Study Guide

The House of the Scorpion Power

By Nancy Farmer


El Patrón laughed. "That's the stuff, Mi Vida. Get rid of your enemies when you can. I don't like Tom either, and dinner will be better without him." (11.30)

If El Patrón is happy about something, it probably means that it's not a good thing. And this scene is no exception.

"We don't always know who might be listening." Again Celia looked around, and Matt remembered what Tam Lin had told him about hidden cameras in the house. (13.23)

We hear about the surveillance system at the Big House a couple of times, and each time we hear about it we get a reminder about just how powerful (and power-crazed) El Patrón is. After all, the real power is knowledge. If he knows what's going on in these people's lives, he can use that information to control them.

"There's been enough damn secrecy around this place! There's been enough damn lies!"
"Please," Celia said urgently, placing her hand on Tam Lin's arm. "The cameras - " (19.23-4)

Tam Lin's meltdown, and Celia's reminder, show just how trapped they are in El Patrón's fishbowl of a mansion.

Hints had been as thick as fireflies in the courtyard garden. They brightened with promise. They stayed alight almost long enough to show Matt what they were. But then, like the fireflies, they vanished. Tam Lin and Celia were far too careful. (19.37)

Careful about what? We're dying to know. But of course, El Patrón's always watching, so we won't find out until the last possible second.

"You're exactly like Tam Lin," said María. "He says El Patrón is like a force of nature - a tornado or volcano or something. He says you can't help being awestruck even when you might get killed. I think it's all rubbish!" (22.25)

María's disgust with El Patrón makes sense to us. We have trouble understanding his appeal at times. Out of all the characters in the book, María is the least swayed by power.

"Arsenic creeps into the whole body," Celia went on, her eyes as cold as the eyes of a snake. "It grows into the hair, it makes little white lines in the fingernails, it settles into the heart." (23.55)

The build-up of tension in this chapter make it one of our favorites. Celia really shines here as she unleashes all her anger at El Patrón and gives him the biggest shock of his life. If anyone has the power in this scene, it's Celia.

Vampire! thought Matt. El Patrón would have enjoyed that description. He loved to inspire fear. (27.139)

Having the power to inspire fear is what El Patrón thrives on, because it gives him control. If people didn't fear him, they wouldn't play by his rules.

"Some boys," Jorge said in a thin, almost wheedling voice that sent chills down Matt's back, "some boys have to learn the hard way. They have to be broken and mended and broken again until they learn to do what they're told." (30.64)

Well gee, Jorge, that's not creepy at all.  The threats he makes are scary enough, but what's really frightening is the detail we get about Jorge's tone of voice.

"Power's a strange thing, lad. It's a drug and people like me crave it. It wasn't till I met Celia that I saw what a monster I'd become. I was too happy, swaggering around in El Patrón's shadow. (24.25)

Tam Lin needs to release a book of quotations and words of wisdom. He sums up everything perfectly! Plus, though we never really learn the extent of Celia and Tam Lin's relationship, the detail we get about her here points to just how close the two have become.

"Tam Lin did what he wanted to do," Celia said. "He was guilty of a terrible crime when he was young, and he could never forgive himself for it. He believed this last act would make up for everything." (38.37)

Just as Celia exercised power against El Patrón in poisoning Matt, by sacrificing himself, Tam Lin has used his own power of free will to destroy El Patrón's legacy and ensure that Opium will one day be destroyed.

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