Isabel Allende’s The House of The Spirits: Examination of Buddhism and Marxism Through Character Development

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Within Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits Marxism is a significant theme and the

political ideology held by many of the characters. These same characters tend to exhibit traits that

correlate with the Buddhist belief system through reflection of aspects of Gautama Buddha’s life within

their own. The characters accept the ‘Four Truths’ - most notably that suffering is an ingrained part of

existence - and that there is an escape to suffering. Through this it is shown that Marxism and

Buddhism share common elements; the relation between the two is reflected by characters following

the Marxist doctrine within The House of the Spirits.

Characters from the aforementioned doctrine have a propensity to have similar life experiences

to Gautama Buddha. One such character is Jamie, he struggles throughout the story with the contrast

between his Marxist views and his upper class family. This eventually leads him to abandon his fathers

surname “he wanted to change his last name...the longer trusted him...”(Allende 228). This is

reminiscent of Siddhartha Gautama who was born a prince but upon seeing human suffering abandoned

his family to lead an acetic life style in the hopes of finding an end to suffering. Another character who

is decidedly similar to Gautama Buddha is Alba. At birth she is predicted to have a fortunate life by her

grandmother and spends her childhood raised in relative seclusion in the big house, “'...She will be

lucky and she will be happy...'... they made no effort to prepare the child for life”(Allende 262-7). This

is similar to another excerpt from Siddhartha’s life, where a soothsayer predicated he would to either be

a great king or a ...

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.... To this end Allende has shown that Miguel still exhibits traits of a Buddhist

despite his extremist views.

Over the course of The of The Spirits Allende develops Marxist characters with Buddhist

tendencies, through this she has brought to light the parallels between these two doctrines, notably

through Alba's experiences during her detainment or Jamie's emancipation of his father. To take

reference from Father José Dulce Maria “...the Holy Church is on the right, but Jesus Christ was

always on the left,” (Allende 154) based on the aforementioned evidence it can be seen that this

statement probably holds true for Gautama Buddha. Works Cited

Allende, Isabel. The House of the Spirits. New York: Dial, 2005. Print.

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