In House of the Spirits, what is the effect of having magical realist characters such as Clara (having psychic powers) and Rosa (possessing mermaid-like beauty)?
Magic realism is presented in this text, as it is in the works of other key South American writers, to present supernatural events as being just as real as other, more mundane events. This can be seen in the presentation of Clara's family and how they swiftly accept their daughter's outlandish and incredible ability to predict the future:
They had also grown accustomed to the youngest daughter's prophecies. She would announce earthquakes in advance, which was quite useful in the country of catastrophes, for it gave them a chance to lock up the good dishes and place their slippers within reach in case they had to run out in the middle of the night.
There is an element of benign humour here: the del Valle become so accustomed to their daughter's abilities that they use them to save the china. Rather than be amazed and stunned at her ability to discern the future, it becomes a practical tool that they use to keep their humdrum existence normal and to prevent any problems from occurring. Throughout the novel therefore supernatural elements, such as the magical characteristics of Clara and Rosa, are juxtaposed alongside normal events, presenting these magical realist sections as being just as real as the political turmoils faced by the characters in this novel. Allende does this to highlight the horror of the political regime that seizes and maintains power with such horrific methods. The insertion of the magical alongside the everyday begs the question of which is more "real": the tortures of the regime that are the very stuff of nightmares or that one girl is able to tell the future.