Study Guide

The House of the Spirits Women and Femininity

By Isabel Allende

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Women and Femininity

Women occupy a central role in the history of the del Valle and Trueba families. Because we're following the maternal line of the family, last names change, but the connection between mothers, daughters and granddaughters is emphasized in other ways. For example, as we've discussed, the first names of the main female characters in the novel all refer to something light, luminous, or white in color. This novel has a lot to do with women's concerns, struggles, accomplishments, and the crimes committed against them – maybe that's why so many critics heralded The House of the Spirits as the long-awaited feminine contribution to the Latin American literary "boom" of the late twentieth century.

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. Why do the women of the del Valle and Trueba families all bear names referring to something white, light-colored, or luminescent? What is the significance of this "luminous" connection between the four generations of women, and what does it say about their characters and their roles in the family history?
  2. Are women more in touch with things of a spiritual nature than men in The House of the Spirits? Is magic a specifically female trait or ability in this novel?
  3. What other lineages of women can be found in the history presented by the novel? What qualities, traits, or memories are passed down amongst those women, and what significance does their inheritance play in the novel as a whole?
  4. Is this a feminist novel? Are any of the characters feminists? What role does feminism play in the novel, and is it effective?

Chew on This

Whereas men play a violent, destructive role in The House of the Spirits, women provide the connecting, constructive force by which knowledge is transmitted and families are built.

Crimes against women provide the impetus for the plot in The House of the Spirits – it is the murder, rape, and torture of women that provokes the narrator to tell the story in the first place, and with her forgiveness of these crimes, the novel comes to a close.

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