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.

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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.

Another strong theme that comes through both the novels is the patriarchal dominance in these societies. The physical violence, worship of masculinity, machismo and a sense of honor and duty that is so evident in many male characters is an indication of a society that is headed by patriarchs and where women aren’t entitled to their basic rights. In both “Chronicles of a Death Foretold” and “The House of the Spirits”, this theme of man’s domination over women, through unseemly means, is found everywhere. In many instances women were treated as mere objects, whose worth is determined solely by their sexual conduct. For example, Angela Vicario was rejected as “damaged goods” by her newly wed husband, when he comes to learn of that she is not a virgin anymore. This points to a social norm that considers human beings as commodities, especially the lot of women.

The oppression and abuse of women being one of the underlying themes of the two novels, the characters of Angela Vicario and Transito Soto, though play a small part in the overall plot of the novels, serve to represent the state of women in general in the backstreets of third world Latin America. This theme is made all the more poignant by the use of appropriate imagery and a flowing style of prose by the two authors. For instance, in “The House of the Spirits”, passages such as the following support the made assertion : “slowly becoming a barbarian,”, “sorrow, blood, and love”, “I didn’t dare leave my house, where there was clearly a need for a man among so many hysterical women.”, etc. Similarly, Marquez employs, the following phrases to portray the male dominated society in which Angela Vicario struggles for a living: “in the depths of her heart she wanted them to kill him”, “I’ve been going from town to town looking for someone to marry.”, “Bayardo San Roman was going to marry whomever he chose.”, “did away with my generation’s virginity.”, etc.

In summary, both the literary masterpieces – “The House of the Spirits” and “Chronicles of a Death Foretold” – written by Isabelle Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez respectively illustrate a broader point through the fringe characters of Angela Vicario and Transito Soto. Though both Vicario and Soto play only a small part in the overall scheme of the plot, they represent a wider phenomenon, that of the treatment and status of women in the social context of these novels. Their characters help illustrate the nature of a male-dominated society in which women were sexually and emotionally abused and were treated as mere objects. To this extent, both these characters serve their authors well, as they were employed in the narrative in the context of sexual and emotional abuse incurred to them. They also hence play a significant part in setting up the subsequent developments and the eventual outcome of the story.

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Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits and Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Chronicles of a Death Foretold. (2019, Feb 12). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/paper-on-isabel-allendes-the-house-of-the-spirits-and-gabriel-garcia-marquez-chronicles-of-a-death-foretold/

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