The House of the Spirits
by Isabel Allende
Analysis: What's Up With the Title?
The title brings up all sorts of associations for us – first of all, this novel is about a family, and the story of that family revolves around a house. It's "the big house on the corner," and it serves as the central gathering point for most of the characters we know, as well as their relatives, friends, political cronies, co-workers, servants, acquaintances, enemies, and even strangers. People hang out, party, write poetry, hide from the police, make love, give birth, and die in the house. The house is the place to be. The house is where it's at. (OK, we'll stop now.)
And the house is full of spirits. Both alive and, well… disembodied. Ghosts are everywhere in this novel, but they really run amuck in the big house on the corner. And the living characters take them pretty seriously – the spirits are a source of advice, consolation, and companionship in everyday life, and they also provide a connection to the past (which is pretty important in this novel).
Which brings us to our second point. A house can be more than just a building, right? A house can be a community (think of the four houses at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter novels.). And a house can also be a dynasty – a family, including friendly-ghost ancestors, unborn descendents, and weird distant relatives. Yep, they're all in here.
So pay attention to how the house of the Trueba family figures into the novel, and to what makes it different from all the other houses we read about. Because this house (both the building and the family) is special. It's the house of the living, but it's also the house of the spirits.