The House of the Spirits
by Isabel Allende
The House of the Spirits Epilogue Summary
- The Epilogue is told in the first-person, but it's not Esteban Trueba who tells the story – it's Alba.
- Alba begins by saying that her grandfather died last night. Esteban Trueba died in her arms, not like a dog as Férula predicted.
- As Alba writes, Esteban's body is laid out on the blue bed that used to be Clara's.
- Barrabás is back in the room, in the place that Esteban had originally intended for him.
- Alba jumps back to the morning she returned to the big house on the corner after her prison stay.
- She arrives in a wagon drawn by a scrawny horse. The house looks sad and run-down.
- Alba rings the bell, and the door is opened by a maid she doesn't know. Alba runs to the library, knowing her grandfather would be waiting for her in his armchair. The two embrace joyfully.
- When Esteban sees Alba's hand, he begins to curse and smash things with his cane, just like in the good old days. (Guess those were Alba's fingers he received in the mail, huh?)
- Esteban wants to leave the country with Alba that day, but she refuses. He knows the reason she doesn't want to leave is Miguel. Alba is surprised, because she's never told her grandfather about her boyfriend.
- Small flashback to soon after Alba is arrested. Miguel shows up at the big house on the corner and nearly gives Esteban Trueba a heart attack. The two work together to try to bring Alba home. Miguel has the idea to go to Tránsito Soto. Esteban tries to convince Miguel that, after Alba is free, she and Miguel should flee the country using safe-conduct passes that Esteban will procure for them. But, as we know, Miguel is way too dedicated to his revolutionary activities for that.
- Esteban asks Alba to tell him everything that happened, so she does. Here we go:
- Alba's hand becomes infected after they chop off her fingers, so they transfer her to the secret clinic where they take the prisoners they don't want to die. The doctor is a sadistic jerk who won't give her any painkillers. Her nurse, however, is a kind man named Rojas who sneaks her injections to help relieve the pain.
- After talking to enough prisoners, Rojas has realized that most of them are neither traitors nor killers, and treats them with kindness. Some of the prisoners ask him to help them die, and Alba thinks that he does.
- Rojas remembers everyone who enters and leaves the clinic. He swears to Alba that Miguel hasn't passed through, and that gives her strength. Rojas does tell Alba that Amanda came to the clinic and died under his care. Amanda never revealed any information about Miguel, thus fulfilling the promise she made to her brother in Chapter 7.
- Alba's hand starts to heal and a group of guards comes to take her from the clinic. She's afraid they're going to take her back to Colonel García, but they take her to a concentration camp for women, where she finds her friend Ana Díaz again.
- The women have formed a community in which they support each other and share responsibility for daily tasks. They comfort Alba.
- Ana Díaz gives Alba a notebook so she can write down her story. Alba ruefully shows Ana her hand, but Ana won't take that as an excuse. Just as Father Dulce María convinced Pedro Tercero García to play the guitar without his fingers, Ana insists that Alba learn to write with her left hand.
- The women in the camp refuse to let Alba sink into despair. They make her work, encourage her to write, and have her tell stories to the children.
- The women spend the whole day singing, and dare the guards to make them stop.
- Alba records the small events of the women's prison in her notebook.
- She's at the concentration camp for only a few days before the police come to get her. Alba panics, thinking they're going to take her back to Colonel García, but the women reassure her that, because the men are in uniform, they aren't part of the secret police.
- Sure enough, the men put Alba in a van and drive her to a poor section of town. They leave her in a dump and instruct her to not move until sunrise, when the curfew will be over.
- A small boy appears and sneaks Alba through the slum to a run-down hut. A kind woman gives her a cup of tea, and explains that the sound of a van during curfew usually means someone is dumping a body.
- Alba tells the woman that she's run an enormous risk in rescuing her. The woman's response, a smile, fills Alba with hope.
- The next morning the unnamed woman takes Alba to a friend who owns a horse-drawn cart and asks him to take Alba home.
- Alba looks out at the city on her ride home, and reflects upon its different neighborhoods – the slums surrounded by cement walls to give the impression that they don't exist; the grey center; and the High District where her grandfather lives, and where everything is clean and orderly. Alba describes this neighborhood as existing in "the solid peace of a conscience without memory" (Epilogue.37).
- Esteban decides that, since they're going to stay in the big house on the corner and wait for Miguel, they should fix up the place. They hire cleaners and gardeners to come in, and within a week the house looks as good as new.
- Alba's grandfather gives her the idea to write this story. (Ah ha! Now we know who's been telling the tale all along!) They get out the old family albums and Alba uses them to piece together her family's history.
- Alba begins to write, with her grandfather's help. His memory is sharp, and he even writes a number of pages in his own hand. (So that explains all the passages told in Esteban's voice.)
- When Esteban writes everything that he has to say, he lies down on Clara's bed and falls peacefully asleep. He dies in his sleep.
- During Esteban's last days, Clara appears to him more and more clearly. Her ghost follows him around the house. Thanks to Clara's presence, Esteban can die happy.
- Alba thinks back on the hatred that she felt towards Colonel García while she was in the doghouse and finds that, after a few weeks of being home, she no longer desires vengeance. She believes that everything happens for a reason, and that her fate was decided by events that occurred long before her birth.
- Alba sees herself as part of a pattern. Two generations ago, her grandfather raped Esteban García's grandmother, and now "the grandson of the woman who was raped repeats the gesture with the granddaughter of the rapist" (Epilogue. 45). Perhaps forty years from now, Alba speculates, her grandson would do the same to Esteban García's granddaughter.
- As Alba uses her grandmother Clara's notebooks and many other documents to piece together their story, she gains perspective on the events that have shaped her life and the lives of everyone around her. She feels connected to Clara through her notebooks, as if she had been the one to live those events and write those words. The notebooks and documents help Alba "see things in their true dimension," just as her grandmother did.
- Alba comes to realize that she must let go of her hatred if she hopes to "break [the] terrible chain" of vengeance that has pursued her family through the generations (Epilogue.45).
- Alba states that her mission is not to prolong hatred, but to record life. So she writes as she waits for Miguel, makes plans to bury her grandfather, and (surprise) carries a child in her womb.
- Alba says that her daughter may be Miguel's, or may be the product of one of the many rapes she suffered but, most importantly, the child is her own daughter.
- Alba sits with her grandmother's notebooks at her feet, in which Clara recorded fifty years' worth of events. She says that Clara wrote them to help her "reclaim the past and overcome terrors of [her] own." The first begins with the words, "Barrabás came to us by sea…" (Epilogue.46).
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