26 November 2016
What Hood Are You From:” Setting in”-Isabel Allende’s THOTS
If we analyze the setting, the difference in social class, and create our own autobiographical parody we could receive a better understanding of The House of The Spirits. Settings tell the audience a lot about a book. It can give one explanations for why certain decision were made, it can influence how people live, and it has an impact on the culture of people. In this case the setting is in Latin America during a time of revolution. Just understanding the setting alone can help the reader grasp a better understanding of the book. In addition, a major theme in the book THOTS is the differences in social class. In THOTS, everyone is either part of the aristocrats or the peasants. This class distinction often results in conflict, and in the book, there’s a huge one. The last part of this paper is an autobiographical narrative told by me and incorporating some aspects of the book.
In the book, The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende the setting is important to better understanding the work as a whole. If we know the time period, the location, and the cultural environment we can receive a better understanding of the book. The House of the Spirits takes place in Chile in the 20th century and spans over a fifty-year time period. Knowing the time period gives us insight into what was happening in Latin America while the book was taking place. In 1939 there was a huge earthquake in Chile killing thousands of people. In Chapter 5 of Allende’s House of the Spirits there was an earthquake of this description. Clara used her magic abilities to foresee this earthquake, but nobody listened to her. Similarly, during this time period there were social uprisings and protests, and these are also consistent with the uprisings and protests in the novel. This further proves that the setting of the book is consistent with the setting of Chile. Drawing from these connections as an audience we have enough evidence to place the setting in Chile. Analyzing the life and the history of the people in Chile during this time period can help us better understand and relate to the characters in the novel because the people of Chile and the characters in the book will have the same life style, politics, and other things of the sort. In other words, the historical context of this book is important to the action and direction the story goes. Chile had a well-established social order. The wealthy aristocratic type usually lived in huge haciendas and these lasted generations. The lower class (peasants) grew to be a very loyal and submissive class to their patrons. They were virtually the equivalent of slaves. Latin America during this time period had many social upheavals and civil wars. In The House of the Spirits, the lower class is treated very harshly by their patrons and this is consistent with not only Chile’s culture but also Latin American culture in general. Esteban Trueba was a patron who often beat and raped woman and children, but they were still loyal because they needed him to survive. This is because before he got there they were in really bad shape. Knowing this we can understand the viewpoint of the lower-class characters in the book. We now know that they want change and to overthrow the socialist government. In addition, the geography, cultural environment, and climate also help us better understand the way of life of the people in the book. The geography determines how people get food. Chile is a very isolated from the rest of South America. Deserts, Mountains, and the Pacific Ocean make it relatively isolated. Chile is one of the longest countries in the world which accounts for its very diverse climate. The geography of the peasants plays a key part in the novel. The place where Esteban Trueba is patron is described as a wasteland, so I would say this is more desert type area. This is partly why Esteban is needed for the peasants to survive. In The House of the Spirits, the climate can control what people wear and eat, and the cultural geography can determine how people live. Most of the novel takes place in the big mansion on the corner. This is where the Trueba family lives. In this house, Clara raises her children and continues to thrive with magic. Since we are set 20th century Latin America Clara, her children, and her grandchildren are abused. Esteban Trueba is a very abusive husband. In these times magic was a way to cope with the reality of society. The term for this is magical realism. Clara practiced magic with three sisters throughout the novel. Whenever Clara decided to, she could isolate herself and focus on magic. I believe magic was Clara’s way of coping with the problems that had occurred throughout her life. Apart from the big house on the corner, some of the book took place in a school. Esteban’s granddaughter Alba and her boyfriend Miguel spent some of the novel protesting the new government change. As I previously stated Latin America was in a period of social uprisings and civil wars. Alba was caught and tortured which often happens to prisoners in war. So as shown the setting not only gives the reader insight on where and when the novel takes place, but also helps us better understand the characters, motives, decisions, and way of life.
A very apparent theme throughout this novel is the separation between the upper class and the lower class. Allende uses social class to influence the character’s actions throughout the novel. In the novel Esteban and his sister are able to classify themselves as upper class because of their famous family ties, the money Esteban made, and the land/businesses Esteban owns. Esteban’s mother’s family name was tied to wealthy and upper class people. Even though Esteban wasn’t very wealthy growing up he had ties to a good family name, which had potential. This is how things were in Latin American culture. It was all about your family ties. Upper class individuals in the novel often find themselves as political leaders. Clara and her family are also considered upper class, as opposed to the Garcia’s who represent the peasants of the land. The lower class were either farmers or peasants and they would build wealth for the upper class. There is a very thick line separating the upper and lower class. One distinction is the way women are treated. In chapter four the women of lower class laugh at the things Clara is saying. They explained that if they did and said what Clara had said their husbands would beat them. On the other side of things Nivea could go out and protest and never get a hand laid on her. Nivea was upper class and wealthy and had a husband who respected her. This might be because wealthy people have all they need to survive and have virtually no worries. People would have more freedom to do the things they like in wealthy families. Another big thing that separates class systems is education. In the book, Esteban tries to educate the people of lower class, but most of them remained clueless. The book even states that some of them just couldn’t grasp the idea that the whole world could be placed on a little map. In chapter 4 Ferula states “For god sake! It’s impossible to live among such uncouth people”! This is after Ferula had a nerve attack after seeing a rat and she insisted they move back to the city. This only proves the upper and lower classes live very different lives in very different living conditions. Something I found interesting is that the upper class (aristocrats) rule over the lower class (the peasants). Esteban Trueba was a Patron for some lower class peasants. People such as Esteban boss everyone around and will punish them if they do anything wrong. It’s very similar to slavery. Esteban treats the people of lower class extremely harsh. Often differences in class or social status lead to many conflicts. With different class standings come different political viewpoints and lifestyles. In regards to The House of the Spirits the lower-class rebels and revolts against the socialist government. To do this the lower class had to find a way to unite with one another. The way they did this was by song. In the novel Pedro Garcia used the story of the fox and the hens, told to him by his elders, to make a song for the uprising. Similarly, during this time period there were social uprisings and protests, and these are also consistent with the uprisings and protests in the novel. There was virtually no middle class described in the novel. There was either the wealthy aristocratic type, or the peasant farmer type, there was no evidence of an in between. Class and social status might have been the most important theme throughout the novel because it dictated how a person’s life would go. It virtually determined what job a person would end up doing, it determined where people would live, and it overall determined how their life would be. One aspect of social class was the life opportunities a person receives. Upper class will have many more opportunities than lower class citizens. In the novel Esteban Trueba and is family had many more opportunities throughout their life than Pedro Garcia did. Class differences also affect personality in different ways. Peasants or people in poverty are more likely to think stealing or crime is ok because that might be what they need to do to survive. Wealthy people tend not to stoop so low because they usually don’t have too. Therefore, we can conclude that there is a great diversity in behavior with regards to social status. To conclude, social status played a huge role throughout the novel and was often the source of conflict. Class in my opinion is the most important theme to analyze in this book because it can give you a sharp understanding of the characters and where they come from in the book.
Creative, semi-fictional, autobiographical parody:
Christmas break was finally here. The date was December 20th 2015 and it was a cold winter afternoon. Me, my mother, and three sisters went out to get our yearly ornaments from the Christmas store. Two of my sisters bought angel ornaments, and my other sister got a baby Jesus ornament. My mother glared at me angrily as I got a blue bud lite can ornament for the tree.
I laughed and with a grin on my face said “It symbolizes how times have change and shows that I’m now in college”. She sighed hard and proceeded to checkout.
We got home and prepared some delicious hot chocolate. My mom texted me urging me not to forget to get my three little sisters Christmas presents. On top of that I had to remember to get my two little brothers presents as well. My two little brothers didn’t live with me, both had different moms than me. We start decorating the tree and my little sisters gave mixed reactions. The two-year-old and the seven-year-old were very eager to put ornaments on the tree. However, my fifteen-year-old sister wanted to hurry and get it over with. Ultimately, we all had a good time decorating the Christmas tree.
While I was in college my mom gave my room to my oldest little sisters. So, I was forced to sleep on the couch. I was a little too big for the couch and my back pained me a lot. Even worse my dad came home at around 1 a.m. and started snoring so loud that I could hear it through my headphones. It was like this all the way till the month of January. My mother and father were very curious on what my Jan term would be. I kindly explained to them that I was going to Chile in South America to stay with my pen pal Alba Garcia for a whole month. My parents were very worried, but knew that I was a man now and they knew that I could take care of myself. My dad worked for American Airlines at the time so I flew with American Airlines. It was a very long flight and I was a little nervous. I had never been out of the country before. All these thoughts went through my head. Lucky Alba and her family could speak English. When I got off the airplane, I was greeted by Alba and her mother Blanca. However, I didn’t call her mom Blanca I called her Mrs. Trueba. Mrs. Trueba informed me that we had quite a drive before we arrived at their house.
It was kind of awkward most of the drive, but then I started to feel welcome. Alba started telling me about her life and school. She told me she really liked this guy named Miguel. I told her College in America was great, and I told her I was having an amazing time. She didn’t seem to care to much about American culture, so I didn’t say too much.
Hours went by and we ended up making it to their house. Their house was huge compared to all the other homes around. I was astonished. The house was on the corner of the street. I looked in excitement and yelled “Alba I didn’t know you were rich”! Alba said her grandfather was currently out of town. When I walked in the house Alba and Mrs. Trueba showed me around. They showed me to my room and it was a great size. I met an older woman and I was told to call her grandma Clara. It seemed extremely weird calling her grandma Clara, but Alba said it was fine. In the morning, I woke up and ate some food that I can’t quite describe. All I knew is that it was delicious. Alba said that I was allowed to go to school with her, but I declined partly because I only spoke English and partly because I wanted her to get a chance to hook up with Miguel (the boy she likes). I was left in the house with her mother and grandmother until Alba got home later at five. I spent the first couple of hours talking to my friends and parents and posting pictures on social media. Alba’s grandmother Clara started to tell me stories of when she was a kid. They were all very interesting. There was a wide variety of stories that she told, but perhaps the most interesting had to do with her older sister Rosa. Clara said she was called “Rosa the beautiful”. From what Clara told me I wanted to meet Rosa, but Clara said she passed a long time ago. Mrs. Trueba was astonished to hear grandma Clara talking to me. At first I was very confused, but eventually Mrs. Trueba told me that her mom had a spell and hasn’t spoken to anyone for the last five months.
Some days passed and me and Alba were getting to know each other very well. She told me how she started dating Miguel and I was very happy for her. Towards the end of the month she told me I should leave soon because her grandfather would be coming home soon. However, her grandfather came home earlier than expected. This is as far as I will tell because the sequences of events that happened after this I don’t ever want to repeat. Let’s just say some of the things her grandfather did would have him in prison for life back in the U.S. I started to understand why grandma Clara didn’t speak and why Alba wanted me to get ready to leave. However, Alba’s grandfather paid me no mind. I was still treated well as a guest in his house. I thanked the family for having me, and I returned home. When I returned home, many people asked me how the trip was and countless answers ran through my head, but I just replied with a simple “it was good”. Currently, it is 2016 and I will not be traveling for this Jan Term because the airports have become very packed due to the recent presidential election.
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Ko, Nusta Carranza. “Cementing Class Differences: Globalization in Peru.” Perspectives on Global Development and Technology 12.3 (2013): 411-26. Web.
Andersen, Robert, and Josh Curtis. “Social Class, Economic Inequality, and the Convergence of Policy Preferences: Evidence from 24 Modern Democracies.” Canadian Review of Sociology/Revue Canadienne De Sociologie 52.3 (2015): 266-88. Web.
Corvalan, Alejandro, and Paulo Cox. “Class-Biased Electoral Participation: The Youth Vote in Chile.” Latin American Politics and Society 55.3 (2013): 47-68. Web.