before disappearing. Everyone is spooked. Clara announces that Férula has died and that it was her ghost that visited them. Clara, Esteban, and Father Restrepo go to collect Férula's body from the filthy tenement where she was living. Despite receiving a monthly allowance from her brother, it seems that she had continued to live as though she was poor until her death. The next summer at Tres Marías, Blanca and Pedro Tercero García meet each other as adults. That night, they make love for the first time. Soon after, Clara predicts an earthquake of great proportions. As usual, her premonitions are correct. The quake flattens the main house of the hacienda, crushing Esteban Trueba. He is extracted from the ruins with great care. Despite the severity of his injuries, Old Pedro García is able to mend him completely. While Esteban is recovering, Clara develops a friendship with Pedro Segundo García, who is put in charge of the hacienda. One day, Clara is summoned to Blanca's convent school because her daughter has fallen ill. She takes Blanca to Tres Marías, where Esteban banishes Pedro Tercero García from the property for circulating revolutionary ideas amongst the peasants. He and Blanca continue to meet in secret. Because she is loathe to return to school, Blanca feigns illness and is allowed to remain at home. Old Pedro García teaches her the craft of pottery, and she begins to make creches that become somewhat of a commodity in the area. All the while, Pedro Tercero García continues his revolutionary work in secret, sneaking about Tres Marías in various disguises.

Chapter 6 - Revenge

Esteban Trueba's recovery from being crushed in the earthquake is slow and painful. He hates how Clara and Blanca separate themselves from him, although he concedes of Clara: "She was the only woman for me. She still is." One day, Clara installs a lock on her bedroom door and will let him in no longer. From that moment on, his desire for her becomes maddeningly strong.

Esteban Trueba becomes friends with Count Jean de Satigny, a French aristocrat who lives a life of luxury through his inherited wealth. The two men go in on a chinchilla fur business together, which fails miserably. One night, Jean de Satigny sees Blanca sneak out of her window, but does not follow her. The next day, he asks for her hand in marriage. Blanca refuses, but Esteban is sure he will get Blanca to agree. Jaime and Nícolas arrive at the hacienda. Jaime has become a robust and practical young man, to whom the peasants go when they have problems. In contrast, Nícolas is frail and impractical, devoting himself to artsy and supernatural pursuits. Nícolas meets a girl named Amanda, who soon becomes his girlfriend. Pedro García dies, and because he is so thankful to the old man for healing him, Esteban gives him a lavish funeral. We learn that Esteban has an illegitimate grandson, Esteban García, who will later "be the instrument of a tragedy that befall[s] [the] family." One night, Jean de Satigny follows Blanca to the riverbank, where he sees her lying naked with Pedro Tercero García. Jean de Satigny tells Esteban Trueba that Blanca is having an affair, and the patrón quickly deduces her lover's identity. A furious Esteban whips and screams at Blanca. When Clara tries to defend her daughter, Esteban punches her in the mouth so hard that he knocks out several teeth. Clara and Blanca renounce Esteban and retreat to "the big house on the corner." Clara never utters a word to her husband again. Pedro Segundo García leaves Tres Marías.

After Clara, Blanca, and Pedro Segundo García "desert" Esteban, he focuses all his energy and rage on making Pedro Tercero García pay for ruining his life. One day, little Esteban García tells Esteban Trueba that he knows where Pedro Tercero is hiding, in a German sawmill close to Tres Marías. Esteban Trueba promises the young boy a reward, and the two set out to find Pedro Tercero. Esteban fires a bullet at the sleeping fugitive, who miraculously dodges it. However, Esteban manages to cut off several of Pedro Tercero's fingers with an axe before the fugitive escapes. When the two Estebans return to Tres Marías, the older slaps the younger, calls him a traitor, and denies him the promised reward.


Férula is one of several characters in the novel who bases her life around selflessness and devotion to helping those less fortunate. Like Nana, who thanklessly raises generations of children, Férula helps the poor even though they spit on her and yell curses at her. Even after he banishes her from his property, Esteban sends her enough money to live luxuriously, yet her nature, strengthened by the experience of caring for Doña Ester, makes her live in the squalor and poverty of the very people she is trying to raise out of those conditions. The only way Férula indulges herself is by doting on Clara with a fervor that is certainly romantic and possibly sexual.

One generation later, Jaime and Nícolas devote their lives to helping others. Both brothers renounce physical belongings: Jaime spends all his energy in helping heal the less fortunate as a doctor, while Nícolas ends up as a spiritual seeker and teacher. The twins lack Clara's spiritual intuition, although they emulate her disinterest in luxury, and their selflessness is fueled in a large part by hippie trends. Yet to their father's disappointment, they spend their lives uninterested in material gains; they are interested rather in spiritual and humanitarian investment.

The idea of forbidden love is planted in these chapters, as Blanca and Pedro Tercero García's romance blossoms wildly. Their union is forbidden from the moment they first lay eyes on each other as toddlers. Blanca belongs to the upper middle class, the realm of the patrón, and Pedro Tercero to the peasant class, whose members are expected to serve and obey their superiors. Yet their attraction is instant and enduring, as if predestined. In the story, such a love can develop and flourish only in the countryside. There, emotions are as unbound as the nature that surrounds and suffuses the hacienda. There, class differences are perhaps the starkest because of the proximity of the patrón and his workers, yet this proximity to each other and to nature can turn even the stoniest of hearts. In the countryside, even someone as skeptical and conventional as Esteban Trueba can be convinced of the value of old wisdom by Old Pedro García. Even though Clara makes sure that "the big house on the corner" is full of magic, it is still in the realm of the bourgeois, with all its accompanying restrictions on behavior. A generation later, their daughter, Alba, will find herself confronted with these restrictions as she continues her parents' tradition of forbidden love with Miguel.

In sharp opposition to Blanca and Pedro Tercero, Jean de Satigny seems to be devoid of passion for others, loving only books and luxuries. His union with Bianca is the only thing in his life that is practical. While Esteban Trueba cut his teeth in the real world by working in a mine, Jean de Satigny specializes in such odd and useless talents as "eating artichokes with tongs" and "peeling an orange with a knife and fork, never touching it with his fingers, and cutting the peel in the shape of a flower." He represents a world even more eccentric than Clara's, but totally opposed to hers because of its unrelenting materialism.

In these chapters, love is again woven through with threads of violence. Esteban injures his daughter temporarily and his wife permanently when he finds out about Blanca's affair. Once again the pain of disapproval and loss becomes inextricable from the passion and love of romance. When Esteban knocks out Clara's teeth, he is symbolically silencing her and saying that her opinion does not matter to him. Accordingly, she doles out her harshest punishment: eternal silence. Unwilling to be told when she can and cannot speak her mind, Clara opts never to utter another word to Esteban as long as she lives. The symbolism is similar when Esteban's cuts off Pedro Tercero's fingers, although the patrón actually intends to kill his daughter's lover. By cutting his hand, Esteban is telling Pedro Tercero that he cannot touch Blanca. Like Clara, Pedro Tercero comes to defy Esteban's violence by remaining Blanca's lover for decades to come. Although violence and suffering are married to love in the novel, violence never quite triumphs.