House of the Sprits written by the Chilean author Isabel Allende reflects the political situation of Chile as told through the journal entries of Clara. How do Federico Garcia Lorca and Isabel Allende present the mother figure and what is the significance? Although House of the Spirits and House of Bernarda are both female dominated books with a similar cultural background, their portrayals of the mother figures are extremely different. Bernarda from In House of Bernarda Alba by Federico Garcia, the mother is presented as domineering tyrant who is ignorant of her daughters’ needs, who is unfit as a nurturing mother.
In House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, although Clara the main mother figure is presented as distant and is if in a “world of her own”. Both authors present their mothers through tradition, the relationships they have with their children and as representatives of different political beliefs; Bernarda as a fascist ruler and Clara as a liberal. In both texts the mothers’ ability to be nurturing are seen through their relationships with their children. There is a strong connection between Clara and her daughter, Blanca.
Despite the grotesque images of Blanca after her birth, in which she is described as a “cruel joke” House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende, 101 Blanca is an “uglier, hairier child than usual” Allende, 101, Clara continues to show her maternal instinct as an archetypal mother to a certain extent. After the birth of her daughter, Clara “discovered the joy of being alive” Allende, 101 and “went everywhere with her little girl” Allende. 101. Allende manages to gain reader sympathy for Clara by making her have many aspects of the archetypal mother. However, Bernarda’s distant relationship with Adela shows does not create reader sympathy.
Allende also uses diction to present the mother figures, seen as she mainly uses dialogue to emphasize conflict or other forms of tension. However, the dialogue used between the females and by mostly by Clara is more peaceful and understanding which emphasizes her maternal feelings. As opposed to Clara’s daughter, Bernarda’s daughters reveal that Bernarda is unfit as a nurturing mother, revealing Lorca’s satire of the maternal female stereotype. Her daughters were always were both physically and verbally “always arguing” House of Bernarda Alba, Federico Garcia, 183.
Also, Bernarda’s unstable relationship with her daughters reflects Lorca’s satire of the mother-child and political relationship, since Bernarda is seen as a mother and as a dictator. Her failure as a mother also shows that Through tradition the mother figures are also presented. Bernarda is focused on keeping tradition and enforcing her views to any extent. This behavior of hers is representative of the Fascist leaders in Spain, who also control the lives of their people. Bernarda became blind and ignorant of her daughters’ needs by keeping them under her fascist rule.
Throughout the play, the setting has been very lifeless which is shown through the lack of extravagant furniture and the white walls. This contrasts to the house on the corner which had many passages that reflects the complexity of Clara’s character. White is symbolic of purity and cleanliness and emptiness. All of these features are descriptive of the life the daughters of Bernarda are forced to lead. In fact, the family name Alba means white. White is a very traditional colour, ironically the frequent use of white in the setting reflects the fascist rule Bernarda has kept her daughters under.
Also, the white colour is a sharp contrast to the black dress of the women in mourning as they enter the stage. The white of the walls serves to exaggerate the black of their dresses. It seems to the reader that they are only wearing the mourning shrouds to observe tradition and that it is not really reflective of their actual feelings. Through the complexity of the mothers and how nurturing they are either reader judgment or sympathy is created. The reader feels no sympathy towards Bernarda since she refuses to accept the truth and remains ignorant until the end of the play. Bernarda gains no insight towards the end of the play.
Her blindness still causes her to ignore her daughter’s death but focus more on keeping tradition, through her repetition of “ring the bells twice, my daughter died a virgin” Lorca, 211. It is clear to the reader that Adela did not die a virgin and since Bernarda refuses to accept the fact, causes the reader to judge her. Bernarda’s lack of motherly affection causes Adela to rebel and leads to her eventual death. However, since House of Bernarda Alba is a short play, Bernarda is not that physiologically developed as the characters in House of the Spirits, therefore the reader does not know what had affected her to behave in such a manner.
If Lorca had given some background on Bernarda the reader may have felt a different way. Clara on the other hand while being lost in the realm of the supernatural she is able to support her child and give her the ability to nurture her own daughter as well. However, because Clara is constantly “in a world of her own” and does not pay attention to the things happening around her, this causes the reader to judge her, creating reader tension. Although she may not be as nurturing, she does provide her children with emotional support.
As opposed to House of the Bernarda Alba, the reader knows Clara’s background and why she is constantly lost in her own world, therefore reader conflict is created. The effects of Clara”s death emphasize how important she has been even at the moments when her presence was not actively felt. The “wilting of the flowers” House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende, 280 and the death of the plants represent her subtle presence as the life force of the family. The description of Clara during her life suggests that she herself probably did not remember to water the plants on a regular basis.
Clara did however talk to the plants and flowers and cared for their well being. Clara had cared for all living things, although she may have temporarily forgotten, about them she still provided them with care. The deterioration of the house as a whole after Clara”s passing demonstrates, how nurturing her presence was. In each of the books the characters represent a different political opinion. Bernarda and Clara represent opposite opinions of the political system. Bernarda’s domineering tyrannical nature represents the fascistic leader of Spain, while Clara represents the more liberal opinion.
The oppression of her daughters’ causes them to rebel and although there are no men introduced in the play, they become dependent on them. Also, since Bernarda behaves like a man it could explain why the daughters’ become so dependent and afraid of men. They are too afraid to rebel against their mother, other than Adela, because they have become dependent on her wealth. On the other hand, in House of the Spirits Clara is seen as the liberal, rebel figure. Her “refusal to speak” Allende, 28, which was first motivated by fear, is seen as her assertion of her individuality.
Silence is her form of passive aggressiveness and a method of inner reflection and healing, although it is not seen as normal it is a form of her rebellious character. In conclusion House of Bernarda Alba and House of the Spirits provide the reader with different roles mothers can play and the effects that they have on their children. By the end of the play Bernarda is still ignorant of her daughters’ needs, despite the fact that one of her daughter’s had died because of her ignorance. She gains no insight towards the end of play which provides no hope for the reader.
The ending seems to be unresolved because Bernarda continues to be a repressive force within the household, as seen in when the play ends with her yelling “silence” House of Bernarda Alba, Federico Garcia, 211 showing that there is still chaos within in the household. However, in House of the Spirits, despite that Clara had died before the book had ended there is a resolution, the reader is shown that all conflicts are resolved and that there is hope for the characters. The House of the Spirits mainly depicts the growth of the feminine consciousness over many generations.
Allende’s mother figures do not fit society’s stereotypical expectations and they are uniquely strong. They are able to emotionally and spiritually provide for their children and also are able to gain insight on their lives by escaping society’s harshness through their relationships. As Erich Fromm once said “the mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in a sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother”s side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother, and to become fully independent. “