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Quotes

Quote #1

It was true there had been times, just as they were about to sit down to dinner and everyone was in the large dining room, seating according to dignity and position, when the saltcellar would suddenly begin to shake and move among the plates and goblets without any visible source of energy or sign of illusionist's trick. Nívea would pull Clara's braids and that would be enough to wake her daughter from her mad distraction and return the saltcellar to immobility. (1.11)

Clara's supernatural abilities are always portrayed as something benign, lighthearted, and even humorous. This reinforces our understanding of Clara, who holds the opinion that life shouldn't be taken too seriously.

Quote #2

They had also grown accustomed to the youngest daughter's prophecies. She would announce earthquakes in advance, which was quite useful in the country of catastrophes, for it gave them a chance to lock up the good dishes and place their slippers within reach in case they had to run out in the middle of the night. (1.11)

The extent to which we are supposed to understand Clara's supernatural abilities as real is made clear when we understand that her prophecies are a practical and everyday part of the del Valle family's life. This is an example of Allende's use of "magical realism" – the characters don't blink an eye at the youngest child's magical gift of prophecy; they just run to put up the good china.

Quote #3

Marcos maintained that his niece's gift could be a source of income and a good opportunity for him to cultivate his own clairvoyance. He believed that all human beings possessed this ability, particularly his own family, and that if it did not function well it was simply due to a lack of training. (1.22)

Marcos, like his nephew Nicolás really wants to be clairvoyant like Clara. Neither uncle nor nephew is ever very good at the whole psychic thing, though, and this makes us wonder – is magic portrayed as a particularly feminine ability in this novel?

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