The Character of Esteban in The House of the Spirits
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The Character of Esteban in The House of the Spirits
Allende portrays Esteban as having a strong and harsh character in the novel, The House of the Spirits. Yet, after leaving, his mother and sister, and starting a new and independent life, Esteban changes much. For the first time he is successful and wealthy. He feels as if he has no problems, mainly because he does not have a family to weigh him down.
Trueba's move to Three Marias seems to appease his hunger temporarily, before his monstrous, demanding, and ever growing needs overwhelms him. The type of lifestyle achieved by Esteban Trueba in Three Marias far surpassed that of living with his mother and sister, however only brief moments of satisfaction are incurred. These, previously mentioned, moments created a hunger for perfection and greed that would continue perpetuate at any cost. Receiving a letter from Ferula brings back memories for Esteban of his sad life with her and his mother, which forces him to endure his memories of poverty and pain. He even remembers the smell of medicince, which had encompassed their home. These memories force Esteban to reflect on the reasons why he left them. He reminisces on that portion of his life, occupied by the deterioration of his family. Ferula endured many burdens as well, due to their father's drinking, then his death, their mother's age, her chronic sicknesses, and Esteban's childhood care. A direct result of these chaotic years is the siblings inability to relate. When Esteban bought a luxury, an elaborate coffee with his money she scolded him for "spending Mama's medicine money on [his] private little whims" (Allende 43). Eventually Esteban tires of this oppressive way of life and goes to search for a "destiny that was bright, free, and full of promise" (Allende 44).
At Tres Marias he hopes to find his Eden. All this cargo from his past is called to his attention by the letter he receives from Ferula. The letter does result in inflicting guilt on Esteban, for his lack of morals and complete selfishness. Ferula tells Esteban, in the letter, that their mother wants to see her son again before she dies. "Esteban had never really loved his mother or felt at ease in her presence," but he knew that resisting this visit to pay his last respects would be unethical (Allende 71).
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Spirits Way Of Life First Time Chronic Cargo Allende Tires Siblings Luxury Hopes
Visiting "this woman who was always present in his nightmares," was unavoidable: death is final and feelings are not(Allende 72). Ferula never enjoys the pleasure in her life, part of Esteban's dilemma before moving to Three Marias. Yet, Esteban hopes to avoid his kin for the rest of their lives. Esteban should not dwell on his family, especially when everything in his life has gone considerably better without them. As any family member will attest, there are always strong family ties regardless of ones denial. The temporary feelings of a son will eventually leave and regret will occur, for not visiting, writing or caring while a loved one was still available. For Esteban, his move to Three Marias simplified his life, he had no family problems, no financial problems, and he believed that he was content often. He was practically a king, do what he pleases on his land with many uneducated servants, meaning free labor.
In Three Marias people wait on him, he has wealth and unbridled freedom. None of these luxuries came into Esteban's dreams until he moved there. He likes Transito Soto and lends her money to start a new life for herself, away from the brothels. This was one of the few times throughout the book in which Esteban is philanthropic. After so many grinding and sorrowful years, the opportunity Esteban has to meet new people and thrive in a new town temporarily appeased him. Esteban comes to believe that the first time he sat down in the first class car of the train that being first was his pursuit of happiness and independence.
Presumably for Esteban Trueba, marriage, children, and control, all found at Three Marias, would ensure his happiness. Despite the prosperity which Esteban achieved at Three Marias, he would still remain an abrasive man who could not accept failure or weakness. Prosperity, women, children, and wealth would never compensate for his eternal bitterness that could be attributed to his childhood and early adult years.
Esteban Trueba is the only character to survive the course of the entire novel, so as you can imagine, he's a pretty big deal. Because Esteban Trueba lives such a long time, he's the character we see change the most. This leads some to consider him the hero of the novel. (See if you agree with our assessment of who the protagonist is in our discussion of "Character Roles.")
From a hardworking little boy with wounded pride, we see Esteban grow to be the lord and master of his domain, wealthy beyond his wildest dreams and absolutely certain of the correctness of his convictions. Year after increasingly miserable year, Esteban Trueba continues to get what he thinks he wants while never managing to actually be happy. This probably has something to do with the fact that he drives away all of his family members and spews a lot of ill will that makes most people hate him. Finally, and somewhat miraculously, Esteban sees the error of his ways, makes peace with his family, and dies in bed with a smile on his face.
Esteban's Alternative Perspective
Esteban Trueba's character provides a balance to all the strong feminine characters in this novel. His masculinity and conservative politics are the yang to Clara and Alba's yin. And while he makes a lot of bad decisions, the fact that many of the passages are written from his perspective allows us to get inside his head and at least understand why he makes them. So, while we might look with horror on his acts of violence against family members and tenants, we come to understand his rage as a product of the humiliation he suffered during his miserable childhood. While we may not go so far as to sympathize with the misguided old man, we do feel a little bit sorry for him. And when he loses his wife and when his son is murdered thanks to his own misguided political tampering, we get why Alba can simultaneously blame her grandfather and want to run up and hug him.Esteban Trueba Timeline