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The House of the Spirits; The Three Marias 
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Post The House of the Spirits; The Three Marias
The House of the Spirits
Isabel Allende

The Three Marias



Mon Oct 31, 2011 1:53 pm
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Three Marias
For me, this chapter chronicles Esteban’s regression to his childhood fits of rage, his fury at the unjust and shameful poverty of his youth, and the rejection of the expectations of self sacrifice imposed on him by his women folk.
Neither of the children have any sympathy for the mother, bedridden, and immobile, left alone ‘with no other company than her pious reading materials’ and the occasional thrill of being taken to church and accused by Father Restrepo of being ‘a shameless hussy who prostitutes herself down by the docks!’

At Tres Marias he is free of any feminine restrictions on his towering fits of rage. Initially, his enormous energy is dissipated in the regeneration of the hacienda, but with this venture’s emerging success, his energy takes the form of sexual perversion.
Again, we have two voices. Estaban talks of the past and his memories, while the narrator fills in omissions.

Estaban has no doubt that he has been a good patron. The land was restored to prosperity, a school and granary built, a sewing workshop established, peasants ailments treated, and no one went hungry.
The narrator, however, describes his pre meditated and savage rape of a fifteen year old, returned to her parents once pregnant.
The radio is the first sign of change in the hacienda, bringing news of the war in Europe, but it is ignored by everyone apart from Pedro Segunda, the closest friend Esteban had. Pedro Segunda hates Esteban, but seems unable to name the reasons, even though it is his sister that Esteban first raped. Here, the narration takes one of it’s unsettling leaps into the future, informing us that Pedro Segunda ‘…would have to put up with his tantrums, his inconsiderate orders, and his self importance for the rest of his life’.
The rape of children continues for ten years ‘with a string of bastards that was springing up behind him as if by magic’ Esteban is unsure of the exact number of children he has fathered, because to him peasant women were ‘. . .a hygienic method for relieving the tensions of the day and obtaining a good night’s sleep’. He only acknowledges his first child, also called Esteban. Perhaps Esteban is seeking revenge against the women who have raised him.
The peasants are powerless to act, this is normal behaviour for a patron, and generations of women have suffered in the same way.
The post war boom brings more wealth to the already wealthy, but the peasants’ life style remains unchanged. But now with immigrants from Europe bringing subversive ideas, and the spread of radio, and the telegraph, there is awareness that change is imminent. Pedro Segunda and an old priest try to persuade Esteban of this, but he remains totally unconvinced, and blind to the coming social revolution.
The end of this era is proclaimed by a dream Esteban has, in which he sees Rosa hurling a package at him, which is a tiny girl with no eyes, calling him ‘Papa’. Perhaps this signifies the raped children who should have been protected by his paternalism, not violated by it. That same day, Esteban receives a letter summoning him to his home.


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Mon Nov 14, 2011 1:08 pm
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Three Marias
Later in the book, there are three old clairvoyant ladies who are rather similar to the three Norns of Norse myth, or the Graeae who help Perseus find Medusa in the Greek myth.

The name of Esteban Trueba's rural farm, the three Maries (Tres Marias), seems like a nod to this sense of fate, and again a symbol for Chile.

Esteban finds his ancestral property utterly run down. Through hard work, skill and leadership, he converts it into a model farm.

The surprising thing in this discussion is how Allende presents a sympathetic portrait of Esteban's right wing political philosophy. He explains that if it were not for him, the peasants of Tres Marias would still be dirt poor and illiterate. It gives a sense of why owners of property hate communists so much, who they see as idiots and wreckers consumed by dreams of resentment and lacking any practical understanding of how to make anything real.

However, there are some ominous contradictions, especially Esteban's bad habit of raping virgins with impunity. He stores up hatred for himself, although the peasants are powerless to do anything against him. It suggests that everything he has done for them is irrelevant against the class hatred founded on Esteban's attitude that peasants are sub-human.

There are similarities between The House of the Spirits and The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. In both, a family represents a nation in its contradictory identity. In both, a father has bastard sons who destroy him. The common parable is that conventional traditions do not understand how they appear to their victims, and that irrational and evil behavior by rulers has a price in the generation of social conflict.


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Mon Nov 14, 2011 2:50 pm
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Three Marias
After he rapes Pancha, the first girl, he does begin to take an interest in the lives and welfare of the peasants. But when she becomes pregnant, he reverts to using the girls for his own pleasure again. He firmly believes that the peasants are incapable of acting on their own initiative, and need leadership, and a 'father figure'. Perhaps this was so, when he first took an interest in the hacienda, but he refuses to acknowledge that times were changing with the very first radio set that he himself built.


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Tue Nov 15, 2011 4:41 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Three Marias
Quote:
There are similarities between The House of the Spirits and The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. In both, a family represents a nation in its contradictory identity. In both, a father has bastard sons who destroy him.

Ooh! haven't come to that bit yet


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Tue Nov 15, 2011 4:42 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Three Marias
Any ideas of the meaning of Rosa hurling the little girl with no eyes at Esteban?


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Last edited by heledd on Wed Nov 16, 2011 4:19 am, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Nov 16, 2011 4:18 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Three Marias
In this chapter, Estaban shows a contradictory nature. He is a man of rage and selfishness, but he gives the peasants a better life. He builds a school, granary, etc. He may have done it all for selfish reasons, to make his hacienda the best, he needed to have healthy workers. It may have been that he did it for himself, since he thinks the peasants are like children, unable to take care of themselves.

He sinks into a life of depravity, raping the girls of the hacienda. He thinks of them as an object to satisfy his needs. He becomes a despicable man, all the while patting himself on the back about what a good patron he is.

He is faced with the reality of his mother, who he has not been to see nor planned to see, when he is told she is dying. He sent them food and other things to assuage his guilt over not going to see them. He again thinks he is a good man because he provides for them and sends them letters.



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Fri Nov 18, 2011 6:42 pm
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Three Marias
The essential paradox within Chilean politics emerges in Allende's description of how Esteban Trueba builds the rundown farm of Three Maries into a model capitalist property.

This chapter provides a physical and pyychological portrait of Esteban. His mother's family were Lima blue bloods, which is one factor giving the false impression the book might be set in Peru rather than Chile. His father was a wastrel. A summary about Ernesto is at shmoop.com/house-of-spirits/esteban-tru ... rueba.html, a website with a lot of good information about The House of the Spirits.

The chapter starts as Esteban and his sister Ferula mourn Rosa. Esteban decides that his mine won't make him rich, so he will restore his rural property The Three Maries. The journey by train and foot to the remote property paints a vivid picture of despair and poverty. "About five miles outside the town of San Lucas, along a ruined path overgrown with weeds and full of potholes, there was a wooden sign with the name of the property. It hung from a broken chain and the wind knocked it against the post with a muffled sound that made it echo like a funeral drum. A single glance was enough to make him understand that it would take a Hercules to rescue the place from desolation." (p64)


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Sat Nov 19, 2011 8:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.



Sat Nov 19, 2011 8:54 pm
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Three Marias
Have 10 pages left to read in this chapter...will have er done by tomorrow morning. I despise Estaban.



Sun Nov 20, 2011 5:50 pm
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Three Marias
Damifino wrote:
I despise Estaban.


I think Allende intends us to despise him. However, she is also at great pains to provide a sympathetic portrait of his entrepreneurial talents. This is part of the paradox of the book, that the conservative classes have provided leadership that has built national wealth, but in doing so they have employed methods of bastardry, if that term can also mean creation of bastards as well as acting like a bastard, that make them very hateable.

Esteban is to be despised not just because of his rape and violence, but also because he rejects his illegitimate children. This cold indifference to things that he himself is responsible for is monumentally unjust. The peasants of Tres Marias look on Esteban with mingled hate, fear and respect. The respect remains because of the fact that he has actually built up the property and its resources through his own effort and skill, and the coordination of the workforce would not have happened without him. And yet, he lives by a code of legitimacy that is pure class prejudice, denying full humanity to everyone who is not of his class.


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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Three Marias
Did it come as a surprise to anyone that ‘Nana’ is really a servant? An Indian maid/cook/nursemaid to fifteen children. Wow! That is some lady, yet her room and the kitchen is firmly in the servants quarters.
Also, I was surprised that the Truebo family have had a servant through all their years of privation. When Esteban returns home to await his mother’s death, the ancient servant ‘embraced him tearfully’, although Esteban had completely forgotten about her existence. ‘Paid slaves’ the narrator calls them.


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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Three Marias
I think this book is set in Chile, because Esteban works in the gold mines in the Northern deserts, and the Northern Chilean desert is rich in copper, gold, potash and mineral salts. The South is a land of volcanoes and lakes.


Two factors disturb me in this chapter. The first is where Esteban describes his mother dying , her legs rotting and tunnelled with the larvae of flies and worms. Ferula warns him not to get to close as the smell ‘clings’.

The other is when Esteban builds his new home. He wants nothing to do with traditional Chilean / Peruvian architecture, and instead looks for architectural ideas and materials from North America or Europe, ‘with perhaps one or two courageous Indians, …..naked and crowned with feathers, his one concession to patriotism’.

One is not sure where Esteban’s patriotism lies. Is it Europe or South America? On his mother’s side he is ‘heir to the noblest and most highborn surname of the viceroy of Lima’, while his father was a ‘good-for-nothing immigrant, a first generation settler….’ Trueba’s surname suggests he is Spanish, or rather from the Basque area, who do not consider themselves Spanish. During the 18th Century there was mass immigration from the Basque region of Spain/France to Chile, and Peru has long had a Basque population.

So the high born, original settlers were the wealthy elite, while Spanish settlers from later, and especially first generation, were looked down upon, and the indigenous population treated as little more than serfs.
Perhaps the mother represents the mother land, being consumed from within by ethnic differences? Ferula's warning to Esteban about the 'smell clinging' could have been reminding him to distance himself from the shame of having an immigrant father?


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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Three Marias
Man you guys are deep thinkers. Think I may have gotten in over my head with discussing with you's.

I would love to see what that farm looks like. Bet it is beautiful.

As I stated before I detest Esteban. He gets turned on by melons growing in the field? That was sorta funny in a weird way. Can't imagine his excitement if he ever decided to raise sheep. And what was up with the kid and the belt? Was that really necessary?

He thought that Nivea was sick in the head because she wanted equal rights with men, to vote, to be able to go to university and allow children to be in full protection of the law. He thinks she should be stoned. What a guy!

Wonder if we will read more on Transito Solo. She is the prostitute from the Red Lantern.



Mon Nov 21, 2011 9:47 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Three Marias
Why I see this as a national book for Chile is that Allende is promoting political reconciliation between conflicting groups. Esteban is contemptible, but he also has redeeming features.

It is similar to the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, which recognised that forgiveness for past crimes was needed in order for the nation to heal its wounds and achieve unity after the intense divisions of the apartheid era.


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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Three Marias
Robert Tulip wrote:
Esteban is contemptible, but he also has redeeming features.


Yes he does. For me it does not outnumber his insidious ways. Not by a long shot. And I don't think I will ever forgive him. Forgiving is over rated anyways.

So what are his redeeming features?



Mon Nov 21, 2011 6:26 pm
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