Thematic Analysis: Feminism and Sexism in The House of The Spirits

o-pin-570 large

Isabel Allende’s The House of The Spirits explores the themes of feminism and sexism and how each ideology influences the characters. These themes go hand in hand to develop the story and the characters while also giving the novel itself a mind of its own. The women are very central to this novel because they portray some of Allende’s characteristics and they also show the perception of women during the timeline of the novel. That perception is emphasised by the role of sexism in the novel.

The theme of feminism is very central to Allende’s author’s voice. It highlights her ideologies and beliefs. The unapologetic use of sex as a theme adds to that. Nivea for instance was an activist and could be considered as one of the very first women to openly fight for women rights. She utilised her wealth and social power as a tool to bring awareness to issues that she was passionate about. This is a huge contrast to some of the things that the men in Macondo with power and wealth did. Nivea’s actions and her passions influenced her daughter Clara and later her granddaughter Blanca. These women are women who had quiet power. Their powers were not tangible; they were supernatural and attached to their personalities because of this their power were used for good deeds because they were good people.

The feminism wasn’t just portrayed through activism. It was also portrayed through the way the women held themselves and pulled through challenging times. Ferula would not be considered as a feminist based on her character and her actions but one must acknowledge the strength that she possessed. Even though she appeared meek at times and had a crazy and harmful martyr complex, she could pull through a lot of things on her own when Esteban basically abandoned her. That is the quite power I mention. These women didn’t need a man to take charge and take control of things for them because they were highly intelligent and able to do things on their own and be successful at what they did too. Transito for instance, despite coming from a very hard life managed to become a very successful woman in her own right. These women who were to some extent treated as beneath the men turned out to be extraordinary women and far better than the men and they redefined what a woman was in their society.

This is where the sexism comes in. Considering women activist and feminism were appearing and fighting for rights, of course sexism was taking place and having a huge influence on the way society operated. Characters like Esteban represented that. He was perhaps the most influential male character in the novel, he had a lot of power, wealth and he was well respected for the most par and he was also the perfect and most poisonous balance for the femininity presented in the novel. His role, no matter how unagreeable, was very vital. The negative was the fact that he notoriously abused his power and wealth. He was famous for abusing and raping some of the females in Tres Marias.

Although that was so, the focus is on the sexism that he portrayed as a character. Esteban, in simple terms, viewed women as a source of his pleasure and thus subjected and treated them per that belief. His acts of violence against women and his family came from his deep sense of loneliness and from how miserable he was. He abused his power and was very forceful because of that to fill up that emptiness. The presence of Alba later in the novel brought a calm to his life but prior to all that, he imposed a lot of gender roles in the lives of the women around in. The most notable one being the instance where he leaves Ferula no choice but to look after their sick and dying mother. His view of women is underlined when he states that he was basically glad he wasn’t born a woman. He acknowledges that women are in a sort of captivity based on the roles that are pushed on them by society. Ferula’s freedom was limited because she was a woman and had to stay home and take care of her mother.

Some of the roles parallel people in the world Allende lived in. Characters like Clara and Nivea and Esteban were not just figments of her imagination because we as readers could see within them people we could identify as being quite like them in terms of their way of thinking and their behaviours. This further enhances the novel and makes it quite an engaging read.


Categories Uncategorized

C/I Research Piece: Magical Realism in The House of The Spirits and One Hundred Years of Solitude

house-of-the-spirits one-hundred-years-of-solitude-cover ce2955b5-5e22-43a3-a869-10b6a692ae90

Magical realism in literature is a mode in prose fiction often associated with postmodernism and characterised by a mixture of realistic and fantastical elements. Literatures that utilise this technique are set in the real world but the trick is that the fantastical elements present in the novels are considered as mundane parts of daily activities. Latin American writers such as Gabriel García Márquez, and Isabel Allende use magical realism in their respective works to criticise and bring awareness to political issues that affect their person and their people.

Isabel Allende’s The House of The Spirits is a politically charged novel that mixes personal narratives from Allende’s own life and the lives of other Chilean citizens in a time of political chaos with fantastical elements. These fantastical elements serve as a safety net of sorts because it softens the harsh realities hidden within the novel.  Characters such as the Poet and the Candidate/President are obviously real people who played the same roles as the real ones did. The figure of the poet was in fact Pablo Neruda and the figure of the candidate was Salvador Allende, Allende’s cousin (once removed). The events that happened in regards to these figures in the novel happened in real life, the poet and the candidate both died and their death was a political statement that basically ended the democratic process in the novel. Their roles then became the point of real and fantastic merging.  We must note that the candidate did not meet his end in real life like Allende described in the novel and that is acceptable because magical realism is a technique that sometimes allows the distortion of history.

The distortion of history is also very present in One Hundred Years of Solitude. In fact, the very opening sentence of the novel brings our attention to this. The creation of Macondo is very biblical and cannot be explained per our knowledge of the history of the world. Macondo then becomes a metaphor for Latin American communities because of its isolation. There is a lot of myth, distortion of history and ambiguous reality present in the novel which makes time in the novel more of a passing thought. The ambiguous reality is found in the deliberate omission of certain historical events in the novel for instance, the insomnia plague that almost brought Macondo to its knees which forces us to acknowledge the correlation of time and memory. The plague brought about a loss of the history of Macondo itself and the fantastical element in this is the collectiveness of the loss of memory. The plague also made us aware that reality isn’t absolute because of difference in perspectives. The magical realism in One Hundred Years of Solitude breaks down the effects of colonialism and modernisation because of colonialism and gives a very well formed opinion about it while also talking about postcolonial reality. The political events in the novel mirror political events that happened in Colombia. By using magical realism, García Márquez could criticise certain political decisions made in his country and reconstruct the history of Colombia. By mixing magical beliefs and fantastical elements with concepts and actual happenings that were present in his own world, he could create Macondo as a great representation of what colonialism does to a nation.

Even though both novels use magical realism and talk about politics, they are still very different. Some of the women in The House of The Spirits are the ones with fantastical/supernatural powers. The Mora Sisters, Clara, and Rosa all have some sort of fantastical thing about them. The Mora Sisters can be considered as the three Fates in Greek mythology because of the similar roles they play. Like the Fates, the Mora sisters dealt with destinies and futuristic things. Rosa had an ethereal beauty about her that made everyone question her whereabouts. Her power in this case was in her beauty and her ability to leave any man transfixed and in love with her without even trying. Clara had supernatural abilities that could be used physically. Her telepathy and her clairvoyance was a great asset to her and her family.

One Hundred Years of Solitude on the other hand had men with fantastical/supernatural powers. Melquíades for instance was able to come back from the dead and predict the history of the Buendia family. Jose Arcadio Segundo was also somewhat fantastical in the sense that he was the only survivor of the Banana Company Massacre of 3000 people and he was the only character who could remember that the massacre happened. The fact that that was so goes to show how reality isn’t absolute like we think it is. The massacre was real to Jose Arcadio Segundo because he lived through it and he woke up in a sea of dead bodies to add to that but it wasn’t real to the people of Macondo because it wasn’t their reality and they had no recollection of such an event happening.

Both Allende and Márquez used magical realism as a tool to bring up political issues that affected them and discuss its effects but their techniques differed in the sense that the characters who held fantastical roles were opposites because of this the magical realism gave their works different meanings. Allende’s magical realism has a feminine touch to it while the fantastical elements in Márquez’s work could be found in both the female and male characters.











Edison, K. Thomas Alwa. “The New Trends In Latin American Bloom “Magical Realism” In The Novel Of Gabriel García Márquez’ One Hundred Years Of Solitude – A Postcolonial Study.” International Journal Of Multidisciplinary Approach & Studies2.1 (2015): 1-5. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

Ahmad, Mustanir, and Ayaz Afsar. “Magical Realism, Social Protest And Anti-Colonial Sentiments In One Hundred Years Of Solitude: An Instance Of Historiographic Metafiction.” Asian Journal Of Latin American Studies 27.2 (2014): 1-26. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

Hart, Stephen M. “Magical Realism In The Americas: Politicised Ghosts In One Hundred Years Of Solitude , The House Of The Spirits , And Beloved.” Journal Of Iberian & Latin American Studies 9.2 (2003): 115-123. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

Allende, Isabel, and Magda Bogin. The House of the Spirits. New York: Everyman’s Library, 2005. Print.


The Story of Me: C/I Creative Piece

I am in love with love poems and sad songs

I pour my heart out through words I thought I buried years ago

In the tomb of my heart

Along with all the hopes and dreams I carry

I watch the words pour out of my fingertips

And wonder why they are so eager to escape

When there’s nowhere to go

I am pieces of quotes from my favourite books

and lyrics from my favourite songs

I am held together by late nights watching SNL

and the sweet and bitter taste of black coffee

I am anxious most of the time and I panic about little things

and I cry over little things

like the death of my favourite characters

and like breaking my own heart by wanting what I know I can’t have

I have this tendency to fall apart suddenly

and sometimes I just stare into space thinking

about all the things that went wrong in my life even though I know it’s bad for me

Sometimes I just lose myself in the middle of class

and go deep in my own head to escape

I get scared and I tremble when people talk too loudly

I’m always trying to help someone

especially when they’re sad because I know how deep sadness cuts

and it hurts me the most when I fail to save a soul

that’s not to say that I believe myself a martyr

and in those moments when I’m deep into focus racking my brain to find answers and solutions to people’s problems

I am most myself

I am who I’m meant to be

and in those moments, I find myself

I am haunted by the past and I’m afraid of the future

So, when uncle Kwame asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up

I couldn’t help but panic in the back seat of his small car

There is a chance that I might be an insomniac but who knows

I give my all and my best

I expect nothing from people not even my family and friends

Or so I like to say

and I give more than I get

It’s the only way I know to love

And I laugh about things like death

and then I cry because a soul was lost and I wasn’t able to help him

and then I pray for that soul and then mine

Like when grandpa died and I didn’t know if I was to be happy

That he finally found peace or to cry about the fact that I would never get to see him

Sitting on the veranda and telling us stories

And I think the saddest thing in life is to lose yourself

and I have this bad habit of not trusting because of my fears

I have the tendency to run from the good things in my life

because I’ve grown closer to all the bad things

and it’s hard to believe that there’s something better out there for me

and I have so many insecurities about myself

I run from who I am because I think it’s so much

better than facing all my demons

and I bare my soul to all kinds of people

hoping that someone can understand who I am

some nights I hope that you can understand

Some nights I get tired of being so much and so little at the same time

I am forgetful and quick to laughter

I am unnecessarily sarcastic

Sometimes I think it’s a defence mechanism

My friends insist that I am cold and unfeeling

But I beg to differ because I am warm and I feel everything

I feel so much sometimes that I cry and laugh at the same time

I am obsessed with cooking crazy traditional dishes

that make my mom think I’m a walking hazard

I am very bad at drawing but I can’t help myself

Because sometimes it’s the best way I can express myself

I fill my days with ridiculous twitter memes and sad Tumblr quotes

Because my laughter ends with tears anyway

I am in love with anime and art and I have dreams of teaching and travelling at the same time

I keep a diary so I can swim back to shore when it feels like I’m drowning in my thoughts

Or I just need someone to talk to because of course my Diary is a person trapped in a book

I think my head is a dangerous place but I love the thrill so I visit often

Especially at night when the silence is violent and sleep is nowhere to be found

I write poems about things I don’t know much about

Like losing a child, death, love, romance

And like falling in love with the wrong man and being in abusive relationships

I guess I am now pieces of the characters from books I read

Because they show up in my poetry and become the most intimate parts of me

Sometimes I think I am Peregrine Storke of The Story of Awkward

Because I find myself fighting things I love

Like food, family and friends

And sometimes I am Amaranta of One Hundred Years of Solitude

Living in self-imposed loneliness

Because there is something sweet about loneliness

And sometimes I am like Alba of The House of The Spirits

Strong, brave and more than capable of taking on the world

I am pieces of the strong women in my life

Like my Meme who never allows life’s curveballs to stop her from moving forward

Or from baking delicious treats

Like my aunt ma Mo who despite everything she has been through

Remains strong and graceful as always

And like my mother who taught me from a young age to never forget who I am

And to never forget that all things are possible if I believe in God

I keep a scrapbook filled with pictures of my family

So that I have them with me whenever I feel alone

Because I am deeply sentimental

I am still discovering pieces of this forest I call myself

So I am yet to find the hidden creeks and mountain peaks

And yes I write too much

And yes I read too much

And yes I know more than I should

But that’s just who I am.

Open To Interpretation

one-hundred-years-of-solitude il-postino

Gabriel García Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Pablo Neruda’s “Walking Around” and Il Postino: The Postman directed by Michael Radford, which was described as “one of those rare and passionate movies that make you want to rush out to a bookstore and lose yourself in endless shelves of printed pages” by Scott G. Mignola, all utilise literary devices such as symbolism, and metaphors.  These literary devices leave the works open for interpretation and gives the work a sense of mystery.

In One Hundred Years of Solitude, the literary devices are used in incidents such as the insomnia plague and Amaranta’s covered burned hand. It is safe to say that the insomnia plague was a metaphor for the destruction and the slow decay of not only the Buendía family but also Macondo. The forgetfulness that came along with the plague also foreshadows Macondo’s imminent end, just like it’s citizens were forgetting the things within it, so would the world forget about its existence. Amaranta’s self-inflicted burn is a symbol is guilt, grief and loneliness. The black bandage she used to cover up the burn also represents her attempt to cover up her loneliness, the same loneliness she sometimes long to share with the world. The novel’s title is also a mini foreshadow. It is clear from the title alone that the characters of the novel are going to come to a tragic end.

In The Postman, metaphors are used to depict how much love one has for another. When Mario Ruoppolo (played by the late Massimo Troisi) discovers that he has fallen in love with Beatrice Russo, he finds himself using metaphors from Pablo Neruda’s poetry to describe the passion he has burning inside him for Beatrice. This leads to a development of an interest in poetry because to him, it was the closest thing to an explanation he could give about his love. Metaphors in this film are defined as symbols of love and passion. When Mario questioned Neruda, who according to Andy Webb plays the role of “the almost quiet philosopher”, about the metaphors in his poetry, he did so to gain an understanding. To him, prior to Neruda’s explanation, metaphors were strange and unusual forms of descriptions for people, places and things. Although that was the case, by explaining and defining metaphors, especially ones found in poetry, you take away the meaning and the mystery that the metaphor holds. Art (Literature) is open to interpretation and literary devices serve as means to help the readers form their own conclusions based on what they believe the artist is trying to send across. #

Pablo Neruda’s poem “Walking Around” uses a lot of metaphors and it also has a very strong imagery.  A perfect example can be found in the first stanza, line 3 “/dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt”, this line has very strong imagery. When we think of dried up, we might picture something dead, and when we think of waterproof, there is an image of something strong and able to withstand the weather, the image the phrase “swan made of felt” brings up nothing that resembles the previous two descriptive words. The line is full of contradictions. A felt swan, although is somewhat dried up, it is not waterproof, it is water resistant to an extent though.  The dried up, waterproof felt swan here can be interpreted as a symbol of not necessarily death but rather a state similar to death, perhaps loneliness, because like death, it is a solitary feeling. As the poem goes along, Neruda states “the only thing I want is to lie still like stones or wool” (2nd stanza, line 2). The phrase “still like stones or wool” gives off an impression that Neruda wishes to be alive yet dead. He himself feels very contradicted and this is illustrated by the metaphors he uses in his poem. The repetition of the line “It so happens that I am sick of being a man” adds to the interpretation that he no longer wishes to live but nor does he want to die. His wants are simple paradoxical.

Overall, these three works employ literary devices in such innovative ways that one can’t help but fall in love with them. The literary devices give the works multidimensional meanings and makes it easy for the consumers to make their own interpretation of what they think the artistic vision was. That is perhaps the reason why dissecting metaphors takes away so much from its original purpose.


Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and The House Of The Spirits


Often when one thinks of the word madness, it is associated with women. The feminisation of madness is rooted in pure sexism and is just another form of oppression of women by men. According to Gary Nunn of The Guardian, madness has been feminised through literature and language, and as a result, it obscures the way women are viewed and discussed. Not only has madness been feminised through literature and language, it has also been feminised through female characters on Television and even in music. Simply put, the feminisation of madness is  an ingrained part of society.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, directed by Pedro Almodovar tells the story of Pepa, a woman whose lover, Ivan, leaves her suddenly and as a result sets out to go find him. From the very beginning it seems like Pepa has everything she could possibly need but without Ivan by her side, she is at loss and is slowly losing it. Pepa is not the only woman who is losing her mind over a man, her friend Candela and Ivan’s ex-wife Lucia, also seem to be going through it, as the men in their lives push them to the brink of insanity with their actions. These women would be identified as part of the reasons why madness has been feminised. Pepa’s actions alone are enough to guarantee her a slot in the long list of crazy ex girlfriends some men keep. Lucia is also one for the books. She is even more so crazier than Pepa. Unlike Pepa, Lucia channels her anger and hurt at being left by Ivan through a murderous plan, one that luckily goes south. While the women of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown are classified as crazy/mad, the women of The House of the Spirits are classified as eccentric. Clara is definitely an eccentric character, in fact most of the women are eccentric characters in one way or the other. Despite their eccentricities, they are not considered mad because unlike the men their sanities are still very much intact. The men are the ones who hold that craziness, their actions make it hard to think of them as sane people. Esteban and the count Jean de Satigny are really crazy characters as portrayed by their actions. Esteban lacks self control. He sees what he wants and he takes it without thinking about the impact of his actions. He has no moral compass for the most part and is driven by anger and greed and the need to be above everyone. These are not characteristics of a sane man. The count is on another level, his perversions are just sickening and just wrong. The difference between the craziness of men and women here seems to be that the women are driven crazy by the men in their lives, and the men are driven crazy by their own intentions and their desires to possess everything they come across.

The problem with society today is that, it considers any woman who dares to show her emotions as crazy, and that’s not to say that there aren’t women out there who are really crazy. The notion of the crazy ex girlfriend appears to stem from a lack of acknowledgement of women as emotional beings. To make a word with such a negative connotation as madness purely feminine, goes to show how little society’s perception of women has changed.




Nunn, Gary. “The Feminisation of Madness Is Crazy | Mind Your Language.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 2012. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.


The House of the Spirits vs. Volver


Pedro Almodóvar is said to be “above all, a director who loves women”. His film Volver, which according to the NY Times is “full of surprises and reversals” leaves no doubt about the matter in his audience’s minds. Almodóvar’s Volver and  Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits both use the theme of magical realism. Volver is a story about a mother (Irene) who died and returned to her hometown to fix some issues she was unable to resolve during her lifetime. The story revolves around Irene’s daughters (Raimunda and Sole) who were still learning to cope with their mother’s departure, 3 years after her death. The women are depicted as very independent women who are more than capable of taking care of their own regardless of the tragedies surrounding them. Likewise The women of The House of the Spirits are also powerful, strong, spiritual and independent.

While the women are depicted as strong and quite independent, the men in are depicted as being reliant on the women in their lives. Esteban (The House of the Spirits) is always seeking his wife Clara’s attention like a dog. He seems lovestruck and incapable of functioning without Clara near him. Raimunda’s husband Paco, played by Antonio de la Torre, relies on her to provide for the family and is depicted as a deadbeat dad basically. Esteban and Paco abuse their power and are both rapist. Both the movie and the novel reject the idea of women being the ones always seeking attention and being dependent on their male counterparts in relationships. The difference between the movie and the novel, apart from the obvious, is the different styles of magical realism used. The movie focuses on the idea of the return of the dead as a result of unresolved issues during their lifetime while the novel focuses on magical realism in the sense of supernatural powers as an integral part of people’s daily lives.



Ebert, Roger. “Volver Movie Review & Film Summary (2006) | Roger Ebert.” All Content. N.p., 2006. Web.

Scott, A. O. “The Darkest of Troubles in the Brightest of Colors.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 2006. Web.


Sexism’s Role in The House of the Spirits

Isabel Allende‘s The House of the Spirits holds within it some very strong and independent women who embody the ideas of feminism and spirituality. Although these female characters are certainly women of strength, they still find themselves oppressed and ridiculed to an extent by the men in their society. The men in the society view the women as the house keepers. They are in fixed roles which include doing the cooking, cleaning, giving birth and serving as means of sexual release for the men. Esteban Trueba (Clara’s husband), is the embodiment of the sexism most of the women in the society face. He develops a knack for raping the young girls in Tres Marias and the neighbouring towns. As a result of his inhumane acts, he leaves a trail of children, whom he refuses to claim, in his wake. While the women possess spiritual powers, the men possess the physical powers (Includes but are not limited to, economic power, political power and freedom). Unlike the women who use their powers for good, the men in the novel exploit their power. For example, Nivea used her wealth and social standing as a means to help the poor and fight for women’s rights unlike Esteban who used the power he had in society to get what he want, bully his workers and do things in his favour. It is obvious through Allende’s writing and the characterisation of both the men and women in the book that there are gender roles set in place. Unfortunately, the gender roles force the women to conform to certain norms set in place by their situation and by society. Ferula (Esteban’s sister) for instance, finds herself an old maid as a result of years of devoting her life to Esteban and her mother when she fell ill. Esteban on the other hand had little to no obligations when it came to taking care of his mother because he was not born a female. The sexism is not only displayed through the character’s actions and interactions, it is also displayed through the almost set roles that looms over them. It seems as if the idea of women standing on equal footing as men is a joke, and it definately is to some men and women alike in the novel. The sad truth is that most of the women (refer to chapter four) had already resigned to the gender roles set in place for them. Women like Nivea, Clara and Blanca on the other hand knew what had to be done for change to happen and were more than willing to be a part of the revolution that would lead to equality and the liberation of women.

PAN’S LABYRINTH (Fantasy vs. Reality)


Pan’s Labrynth (El Laberinto del Fauno), directed by Guillermo del Toro plays with the theme of fantasy vs. reality. The boundary between these two themes seem almost non existent as portrayed through Ofelia, the eleven year old girl who still believes in fairytales regardless of her age and circumstance(s). Ofelia copes with the evil around her through the fantasy she creates for herself. That fantasy becomes a part of her reality and we see that through her actions and interactions with the other characters. The movie holds a sense of ambiguity that gives it’s viewers the chance to decide if what they’re looking at through Ofelia’s p.o.v is real or pure fantasy. A few scenes from the movie serves as contradictions that go against what we think we know to be real, for example, the mandrake root which represented Ofelia’s unborn brother. That contradiction, along with a few others, is what makes the film so engaging and worthwhile even if you, like Mercedes, don’t believe in fantasies anymore.



Hi, welcome to this blog site full of stuff I want to talk about (probably poetry).

Categories Uncategorized