Study Guide

The House of the Spirits Chapter 11

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Chapter 11

The Awakening

  • Alba reaches the age of eighteen and leaves childhood behind. She's in love. She paints a heart in the last empty space of her bedroom mural and throws away her paints and brushes.
  • Alba finishes school at the icky British academy and starts studying philosophy and music at the university, to her grandfather's chagrin. Esteban thinks his granddaughter should study something practical.
  • Esteban also feels that Alba should avoid falling in love and getting married, arguing that women can only lose by marrying.
  • Alba can't help herself – one day at the university she sets eyes on a guy named Miguel, and it's love at first sight.
  • Miguel is a leftist leader, so Alba doesn't tell him that she's Esteban Trueba's granddaughter. Instead she uses her legal last name, Satigny, and brags about being friends with Pedro Tercero García and the Poet.
  • Miguel talks about politics and revolution all the time. Alba's not really into politics, but she goes with him to meetings and demonstrations out of love for him.
  • Alba joins Miguel and a group of student activists in seizing control of a building in support of a workers' strike. The students barricade themselves in and stand off with the police.
  • Miguel takes charge and becomes the leader of the occupation, along with Professor Sebastián Gómez. He helps the students deal with the fact that the police shut off their electricity and water, and even improvises a little kitchen that makes cookies. For a little while it's like a camping trip, complete with singalongs and outdoor toilets.
  • Alba calls home to let her family know she's staying with her comrades until "victory or death" (11.10). Yes, it's cheesy. She realizes that.
  • Esteban orders his granddaughter to come home immediately and to stop hanging out with a bunch of Communists. When Alba refuses, Esteban changes his tactic and pleads with her to leave before the police storm the building with clubs.
  • Alba notices that the building is surrounded by tanks and men in combat gear, and realizes her grandfather's telling the truth. She starts to freak out.
  • Sebastián Gómez is optimistic that the students will triumph, the government will fall, and that the police won't dare to break into the building. Miguel is not so sure.
  • Alba starts to have stomach pains, and the students grow tired and irritable.
  • Sebastián Gómez never complains, even though he's twice the age of the students and has to move around on crutches because of his crippled legs. He's passionately dedicated to the leftist political movement, and Alba thinks that's kind of hot.
  • Professor Gómez gives Alba the nickname "the countess" because, on the first day of school, Esteban Trueba has his chauffer drop her off. Sebastián has no idea that Alba really is a countess.
  • Alba's abdominal pains start to get worse, and then she gets her period. She's embarrassed and curls up in the corner. After a few hours she's bleeding way more than she usually does.
  • One of the students, Ana Díaz, remarks that only rich women complain of menstrual cramps, and that she doesn't feel sorry for Alba. But then she notices that Alba is bleeding a lot and needs medical attention, so she goes to talk to Sebastián Gómez.
  • Sebastián tells Alba that she's in the way and needs to go home. Miguel goes out with a white flag to parley with the police.
  • Alba can barely walk, so Miguel and Ana Díaz help her leave the building. They are met by a policeman who aims a pistol at her face – it's Esteban García.
  • Esteban recognizes Alba and identifies her as Senator Trueba's granddaughter to Miguel and Ana Díaz. Miguel feels betrayed. He leaves Alba with the policeman and takes off without saying good-bye.
  • Alba orders Esteban García to take her home, using her bossy voice. García is tempted to let her rot in jail, but he knows he could get in trouble for that, so he has two police officers take her home instead.
  • When Blanca sees her daughter covered in blood, she thinks Esteban Trueba was right and that the police have attacked the students with clubs. She starts screaming.
  • Jaime examines Alba and reassures Blanca that she'll be fine after a couple of injections and some bed rest.
  • The student strike is peacefully terminated.
  • Alba spends two days in bed and has time to think about Esteban García. She barely remembers the incident in the library when she was six. The last time she had met him was on her fourteenth birthday.
  • Flashback to Alba's fourteenth birthday. Alba notices that her grandfather is meeting with a policeman in the library. She's outside, waiting for her Uncle Jaime to pick her up and take her to buy a birthday present. She waits for him in a gazebo in the garden. On his way to the front gate, Esteban García sees Alba and asks her if she remembers him. She doesn't. He sits down next to her on the bench and grabs her shoulder. Alba tries to struggle free, but he holds on to her. García tells Alba that she looks like a woman now, and Alba says it's her fourteenth birthday. He says that he has a present for her. He grabs her face in both hands and forces her to kiss him. He starts to strangle her, but she finally manages to push him away.
  • Esteban García asks Alba if she liked his present and laughs. He leaves, and Alba weeps.
  • When Jaime arrives to pick up Alba, she tells him she wants to become a nun.
  • Alba never tells anyone about the kiss. She has nightmares afterwards in which Esteban García is a slimy green monster that tries to asphyxiate her by shoving his tentacles down her throat.
  • Lying in bed after the student demonstration, Alba still feels that Esteban García is a threatening presence in her life. Foreshadowing alert! The narrator says her vision of García as a beast waiting to leap out at her from the shadows is a premonition. Uh oh.
  • Miguel gets over Alba being the granddaughter of his ideological enemy and they start going out again. After a while they want to do more than just kiss, so they start meeting in Miguel's boardinghouse. The landlords disapprove, and make Alba feel uncomfortable.
  • Sometimes Alba and Miguel borrow a motorcycle and drive to the beach or to the woods to make love. But Alba finally discovers that the safest place is her own house, where she and Miguel can hang out in the rear rooms of the house without anyone discovering them.
  • The first time Alba takes Miguel to the big house on the corner, he experiences déjà vu. But he doesn't recognize the dilapidated mansion as the bustling and well-kept home he visited in his childhood.
  • Alba and Miguel try out all the rooms, and eventually decide that the basement is their favorite. They build a love nest out of all the old junk that Alba used to play with as a girl, and spend all of their free time frolicking and having passionate sex.
  • Their constant love-making distracts Alba from her cello lessons and Miguel from his political meetings and dissertation.
  • Miguel makes Alba feel beautiful for the first time in her life. Aw.
  • After a year of wild passion, Alba and Miguel finally start to get serious about their lives again. Alba starts to pay attention in class, and Miguel resumes his political activities. He rents an apartment and they make love there because spending so much time in the basement has given them both bronchitis.
  • Alba offers to move in with Miguel, but he won't let her because he says bad political times are coming, and it's too dangerous. Alba promises to follow Miguel anywhere, but he says she can't get involved in his political activities for love – she has to do it for her own political conviction, and she doesn't have that.
  • Senator Trueba is old enough to retire, but he's as fired up as ever about his job. To give some historical context, the narrator tells us Trueba has lived to see a man walk on the moon, so we know it's probably some time shortly after Neil Armstrong's moon landing of July 20, 1969.
  • Trueba is nervous because he senses a revolution brewing in his country.
  • Jaime learns to not talk about politics in order to avoid arguing with his father. The only time he opens up is when Alba comes to visit him in his bedroom full of books. They talk about lots of things, including politics, and Jaime gives Alba a hard time for falling in love with a "café terrorist" (11.64).
  • Jaime makes fun of Alba's political ideas – he thinks the idea of armed revolution is way too extreme, and that it's better if change is accomplished through democratic means. Alba thinks the conservatives will never let the Socialists win an election, and tells Jaime not to be naïve. The two argue, but always end their discussions on good terms.
  • Jaime announces at dinner that the Socialists are going to win this time. Esteban disagrees, but the narrator tells us that Jaime knows what he's talking about.
  • Jaime's inside source is the Candidate, the man who has been running for President as a Socialist for the past eighteen years.
  • (Historical context note: in Chile in 1970, the Socialist candidate for President was a man named Salvador Allende. And, yes, in case you were wondering, he and Isabel Allende are related. He's the author's first cousin, once removed. In other words, he's her dad's cousin. Salvador's history and the story that we're about to hear about the Candidate are way too similar for it to be a coincidence. We'll point out more of the parallels as the story continues.)
  • Jaime and the Candidate become friends when Jaime makes an emergency house call one night. The Candidate opens the door, and ushers him into the maid's room to assist a woman who's having an allergic reaction to fish.
  • Jaime recognizes the Candidate from the days when he campaigned in the countryside around Tres Marías. He introduces himself to the Candidate using his mother's last name, del Valle, and never finds out when the Candidate learns that he's the son of his most formidable political enemy, Senator Trueba.
  • The Candidate tells Jaime that he's going to win this time, but cautions him not to tell anyone so that the conservatives will go into the elections sure of victory. Jaime responds that, even if they tell everyone, no one will believe it, and proves this point by telling his father.
  • Jaime has been trying to avoid politics altogether, and works really long hours at the hospital. He's frightened by the violent turn the campaign has taken. One day Jaime wakes up to find the big house on the corner filled with political posters showing a woman trying to rescue her son from the arms of a scary Communist soldier. It's part of a "terror campaign" organized by his dad's party and "foreign experts" who don't want the Leftist coalition to win the election.
  • (Historical context note: During the Chilean presidential campaign of 1970, "foreign experts" from the U.S. gave support to the Conservative party to try to prevent a Socialist victory. In the interest of fighting the spread of Communism during the Cold War, U.S. President Nixon authorized the CIA to finance the campaigns of Salvador Allende's political opponents.)
  • Jaime can't handle his dad's politics, and moves out of the house.
  • In the months leading up to the election, the city is alive with political demonstrations and with confrontations that sometimes turns violent. Alba is excited by the potential of a Socialist victory, but Miguel is skeptical, arguing, "You cannot make a revolution at the ballot box but only with the people's blood" (11.81).
  • Jaime grows jealous of Miguel's relationship with Alba – he doesn't want to admit that Alba could need another man more than she needed him. So far he's managed to avoid Alba's boyfriend, but that's about to change.
  • Alba asks Jaime to talk to Miguel about Miguel's sister, who's sick.
  • When Jaime finally meets Miguel, he finds he actually likes him.
  • Jaime asks Miguel to take him to see his sister. Miguel leads Jaime and Alba to a house in the bohemian quarter. They find Amanda, living in a small, dirty, under-furnished apartment.
  • Jaime hasn't seen Amanda in more than twenty years. And she's changed a lot – she's too thin, can barely stand, and is suffering the effects of a drug withdrawal. The narrator says that "to have recognized Amanda, [Jaime] must have loved her a great deal" (11.89).
  • Jaime admits to Miguel that he and Amanda knew each other a long time ago. Then he lays Amanda on the couch and examines her arms and legs, which are bruised and scabby (presumably from injections).
  • Jaime says that Amanda will have to be hospitalized and undergo a detoxification program.

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