Study Guide

The House of the Spirits Chapter 3

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Chapter 3

Clara the Clairvoyant

  • Clara stops speaking, and all of Dr. Cuevas's ministrations cannot get her to change her mind. He recommends that her parents take her to see a Rumanian magician named Rostipov, who tells them that Clara isn't speaking because she doesn't want to, not because she can't.
  • Nana takes it upon herself to try to frighten the child into speaking. She dresses up in terrifying costumes and leaps out at the girl from behind corners. This doesn't work either.
  • Because of her muteness, Clara's parents decide she should be educated at home, and they hire a string of tutors for her. Clara's brother Luis gets the cute French tutor pregnant, and Severo makes them get married.
  • Clara reads and writes all the time. She reads the books in her Uncle Marcos's trunks as well as her father's Liberal Party documents, and records her observations in notebooks from which the narrator is later able to reclaim Clara's memories.
  • Clara interprets dreams, foretells the future, and recognizes people's intentions. She communicates these things to others by writing on a little slate that she carries with her.
  • Clara's ability to move objects with the power of her mind grows stronger.
  • Barrabás accompanies Clara everywhere, except when his sexual instincts kick in and he runs off to mate with some attractive lady dog.
  • Clara is spoiled by her family, but she doesn't have any friends because people think she's weird.
  • Clara grows very close to her mother, who tells her amusing stories about weird, dead ancestors.
  • Clara's mom tells her one story about an enormous tree that used to grow in their yard. It was a tradition of the del Valle family that whenever one of the boys wanted to start wearing grown-up pants, he had to prove his manliness by climbing the tree first. One blind boy, Jerónimo, managed to climb all the way to the top of the tree, but he slipped and fell to his death. Nívea had the tree cut down when she became pregnant with her first male child, so her sons would not have to participate in the dangerous tradition.
  • Clara accompanies her mother's friends to their political demonstrations in factories, where she notices a disparity between the wealth and privilege of the suffragettes and the misery of the hard-working women to whom they are preaching.
  • On her nineteenth birthday, Clara announces that she is to be married to Rosa's fiancé.
  • The whole family is so excited to hear Clara speak that they pay no attention to what she said.
  • Two months later, Esteban Trueba shows up at the front door to ask for Clara's hand in marriage.
  • Let's back up a minute to when Esteban Trueba arrives in the capital. Remember, he just got a letter from Férula saying that his mother is dying. He goes back to his old house, and is surprised to see how run-down the neighborhood has become. His mother and sister are living in poverty, and he wonders what has happened to all the money he's been sending them.
  • Férula greets her brother and takes him to see their mother.
  • Doña Ester is not looking good. She's lost all her hair, can barely move, and worms are eating her legs. She tells Esteban not to come too close because of the smell of her rotting flesh. Gross.
  • As we know, Esteban isn't very close with his mom, but seeing her this way makes him sad.
  • Doña Ester tells Esteban she wants him to get married and to have children, so she can die in peace.
  • Two days later, Doña Ester dies. Her children are not with her – Férula is in the slums, praying for the poor, and Esteban is at the del Valle house.
  • Esteban goes to the del Valle house to see if they still have any unmarried daughters.
  • Férula and Esteban find their mother dead that evening.
  • Clara's parents tell Esteban about all of her eccentricities, which he does not see as an obstacle to "bringing healthy, legitimate children into the world." Yep. Esteban wants him a baby-making machine.
  • To his surprise, Esteban actually starts to fall for Clara. She's cute, she's charming, and he likes talking to her.
  • To her parents' dismay, Clara asks Esteban if he wants to marry her. Esteban says yes.
  • Esteban and Clara announce their engagement at a Christmas party. Spirits keep trying to warn Clara that something bad is about to happen, but she's too caught up in the glitz and glamour of the festivities to notice.
  • When Esteban slips the ring on Clara's finger, a scream rings out, and Barrabás stumbles into the room with a knife sticking out of his back. He bleeds to death in Clara's lap.
  • Esteban Trueba spends the next year building a luxurious, European-style house in the city in preparation for his marriage to Clara. Everyone refers to it as "the big house on the corner."
  • Férula worries that her brother is going to stick her in a nursing home, but Clara reassures her that she will live with them and that she and Clara will be "just like sisters." Férula dissolves into grateful tears, and she and Clara become close friends.
  • Esteban and Clara get married and go on a honeymoon to Italy. Esteban is determined to seduce his new wife, but feels that something about her spirit eludes him.
  • Esteban and Clara move into their grand new home, and Esteban shows Clara her blue bedroom with its bed that resembles a sailboat. Clara finds everything lovely, but doesn't have any strong reactions until she sees that Esteban has made a carpet out of Barrabás's hide. She screams and faints. They put Barrabás in the basement.
  • Clara becomes pregnant, and Férula looks after her with tender affection.
  • Esteban has to return to Tres Marías, but he's unhappy being so far away from his new wife.
  • In the big house on the corner, Férula is happy taking care of Clara. She gets jealous when Esteban comes home, and even spies on the husband and wife while they're having sex. She's scandalized by the freaky things Esteban makes Clara do in bed.
  • So, does Férula have a crush on Clara? The text is unclear, and Férula probably doesn't even know. What is clear is that Férula is very attached to Clara, and she resents Esteban for taking Clara away from her.
  • Clara announces that her baby is a girl, and that she will be named Blanca.
  • Dr. Cuevas delivers baby Blanca by Cesarean section. Esteban is disappointed that she's not a boy, and thinks she's kind of weird-looking, but Clara is delighted with her new daughter.
  • Clara and Esteban keep having sex and Férula is too occupied with looking after baby Blanca to spy on them anymore.

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