Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Chronicles of a Death Foretold

World Literature Essay: “In what ways is the behavior of Transito Soto in Isabel Allende’s « The House of the Spirits » and Angela Vicario in Gabriel Garcia Marquez « Chronicles of a Death Foretold », significant to the development and outcome of the story ?”

The character of Angela Vicario in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Chronicles of a Death Foretold” as well as the character of Transito Soto in Isabelle Allende’s “The House of the Spirits” plays a crucial role in setting up the atmosphere and theme of the respective novels. Although both these characters are not the lead protagonists in the plot, they play an important role in directing the narrative and adding culturally relevant angles to the works. The following passages are an attempt in comparing the two characters and bringing out the salient similarities and differences as well as the roles they play in the artistry of the authors.

In the first chapter of “Chronicles of a Death Foretold”, Angela Vicario is introduced in the story in the context of her marriage to Bavardo San Roman. Marquez associates this marriage to Maria Alejandrina Cervantes, a respected local prostitute, thus: “Santiago….recovering from the wedding revels in the apostolic lap of Maria Alejandrina Cervantes…”. This points to the local tradition of prostitution, where it is not deemed unrespectable or undignified for men to take the services of a prostitute. While the social milieu was early twentieth century and late nineteenth century, these digressions were still accepted and were considered within the bounds of local social norms. The character of Transito Soto in “The House of the Spirits” serves the author in establishing this state of gender relations in the particular society. For example, Allende introduces Transito Soto in the context of expounding on the generosity of Esteban Trueba. By Esteban Trueba’s generous offering of money to the prostitute Transito Soto, the author is implying the complexities of Trueba’s personality. For instance, while Trueba is generally perceived as a ruthless and often violent politician, he has a softer side to him too. The same person, one who had committed crimes against women, including rape and parental neglect, had shown glimpses of his softer side, in reference to Soto. Both the novels being statements and portraits of the third world societies, the apparent contradictions in the personalities of characters is a favorite theme. Both Marquez and Allende employ the interactions with a prostitute to explicate the subtleties and intricacies that constitute the persona of some of the lead characters in the stories.

Marquez’s deployment of the character of Angela Vicario in illustrating the humane side of the apparently decadent act is seen again during Santiago’s show of disgust when he witnesses the slaughtering of a rabbit. A man who had seen many deaths and so much violence cringing at the sight of an animal’s death might seem odd and strange. But as mentioned before, it is these contradictions that add flourish to the central characters of Marquez’s works; more so in “The Chronicles of a Death Foretold”. The same inference is applicable to “The House of the Spirits” as well.

It should be emphasized that both Marquez and Allende are not trying to vindicate the state of affairs that they depict. Without taking a position on the morality of the acts of sexual digression, the authors leave it to the readers to decide for themselves if such behavior is within the confines of the accepted social code. For one thing, Esteban Trueba, in the context of whom, we learn of Transito Soto, is shown devoid of devotion and loyalty to his marital partner. To the contrary, “sex” as opposed to “intimacy” is what he is after and this is evident from his unscrupulous availing of prostitutes such as Toto, in the absence of his wife. The subsequent lack of drama about this disloyalty to his wife, though hurtful to the latter, is quite surprising. This is due to the social milieu that the novel is set. In sharp contrast to Soto, Esteban’s wife Clara, is a highly spiritual and mystical person. For her, the platonic side of human relationships is more important than the material aspects, the latter being the basic philosophy of her husband. By portraying a highly varied couple struggling to keep their marriage afloat, Allende is attempting to illustrate the essential predicament of the human condition in a culturally uncertain third world society. This point is more profoundly stated by Marquez as well. For instance, by explicating through the character of Santiago, Marquez is arriving at the aforementioned point on the human condition, namely, while Santiago might be a flawed, complicated and complex personality partially liable for the tragic events that were to unfold, his story is worthy of note as well.

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