Years Of Solitude And House Of Spirits English Literature Essay

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Life without time would be chaotic. Not only does it serve as a record of mundane matters but also witnesses generations go by. One Hundred Years of Solitude traces the evolution of Macondo through the eyes and soul of its most prominent family. In spite of the radical transformations that transpire over hundred years, Márquez illustrates that social and political realities and human nature remain constant. Time is nonlinear in One Hundred Years and The House of the Spirits allowing for the study of mystical as well as political themes related to gender roles and social oppression.

The first paradox of time sequencing "many years later" [1] refers to an episode in the future while the narration of the gypsies are events of the past. Consequently there is a sequential disjunction compounding the sense of muddled time. In One Hundred Years, an example of an epiphany is José Arcadio Buendía who is the first person to grasp the illusion of time: "He spent…hours…trying to find a difference from…the previous day in the hope of discovering something…that would reveal the passage of time." [2] After José Arcadio Buendía thinks he has discovered perpetual motion, he keeps intoning "today is Monday too." [3] Perpetual motion can only occur in a world devoid of time; which is what time becomes wherein: the past, present and future mingle.

Similarly, in House of the Spirits when the present is referred to from the past, it becomes the future. This continual transition draws attention to the cyclical development of the novel. The past and the future are interconnected through a particular incident that comes to pass. When Esteban first went to Tránsito, he was at his peak. In every succeeding meeting, Esteban's fortunes dwindle slightly. At the end when Tránsito has become wealthy, Esteban has lost everything. Clearly, while events may be charted in a temporal sequence, the story develops in cycles.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Social domination, political power, and patriarchy continue to control characters over generations. Colonization is presented in both novels as a system of social oppression, with metaphoric links to the oppression of women, the white residents of Spanish descent ruling the natives and rich governing the poor. The political spectrum and incessant power struggle between the Right and Left wing are emblematic of the cyclical nature of human history. The Conservatives "had always won (and were) accustomed to being in power since time immemorial." [4] Through this, the authors portray that social, political, and economic hierarchies perpetuate themselves.

Beyond explorations of socio-political realities, both authors delve into the mystical side of life to reveal the recurrent nature of time. Gypsies are symbolic as they exist outside typical boundaries, enabling them to live outside societal and political cycles. They lead a less acquisitive life than the residents of Spanish descent and because of this I feel they can transcend the trappings of time.

The fact that clairvoyance transcends time is revealed when Clara tells Nicholás: "you can't…inherit these things." [5] In addition to this Melquíades' prophecy being fulfilled shows that time is cyclical; for the nature of clairvoyance transcends time. The theme extra-sensory perception runs through House of the Spirits. However, it is not gypsies but Clara who communicates the nonlinearity of space. With the right powers of perception anyone can divine the past or future, and then apply that knowledge to present problems. Yet, humans do not learn from the past and hence are condemned to reprise the same mistakes.

The non-linearity of time is seen through Melquíades' parchments and Clara's diaries: "Melquíades had not put events in the order of…time, but had concentrated a century of daily episodes in… a way that they coexisted in one instant." [6] Similarly, Clara arranged her notebooks "according to events and not in chronological order…she had forgotten to record…dates." [7] The difference in the authors' rendering of this aspect is that while Melquiades had written events before they occurred, Clara notes down them in her diaries after their incidencse.

Furthermore, premonitions come to play a major role. Clara has visions of the future while both Colonel and Úrsula experience dé ja vu:

"This morning…, I had the impression that I had already been though all that before…

What did you expect?'...'Time passes.'" [8] 

This identical dialogue takes place later between José Arcadio Segundo and Úrsula. The latter, "realized that she was giving the same reply…Colonel… had given." [9] However, it the subsequent part of Úrsula's reflection that is noteworthy: "she shuddered with the evidence that time…was turning in circles." [10] This echoes the conversation between Esteban and Pedro Tercero:

"'I've come to get you out of here,' Pedro…said.


'…Blanca asked me…'

…'Go to hell' …

'Fine. That's where we're going.' " [11] 

Later Allende reverses their roles with Esteban helping Pedro flee the country. By using the same words, [12] Allende forces the reader to acknowledge that history has repeated itself.

By focusing on multiple generations within the same family the authors illustrate the cyclical nature of time. The Buendía and del Valle family become huge, yet retain key traits that unify generations. This holds true for both the novels but is made overt through the repetition of names in One Hundred Years:

"the…repetition of names had made her draw some conclusions…While the Aurelianos were withdrawn...the José Arcadios were impulsive…" [13] 

Each generation is fated to repeat the blunders and celebrate the triumphs of the previous generation. To dramatize this Márquez has given the family a narrow range of names. For instance, José Arcadio Buendía is shortened to José Arcadio in the next generation which is further abbreviated to Arcadio. The seventeen sons of the Colonel are symbolic as number seventeen represents a person who stands out in society which is held true by ash cross on the foreheads of the Aureliano's. Seventeen also stands for immortality in the sense that the person's name will live on after his death. This is true as the name Aureliano is repeated till the last generation.

Clara on the other hand refuses to repeat names as this "caused confusion in her notebooks that bore witness to life" [14] The author chooses instead to pass character traits genetically exemplified in Blanca who "had inherited his (Esteban's) own stubbornness" [15] . Mother and daughter experience a bond with story-telling forming the cornerstone of their relationship. Esteban correctly reflects "my granddaughter was…like Clara…she took everybody else's suffering" [16] identifying the common thread of philanthropy between Alba and Clara. Likewise, climbing the poplar tree was "a tradition" [17] of the del Valles'. The tree is symbolic of the sprawling family. The initials inscribed on it are marks of the del Valle family and its heritage being passed down. The tree is comparable to the chestnut tree of the Buendia's and the almond trees planted in Macondo that "many years later…still stood" [18] silently observing generations go by. Esteban and Alba recognize themselves in the mirror of Clara's journal, illuminating the cyclical nature of family traits.

Moreover, House of the Spirits brings to the forefront the concept of karma [19] which One Hundred Years does not explore.

"The day my grandfather tumbled his grandmother…he added another link to chain of events that had to complete itself…." [20] 

Karma is bound by time, because every action has a limited reaction. [21] Esteban García seeks to right the wrong the patron did in raping his grandmother by seeking revenge. Esteban by helping Pedro Tercero escape is reciprocating the kindness shown earlier by the latter. True to the cyclical nature of time, Tránsito and Esteban meet over and over again because each time before they part after making love, they have the following ritual:

"'We'll see each other again, Tansito'…'That's what I said before, patron.'" [22] 

Tránsito has become the rich lady she is because of the fifty pesos lent by Esteban. Hence, she helps secure the release of Alba. Thus, karma follows the principal of as you sow, so shall you reap.

At the closure of the House of the Spirits, Alba makes explicit references to the cyclic nature of time: "we believe in the fiction of past, present, and future, but it may also be true that everything happens simultaneously." [23] In One Hundred Years Melquíades' writing on his parchments ensures that the inhabitants of Macondo have simply been living a preordained cycle. While the last line of this novel breaks the cycle of life, death and incestuous relationships "because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity" [24] the concluding sentence of House of the Spirits, ties up with the opening of the book, "Barrabás came to us by sea" [25] signalling the completion of one cycle.

The cyclical nature of time is explored through multi-faceted dimensions in One Hundred Years and House of the Spirits. These novels explore Latin American culture and show that families end up repeating similar patterns of behaviour notwithstanding generational changes. The present can be viewed through the lens of the past and the crystal balls of the future. The gift of clairvoyance given to the characters in the novels validates that time is essentially cyclical. The ability to see through time demonstrates the capacity to transcend it. Both authors show that only when the wisdom retrieved from this remarkable power is applied to life, does it become meaningful.