House Of The Spirits Essay, Research Paper
In Allende’s The House of the Spirits, Esteban Trueba is the principal male character. During the course of the novel, Trueba increases his power in the world as he progresses in status from a conservative landowner to a powerful senator. He is tyrannical, treating his family members and the tenants on his family hacienda, Tres Mar?as, like subjects rather than intimate community. The basis for most of Trueba’s actions is the desire for power, control, and wealth, and he pursues these things at any cost, disregarding his emotional decline and the effects of his actions upon the people in his life.
The most brutal display of Trueba’s power are the many rapes he performs in Las Tres Mar?as: “…not a girl passed from puberty to adulthood that he did not subject to the woods, the riverbank, or the wrought-iron bed…he began to chase after those from the neighboring haciendas, take them in the wink of an eye, anywhere he could find a place in the fields.” (63) Trueba rationalizes away his guilt, absolves his sins by “harden[ing] his soul and silenc[ing] his conscience with the excuse of progress” (63). His actions, however, come back to haunt him later in the novel, when the product of one of his rapes, his illegitimate grandson, Esteban Garcia, becomes a leader in the military regime and captures his beloved Alba, who is tortured and raped by Garcia’s men.
Trueba also desires control over his wife, daughter, and granddaughter. He wants “control over that undefined and luminous material that lay with her [Clara] and that escaped him” (96). In addition, when Clara stated, “You can’t keep the world from changing, Esteban. If it’s not Pedro Tercero Garc?a, someone else will bring new ideas to Tres Mar?as,” (170) Trueba “brought his cane down on the soup tureen his wife had in her hands and knocked it to the floor, splattering its contents.” (170) Thus, any opposition to his role in the family or Tres Mar?as is quickly appeased by his uncontrollable fits of rage. In the case of Blanca and her encounters with Pedro Tercero, Trueba is prepared to do anything to keep his family in control and protect its outward image to society even if it consists of inflicting bodily harm upon his loved ones. “When he saw his daughter, Esteban Trueba was unable to restrain his evil character and he charged her with his horse, whip in the air, beating her mercilessly, lash upon lash, until the girl fell flat and rigid to the ground.” (199) However, Trueba can’t control Alba as much as the others and he tries to rationalize her actions when she participates in political activities: “she took it into her head to help fugitives get asylum in foreign embassies, something she did without thinking, I’m sure” (418). Trueba can’t understand thinking from the heart, until he must rescue Alba from the militants and experience it firsthand.
Trueba succeeds in his terms of wealth and power, and “becomes the most successful patron in the region” (62). There are many positive aspects to his success. He improves the standard of living of his tenants, provides food and shelter, “built brick houses for his workers, hired a teacher for the school,” and offers medical care. Objectively and intellectually, these things are wonderful for the tenants, but Trueba denies the tenants their dignity and humanity while he raises their standard of living. He meets the rational and physical needs of the tenants, but disregards their emotional needs, dignity, and equality as fellow human beings. In his need to control, he censors the tenant’s education “for fear they would fill their minds with ideas unsuited to their station and condition” (59). In addition, he controls the way they spend their money by introducing a voucher system which “at first functioned as a form of credit, but gradually became a substitute for legal tender” (60). These positive aspects of Trueba’s successful business ventures and politics allow his family and tenants to live comfortably.
Evidence of Trueba’s emotional decline is prominent in that as his power increases “his bad temper becomes legend, and grows so exaggerated that it even makes him uncomfortable” (63). The source of his anger may be traced back to his mother according to the theory of Carl Jung, one of the most respected and recognized psychologists of all time. Trueba “had never really loved his mother or felt at ease in her presence” (71) and she had “peopled his childhood with prohibitions and terrors and weighed his manhood with responsibilities and guilt” (72). Like his relationship with his mother, Trueba’s anima (a female-like projection used by male egos to hold on ties to their mother) is underdeveloped. As a result, his temper is legendary; he is described by Allende as follows: “his most salient trait was his moodiness and a tendency to grow violent and lose his head, a characteristic he had had since childhood, when he used to throw himself on the floor foaming at the mouth, so furious that he could scarcely breath, and kicking like one possessed by the devil” (41).
Trueba is successful politically and financially, but he suffers emotionally. As Trueba’s wealth and power grow, his relationships with his family members and tenants crumble. His failure to achieve a balance between his priorities and the needs of other people causes many disturbances in the social interactions throughout his life. Trueba attempts to solve many problems through the use of his uncontrollable fits of rage, and this is his ultimate downfall. Trueba is unable to comprehend the effects of his actions and he refuses to realize his emotional decline, resulting in his long and miserable life until he dies in the arms of his granddaughter, Alba, at an old age.