The House of the Spirits
by Isabel Allende
Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis
Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.
Plot Type : Rebirth
While The House of the Spirits contains some tragic elements – like an ambitious hero who messes things up for himself, a creepy "shadow figure" who pops up every once in a while – the novel's surprisingly happy ending makes it fit more comfortably into Booker's "Rebirth" plot structure.
Since Esteban Trueba is the only character to survive the course of the novel, it's difficult to do this kind of plot analysis without thinking of him as the "hero." Of course, we could also make a pretty convincing case that he's not the hero of this novel (what about all those strong female characters?).
Esteban gets carried away by his own thirst for power.
An ambitious, power-hungry Esteban swears he's never going to live in poverty again, and sets out to make a name for himself. In doing so, he neglects, abuses, rapes, and pretty much tramples on a whole bunch of people, sewing seeds of resentment among the peasants on his land.
Esteban marries Clara and falls in love. They have children.
Everything seems to be going well for our hero. Not only is Esteban rich, he's also married and in love. Clara fulfills his enormous sexual appetite and he stops forcing himself on peasant women. In general, everyone seems happier – Clara works on the estate to help improve the peasants' quality of life, Férula has a place in the family, and Esteban and Clara start having children, which fulfills Esteban's goal of passing on the family name.
Everybody hates Esteban.
Esteban starts to realize that his wife and kids aren't going to do what he wants all the time. When he finds out Blanca's been sleeping with one of the peasants, his infamous temper gets the best of him. He beats Blanca and punches Clara in the face, prompting his wife and daughter to leave him. Esteban is tormented by remorse, grief, and rage. Tensions thaw a bit and the family is able to hobble along together for a few years, but Alba, Esteban's granddaughter, is the only person to whom he can show any affection. When Clara dies, Esteban enters a state of perpetual mourning.
Esteban loses Alba
What little love Esteban has left in the world disappears when Alba is kidnapped by the secret police and taken to a military prison. She's tortured by Esteban García, who is the grandson of the first peasant woman that Esteban Trueba ever raped. Esteban Trueba desperately tries to find Alba and have her released, but to no avail.
Esteban and Alba are reunited
Just when we start to think Esteban has dug his own grave, he's miraculously redeemed. Alba's release is secured, thanks to a small and rare act of kindness that Esteban performed fifty years ago when he lent fifty pesos to a prostitute. Alba returns home to her grandfather. Their reunion helps to dissolve the rage that has plagued Esteban his entire life, and he's able to die peacefully, in the ghostly arms of Clara, the woman he loves.