The House of the Spirits
by Isabel Allende
The House of the Spirits Memory and The Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
These words of Father Restrepo were etched in the family memory with all the gravity of a diagnosis, and in the years to come they had more than one occasion to recall them. The only one who never thought of them again was Clara herself, who simply wrote them in her diary and forgot them. (1.11)
The narrator has referred to Clara's notebooks (which seem to function as a sort of external hard drive for Clara's brain – she writes things down and then forgets them) as a source of information, but the family's collective memory also informs the narrative.
Had it not been for the letters Clara and Blanca exchanged, that entire period would have remained submerged in a jumble of faded, timeworn memories. Their abundant correspondence salvaged events from the mists of improbable facts. (8.1)
The narrator constantly emphasizes writing as a means of solidifying memory – human brains alone are faulty. Journals, letters, and other records provide lasting evidence that events actually happened.
She had decided to forget the man she had married and act as if he had never existed...Clara, who had spent nine years without speaking, knew the advantages of silence and asked her daughter nothing, joining in her efforts to erase all memory of Jean de Satigny. (9.8)
Speech is another way the characters hold on to memory in the novel – by repeating stories, the memories remain real, and may even take on new shades of significance. So not repeating stories is a way of willfully erasing the event from memory.