The House of the Spirits
by Isabel Allende
Nívea, Severo, Rosa, Nana, Barrabás
The members of the del Valle household are a cheerful lot. Despite the sadness of Rosa's accidental murder, Clara passes many happy years in the company of her parents, siblings, Nana, and, of course, her faithful shadow – Barrabás the dog.
The del Valles aren't very deep characters, and they're mostly significant because of what they suggest about the mechanisms of inheritance between the generations. Nívea, Clara's mother, bestows upon her daughter a luminous name, feminist principles, and a tradition of close mother-daughter relationships based on storytelling and acts of charity. In Rosa we see the origin of the del Valle and Trueba women's fascination with imaginary animals, an attitude of distraction that Clara and Blanca also possess, and the beautiful green hair that Alba inherits.
Some scholars point to Rosa's death as the first example in the novel of a woman suffering violence due to her relationship with men. It could be argued that both her death and Nívea's, though accidental, are attributable to Severo.
Nana's example serves to remind us of two of the novel's themes – women and class. A lower class woman with no children of her own, Nana works for the del Valles and is, in some ways, part of the family. The most tragic aspect of her death, however, is that none of the del Valle or Trueba relatives attend her funeral – Clara is the only character who weeps for Nana.
The gentle character of Barrabás, who is so devoted to Clara, also serves as the harbinger of calamitous things to come. His captive state is suggestive of Alba's imprisonment in the doghouse at the novel's end, and his bloody death at Clara's engagement party is interpreted as an omen of future violence.