The House of the Spirits

The House of the Spirits Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13-14 and Epilogue

Chapter 13 - The Terror

When the coup occurs, Jaime is with the President, who summoned him to his palace. After a bombing raid destroys the palace, soldiers swarm the premises, beating and seizing everyone in sight. Jaime is taken to a chamber where men are being interrogated and tortured. When he refuses to state publicly that the President committed suicide, he is tortured and taken to a holding area with other political prisoners where they are shot and their bodies are dynamited. Meanwhile, unaware of his son's demise, Esteban Trueba celebrates his party's victory with champagne.

No one is allowed to leave the house because of a curfew. Esteban finds the new government disorganized and shaky, and worries that things are not turning out as planned. He also learns of Jaime's death. Alba works hard to contribute all she can to helping the persecuted. Slowly, the country is cleaned up and the fascists begin repressive measures, including forbidding "revolutionary" words or propaganda and altering the country's maps and historical records to their liking. Even Esteban Trueba thinks they are going too far. The middle class is rolling in luxury at first, but soon its members find themselves unemployed and all mourning at least one family member.

In the early days of the coup, Esteban Trueba regains Tres Marías legally, and then secures it from the peasants by force. He banishes them all from the property. Soon after, the Poet dies. He was the most famous icon of the revolution, and was often a guest at "the big house on the corner" during Alba's youth despite his ideological differences with Esteban Trueba. The Senator and Alba accompany his coffin. Soon it becomes clear that the military is forming its own destructive dictatorship instead of handing power over to the right as planned. Esteban Trueba realizes he has made a mistake and weeps for his country. All the while, Blanca has been hiding Pedro Tercero in a room of the house. She begs her father to save him. Esteban Trueba secures Pedro Tercero and Blanca's escape to Canada, and is finally reconciled with them both.

Alba hides fugitives in the house, unbeknownst to Esteban Trueba. One day Miguel arrives, and she decides to help him. She tells him about her grandfather's arms, which she and Jaime hid in the desert, and they organize a trip to recover them. She also sells the luxuries in the house until her grandfather forbids her from continuing to do so. One night, the police storm the house. They burn all the family's remaining belongings in a huge bonfire and then kidnap Alba. They take her to Esteban García.

Chapter 14 - The Hour of Truth

Alba is blindfolded nearly the entire time she spends in captivity. When she refuses to tell Esteban García where Miguel is, she is beaten, raped, and tortured. One person who helps her through her struggle is Ana Diaz, a former student who had mistrusted her during the university encampment. The women buoy each other's spirits as much as possible. Alba is eventually thrown in "the doghouse," a terrible isolation chamber where she resolves to die. Then the spirit of Clara appears and encourages her not only to survive, but to keep herself alive by writing in her memory. In the darkness, Alba busies herself with this task and overcomes her agony.

Esteban Trueba goes to the Christopher Columbus to visit Transito Soto. She is now a rich woman, and he is a shriveled old man. The place is no longer a brothel, because according to Transito, a new atmosphere of free love and safe sex has made prostitution all but obsolete. The place has been transformed into a special hotel for romantic getaways, and has a good relationship with the government. Esteban Trueba begs Transito Soto to use her political connections to find Alba. He tells her everything about his tormented existence, including the arrival of three human fingers - supposedly Alba's - in his mailbox. Two days later, Transito calls Esteban Trueba to tell him she has found Alba.


The epilogue is told in Alba's voice. Suddenly it is clear that she has been narrating the story all along. She tells us that Esteban Trueba died the night before, and then describes how she returned to "the big house on the corner" after spending time in the concentration camp and finally being released. When she returned, she discovered that Miguel had formed an unlikely alliance with her grandfather in order to rescue her; it was even Miguel's idea for the Senator to visit Transito Soto. Esteban and Alba fixed up the house together, and he decided that they should record the family's history on paper. He wrote a number of pages in his own hand, as we have read, and then Alba took over. As he died, Clara appeared beside him in all her previous glory, and he died happy, whispering her name.

Alba postulates that fate caused her suffering in the "doghouse." She suffered rape at the hands of Esteban García, whose grandmother Esteban Trueba had raped generations before. She supposes that this story of "sorrow, blood, and love" will continue forever, and that only writing helps us see the lives of connecting generations with this kind of perspective and clarity. Alba tells us she is pregnant with a child, perhaps the product of her numerous rapes, or perhaps Miguel's child. It does not matter to Alba, who says that regardless of the father's identity, the baby is "her own daughter." Alba leaves us with the image of Clara's notebooks at her feet, the very notebooks that she has been using to piece together the story. The first of them begins just as the novel does, with the words: "Barrabas came to us by sea..."


As much as the last chapters are about destruction, they are also about reconciliation. The destruction itself is on an unprecedented scale, culminating in Jaime's especially violent death. His murder gives a clear picture of violence's senselessness; he has devoted his life to mending others, but is literally blown to pieces to pay for the actions of others. Whereas Alba is tortured for being Esteban Trueba's granddaughter, Jaime is tortured and killed for going against his father's beliefs. Esteban and Jaime's experiences of the Terror are completely opposite. Allende embodies this difference in a single moment, in the midst of the Terror: "Senator Trueba opened a bottle of French champagne to celebrate the overthrow of the regime that he had fought against so ferociously, never suspecting that at that very moment his son Jaime's testicles were being burned by an imported cigarette." Despite the fact that he is at the center of the country's political strife, Esteban is oblivious to the suffering around him because he is too busy reveling in his own sense of victory and security. Although he does not pay heed to Jaime's activities, Alba's experience finally brings Esteban around. Only when her life is in danger does he feel the full weight of the Terror.

While lives, property, and security are being destroyed, many relationships are also being reconciled. Foremost is the relationship between Esteban Trueba and Pedro Tercero García. Once the men have saved one another, they can no longer be enemies. Before, they stood on opposite sides of a clear political rift. Now, in the face of a third, unpredictable, and extremist government, they can be allies. They can also see that they both have Blanca's best interests at heart, and so they part ways for the last time in peace. Another reconciliation occurs in the concentration camp. Alba comes together with Ana Diaz, a student and co-protester from the university who mistrusted her during the encampment. The women help keep up each other's will to live. Transito Soto finally repays Esteban for loaning her fifty pesos so many years before by finding Alba. The novel's final reconciliation is between Clara and Esteban. Now that Clara is dead and Esteban is close to death, their souls can finally stop struggling.

Allende underscores the power of writing through Alba's experience in the "doghouse." Alba is able to keep herself alive and relatively sane by writing even though she has no paper - the writing takes place entirely in her mind. She creates an invisible cohort of the people she once knew to keep her company in the most wretched of situations. At the novel's end we realize that it is Alba herself who has been narrating the story, who has been piecing it together from Clara's "notebooks that bore witness to life." She has the gift of being able to view her family's history and future from a wide and enlightened perspective.

It is no coincidence that Alba's name means "dawn." She rings in a new era for the Truebas, hopefully one that will see them return from their lowest point to a newfound glory. This hope is carried in Alba's unborn child, whom she already knows is a daughter. Like the women before her, she loves her daughter unconditionally from the moment conception. Alba's unborn girl is very likely the product of one of her numerous rapes in the concentration camp, and may even be the daughter of the horrible Esteban García, but her daughter's paternal origins are of no concern to Alba, who knows that the power in her family lies in the maternal line.

In an earlier chapter, Allende writes that Alba's name supposedly ended the Trueba women's tradition of naming. This was because when Blanca named Alba, she took her name from the end of a list of words in the dictionary referring to light and purity. Alba later lamented having no synonym left to name her daughter. However, in the epilogue we realize that Alba's powers of naming are not limited by something as simple as the dictionary. This is because she has immense creative power. She realizes the infinity of names, words, and possibilities for life. She knows that where there is no light, she must create it, where there is no hope, she must summon it, and when existing words are insufficient, she must make new ones. Alba is the harbinger of her family's return to a state of illumination and joy, the sort that reigned during Clara's heyday. She harnesses the power of language to ensure that the Trueba family's tale survives, and the power of love and motherhood to ensure that the story continues.