99 pages 3 hours read

Isabel Allende

The House of the Spirits

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1982

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Symbols & Motifs

Tres Marías

The hacienda Esteban inherits from his mother is an important site for a number of events throughout the story. The estate itself symbolizes the imperialist, patriarchal ideology that Esteban personifies. In keeping with this, events surrounding the hacienda parallel Esteban’s own journey as a character.

Following Rosa’s death, Esteban withdraws from the mines and chooses to settle at Tres Marías. It is here that Esteban begins to rise financially and politically. He transforms the rundown place into a model estate and becomes a respected patrón; this parallels his personal journey of rebuilding after the heartbreak at his fiancée’s death. Notably, he runs the estate with an iron fist and a substantial degree of violence; Esteban’s broader character and behavior are similarly brash, aggressive, and ill-tempered in these years.

Tres Marías crumbles to the ground in the earthquake—the same one that shatters all the bones in Esteban’s body—but rises to its former glory once again, just as Esteban heals and recovers his health over time. However, the character of the estate changes irrevocably after the earthquake, with political and social events causing socialist ideas to gain traction among the peasants. Esteban’s personal life faces similar turmoil, partially impacted by these larger events. His relationship with Clara deteriorates, he becomes estranged from Blanca after discovering her affair with Pedro Tercero, and he loses Pedro Segundo, his most trusted employee, when the latter leaves the estate owing to Esteban’s rage towards his son.