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The House of the Spirits

The House of the Spirits

by Isabel Allende

The Supernatural Theme

Since The House of the Spirits is classified as a work of magical realism, it makes sense that spiritual and supernatural phenomena figure prominently in the novel. You've got your run-of-the-mill ghosts, séances, and dream interpretations, along with tiptoeing mummies, premonitions, mystifyingly accurate folk remedies, floating grandmothers, and even communication with aliens. And just in case you thought that the supernatural element was merely a colorful addition to the story, consider the narrator's claim that this novel would never have been written were it not for the intervention of her grandmother's friendly ghost.

Questions About The Supernatural

  1. What is the general tone of the author towards the supernatural? How does the author employ references to the spiritual world to provide comic relief?
  2. How do the characters with spiritual gifts acquire their psychic talents? Why is Nicolás, who so fervently desires to imitate his mother's telekinetic activities, unable to do so?
  3. How do the characters who don't possess a heightened level of spirituality regard the supernatural phenomena that they witness in the course of the novel? Are they skeptical or credulous?
  4. How do the spirits intervene in the lives of the living? What is their role in the resolution of conflict in the novel?
  5. How could this novel have been told in a purely "realistic" way? Would it be possible for the story to occur as it does without a supernatural element?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Clara's assertion to her daughter that there's no need to fear the dead, only the living, is reflective of the novel's portrayal of the spiritual world as a benign source of strength, inspiration, and companionship to the characters. The world of the living, on the other hand, is the source of the violent and destructive forces in the lives of the characters.

The novel postulates openness to spirituality and the supernatural as distinctively Latin American, as opposed to European or North American. The people who express incredulity towards the magical elements of the novel are "gringos" and foreigners.

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