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Women's Roles

English Group Proj: House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende

Livy Crim

on 24 September 2014

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Transcript of Women's Roles

Clara - (Allende 90)
shows that the women of the time were not given many opportunities regarding marriage or of their future in general, so Clara, being a typical woman of her time despite her free spirit nature, decides to marry Esteban without love
Blanca - (Allende 215)
this shows that even though Blanca was in love with Pedro Tercero, she married Jean because it was required of her by her father, which was also a depiction of the lack of rights women had and the role that they were forced to assume when they reached a certain age
Alba - (Allende 301 ) (Allende 324)
Alba represents women who were able to experience more rights, which is shown through her ability to attend school and be a part of the revelution, but it also shows that the sexism was still very much prevalent when she was dismissed for her gender
Overall Impact of the Motif on the Novel
Allende's Point of View
-Women represent the past, present, and future
~Each women represents their own generation
~Each generation is stronger than the last
Clara->Independent: "Esteban swore that sooner or later she would come to love him as he needed to be loved, even if it meant that he had to resort to extreme measures....Clara's impudent and nonchalant sensuality was also not enough for him" (96).
Blanca->self sacrificing: "The damage to the door was impossible to hide, and she realized that when her husband saw it she would have to give some rational explanation, but she consoled herself with the argument that as mistress of the house she had a right to know what was going on beneath her roof" (259).
Alba-> Loyal, very active in her choices

Historical Context as it Relates to the Novel
-approx. 1920's-late 1970's
-visible timeline of women's advancements
-Nivea's work towards female suffrage
-Chilean women earned the right to vote in municipal elections in 1931, and the right to vote in national elections in 1948
-1949: Amanda Labarca, a prominent Chilean feminist, selected to head the UN Commission on the Status of Women (Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
"Chilean women had arrived as citizens of their country and the world"
-we read about women's involvement in political and social aspects of Chilean life (such as Alba's participation in the student protests or Blanca's successful hiding of Pedro Tercero)
-women still were exposed to societal pressures of traditional gender roles and, similarly, the burdens of misogyny (as evident in the novel)--Allende puts emphasis on women's successes DESPITE these tribulations
-momentum of women's advancement
Livy Crim, Lauren Biesen, Sofia Grimsgard, Taylor Kovats, Madi Walters
The Motif of Women's Roles on The House of the Spirits
Allende's Point of View

~No male dominates any of their lives
~The change from Clara->Alba
-Each women embraces the gentle stereotype
-Allende is trying to show that women have an innate sense of preserving their own dignity within the family. Even though they endure behavior they do not approve of it, they refuse to act in ways that condemn their own men.
EX: Alba "disrupting" protest

"Women have always been courageous... They are always fearless when protecting their children and in the last century they have been fearless in the fight for their rights." -Isabel Allende
Timeline of Women's Rights in Chile (Historical Context)
1910-onset of feminist mobilization
1920s-women endorsed suffrage without aggressively pursuing it
1930s-women's rights movements was firmly in hands of middle class professional women politically aligned with the reformist Popular Front coalition
1934-literate Chilean women were given the right to vote in municipal elections
1935-an umbrella organization for several women's groups (MEMCH) was founded to campaign for complete legal equality of men and women
1930s-40s-discourse emphasized women's equality and political rights were the cornerstone of democracy
1941-president introduced bill on women's suffrage to the Chilean Congress
1944-Chilean Federation of Women's Institutions

"She was a tormented soul. She took pleasure in humiliation and in menial tasks, and since she believed that she would get to heaven by suffering terrible injustice, she was content to clean her mother's ulcerated legs, washing her and sinking deeply into her stench and wretchedness, even peering into her bedpan" (Allende 42).
"Nobody respects you. But why give a man something it's so hard to earn? In that respect women are really thick. They're the daughters of rigidity. They need a man to feel secure but they don't realize that the one thing they should be afraid of is men. They don't know how to run their lives. They have to sacrifice themselves for the sake of someone else" (Allende 117).
The setting of the book takes place between the 1920s-1970s, which nearly directly corresponds with the women's movement, and they gained a majority of their basic rights during the 1930s and 40s, the height of women's suffrage occurred in the 20s also.
"At times Clara would accompany her mother and two or three of her suffragette friends on their visits to factories, where they would stand on soapboxes and make speeches to the women who worked there while the foremen and bosses, snickering and hostile, observed them from a prudent distance" (Allende 81)
a vast majority of the conflict that takes place in the book has to do with political wars or conflict, so when women fight for their equality amongst the warfare, it contributes to the reason behind war and war itself.
" "Since when has a man not beaten his wife? If he doesn't beat her, its either because he doesn't love her or because he isn't a real man. Since when is a man's paycheck or the fruit of the earth or what the chickens lay shared between them, when everybody knows he is the one in charge? Since when has a woman ever done the same things as a man?" " (Allende 106)
"He wanted her to tell him everything and to own nothing he had not given her with his own two hands. He wanted her to be completely dependent" (Allende 127).
"They chose the prettiest, smartest girls from the best families to be sent to the convent. They shave the heads of the novitiates, poor girls, and set them up for a lifetime of baking cakes and taking care of other people's old folks" (Allende 142).
"He felt twice as large, twice as heavy, and a thousand times stronger, but he knew he was defeated because of the tenderness he felt and his desire to protect her" (Allende 242).
"He had finally come to accept - beaten into it by the tide of new ideas - that not all women were complete idiots, and he believed that Alba, who was too plain to attract a well-to-do husband, could enter one of the professions and make her living like a man" (Allende 301).
For real change, we need feminine energy in the management of the world. We need a critical number of women in positions of power, and we need to nurture the feminine energy in men.
-Isabel Allende
Overall Effect on the Novel
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