The House of Spirits written by Isabelle Isabel Allende, portrays the life of the Trueba family, through four generations. The story is told from the protagonists perspectives of Esteban and Alba. Throughout her novel, Isabel Allende shows the presence of maternity and paternity. By definition, maternity is the quality of having or showing the tenderness and warmth and affection of or befitting a mother. Paternity is the kinship relation between an offspring and the father. Though, both paternity and maternity was portrayed throughout the novel, maternity was seen as more significant than paternity. The maternal role is more heavily emphasized through the roles of Blanca, Clara and Nicolas’ girlfriend Amanda. In the novel Isabel Allende writes,” Their duty is motherhood and home” (Isabel Allende 67). The only responsibilities of the women are to nurture the children and take care of the house. It is also seen throughout the novel that the women care for the children and have a closer relationship with them while the men work and take care of business. The mother and daughter relationship is stronger in the novel than the relationship between father and son.
As Isabel Allende also emphasizes gender roles, she contributes to this motif of gender roles through the mother- daughter and father-son relationships in the novel. Although in the very beginning Nivea Del Valle’s motherly role is not emphasized as heavily as all the other maternity roles in the story, Nivea does still show the maternal side of her character. Clara enters motherhood when marrying Esteban Trueba. Although Ferula and later on Nana take care of Clara’s daughter Blanca, Clara is still able to maintain a healthy relationship with her daughter despite her distant relationship with her sons. Clara and Blanca share quality time together in the novel, however it is most seen when their family begins to break apart, in other words when Clara and Blanca decide to leave Tres Maria’s after Esteban’s rage lashes out on the both of them. They maintain a good relationship although their family really seems to be taking a huge downfall. When Esteban strikes her, she does not only run away, she takes Blanca with her, in fear for her safety as well. Isabel Allende indicates nothing to suggest that Blanca objected to being removed from her father, showing her bond to her mother and distance from her father.
Esteban does not have the best relationship with Nicolas & Jaime. This is also true for Clara. Nicolas and Jaime appear to be much more independent. Esteban is not the character that heavily emphasizes his role as a father. He heavily emphasizes his role as a dictator, being the only person in charge, not just of Tres Maria’s but of everything. Therefore the father-son aspect of the novel is not depicted as being more important than mothers and daughters. The mother & daughter relationship is again emphasized through Blanca and Alba’s relationship. Although Blanca is now interested more in her renewed relationship with Pedro Tercero, she does not manage to forget her role as a mother. When Blanca and Alba educate children, Blanca gave classes to teaching these children on Thursday afternoons. Alba participated in teaching these children as well.
Similar to Clara and Blanca’s relationship, Alba and Blanca have that much needed quality time for mothers and daughters. The quote states “They were delivered by a truck and escorted to two nuns in starched white coifs, who sat in the garden drinking hot chocolate with Clara and discuss the virtues of cross stitching and the hierarchy of sin, while Blanca and her daughter taught the children how to fashion worms, balls, squashed dogs, and misshapen vases. Blanca and Alba quickly understood that the children worked much better when they felt loved, and that the only way to communicate with them was through affection (Allende 280). This demonstrates some parts of Blanca and Clara’s motherly qualities, showing how they do not abandon their children but instead spend quality time with each other doing things to help other people and doing things that they like.
Maternal strength is demonstrated best when compared alongside the lack of strength in paternal relationships. For instance, Esteban had fathered many children in Tres Marias. However, he claimed none of them as his own and made next to no efforts in taking care of them. Isabel Allende writes, “Whenever a woman showed up at his door with a newborn baby in her arms asking for… assistance, he would send her on her way with a few banknotes” (Allende 68). Esteban is characterized as selfish here, refusing to accept responsibilities for his actions. He takes only his interests into consideration.
Esteban Trueba lacks any type of relationship with Nicolas, Jaime, Blanca and all the other illigetimate children he fathered. Allende writes, “Clara, on the other hand, was delighted with her daughter. She seemed to have wakened from a protracted stupor and discovered the joy of being alive. She took the child in her arms and would not let go” (Allende 101). Through this quote, Allende suggest that Clara’s happiness came from her daughter moments after her birth. Blanca awoke Clara and became the marvelous creation that her mother could not bear to part with. Esteban, on the other hand, was repelled by Blanca’s appearance when Dr. Cuevas delivered her. Allende writes, “Esteban jumped when he saw her, convinced that destiny was playing a cruel joke on him and that instead of the legitimate Trueba he had promised his mother on her deathbed, he had sired a monster, and a female one to boot” (Allende 101). Through this quote, Allende reveals how Esteban was turned off by his daughter and how he became disgusted with her as soon as she came into this world. Clara displayed loved and affection while Esteban showed his displeasure for his own flesh and blood.
Through the different relationships shown in The House of Spirits, such as Clara and Blanca, Esteban and Clara, and Alba and Blanca, it can said that maternity is more important than paternity. Because of Esteban’s selfish personality, his relationships with others have many obstacles to whereas Clara is described as very caring and takes every relationship as if it’s a fragile glass and handles it with care.