“The Spirit of Women”: Magic Realism and Resistance in Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits
Magic realism is a literary technique that combines the normal and the mundane with the abnormal and the fantastical in a realistic setting where people perceive everything as ordinary. Authors have been using this literary technique since the early 20th century; however, people did not widely discuss magic realism until the Latin American literary boom in the 1950s through the 1970s. During the boom, many authors used magic
realism to portray social concerns, political injustices, and various types of oppression. While Isabel Allende incorporates the common theme of political oppressions, she set herself apart by using magic realism to portray feminist matters regarding patriarchal oppression. Drawing from the critic, Wendy B. Faris, this thesis portrays how Allende uses Faris’s five elements of magic realism in her novel The House of the Spirits, 1982. Faris’s five elements are the irreducible elements – the things and events that are perceived as abnormal; the merging realms – the interconnection between the living and the spirits; the disruption of time, space, and identity – the multivocal interpretations of dimensions and identity; the phenomenal world – the existential world; and the unsettling doubt – the way readers react to magic realism. This thesis examines how Allende uses each of these elements to expose and challenge political and patriarchal oppression within Chile during the 20th century.