The House of Spirits is a widely recognized book about feminism and not letting the ‘man’ hold you down. However, I feel that the book can very differently interpreted. We assume every female character in the book is a die-hard feminist however, there is one character who while had her moments I feel was not a feminist. Clara del Valle was a silent woman who was very in tune with herself, other people’s feelings be damned. While these actions were never intentional, they effected almost every character in the book. Be Clara falls into her silence due to pregnancy, or anger with Esteban, she did it in defense, never to ‘right the man’. This is not a topic I could find many if any backing too, just people placing Clara in the group due to who her family was. I want to explain why I feel Clara del Valle was indeed, NOT a feminist.
Clara was a silent yet steady character for the whole story, her presence known in almost all of the characters she met due to a lasting impact the clairvoyant had on those around her. She was kind and caring to those who showed her the same respect, or that respect to the others around her. When Clara fell silent the first time it was due to watching her deceased sister be fondled by a physician’s assistant. This is my first argument that Clara was never a feminist. If Clara was a feminist, and held those values as a young child, why did she fall silent instead of speaking out about the occurrences she saw? My Next point is the next time Clara spoke, offering almost demanding, that she be married to Esteban. No woman who holds the normal values a feminist’s holds would offer herself to any man. As a final example on things Clara did to give evidence she was never a feminist, was when her and her husband fell out of sorts, and she fell silent once more. This to me was a huge showing of Clara’s true feelings
I feel Clara’s silence was brought on by a need to protect herself in a way she felt nobody else could. After witnessing her sister be violated in a way that no one could ever take back or apologize for, think of how scared she was from that incident. How she chose to coup was to cut off her voice, cut off any chance of having to relive those moments through words. She does this one many occasions too. Such as when she falls pregnant with Blanca. To handle the stress and the pain of being a new mother on her way, and so very close she was, to birthing a child can put a lot of stress on any ones mind. She blocks off her voice to silence herself and the world around her. I don’t believe this to be sticking it to the man. I believe it to be Clara protecting herself.
Now I can give one instance when maybe her falling into one of her episodes may have looked like sticking it to her husband, Esteban. Now while she may have given scenes of feminism she was once more, standing her ground and protecting her. When Esteban would no longer listen she took away the things she knew he cherished, Her voice, her body, even her kooky happenings with the clairvoyant’s events. By completely cutting him off of any action to do with her, that may have been feminism in its rawest form, however it once again goes to show the length at which she’s going to go to hold together her soul, her heart, her mind. I feel Clara avoided these feelings because she didn’t see the point in having friends if the undead spoke to her. Why bother with ever feelings vulnerable or scared again when you could cut yourself off from the world and be alone to any thoughts.
With both sides in the open I feel people can begin to see Clara for who she was, a strong independent woman, who didn’t need to prove that she didn’t need no man. She was strong and while her couping mechanisms had similarities to how a feminist worked, I don’t feel the intent behind them is to be equal to Esteban, I think its more so to do with being equal to herself. Maybe if she had grown from what happened to her sister she would a very strong del Valle feminist, just like her mother. I also think that exploring her powers gave her an insight that lead her to a higher plane than being equal to any male. Clara was a wonderful example of how you can stand up for yourself, but not be a feminist.
García-Johnson, Ronie-Richele. “The Struggle for Space: Feminism and Freedom in ‘The House of the Spirits.’” Revista Hispánica Moderna, vol. 47, no. 1, 1994, pp. 184–193. www.jstor.org/stable/30203383
Frick, Susan R. “Memory And Retelling: The Role Of Women In La Casa De Los Espíritus.” Journal Of Iberian & Latin American Studies 7.1 (2001): 27-41. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.
Jenkins, Ruth Y. “Authorizing Female Voice and Experience: Ghosts and Spirits in Kingston’s The Woman Warrior and Allende’s The House of the Spirits.” MELUS, vol. 19, no. 3, 1994, pp. 61–73. www.jstor.org/stable/467872.
Levine, Linda Gould. “Weaving Life into Fiction.” Latin American Literary Review, vol. 30, no. 60, 2002, pp. 1–25. www.jstor.org/stable/20119878.