44 pages 1 hour read

Isabel Allende

A Long Petal of the Sea

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2019

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Symbols & Motifs

The Heart

Allende repeatedly uses the workings of the physical organ of the heart to symbolize the necessity of love to life. As a medic during the Spanish Civil War, Victor treats a soldier whose heart is fully exposed. He watches it stop beating and then reaches in and squeezes the heart, saving the soldier’s life. Victor will always remember this moment and will find his vocation in cardiology, healing the physical hearts of his patients. When he cannot save so many in the last days of the Spanish Civil War, Victor experiences a metaphorical broken heart. He describes that as “the essence of his being” “pouring out” until he is empty, and he “concluded that this must be what it was like to bleed to death, like so many men he had been unable to help” (65). Somehow, he finds the strength to persevere and heal.

Isidoro and Laura del Solar’s youngest child, Leonardo, dies because of heart problems. Without the heart, there is no life. Victor changes his fortune because of his ability to heal hearts. When the commandant of the Chilean concentration camp collapses from a heart attack, Victor saves his life. That action saves his own life in turn.

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