Isabel Allende

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What is a good thesis for The House of Spirits?

A good thesis for The House of Spirits might look at the novel in the context of Latin American fiction, an especially rich strain of twentieth-century literature. You could look at the novel's intersection of historical fact and fiction. Finally, you could look at it as an example of magical realism, a genre particularly associated with the Latin American novel.

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The Chilean novelist Isabel Allende's novel The House of the Spirits offers the student many jumping off points for a strong, focused essay. It partly depends on how broadly the essay is allowed to roam and what the page constraints are. The broadest way is looking at the novel as an exemplar of the twentieth-century Latin American novel. Many of these writers were writing both to define the culture of their own particular country and to deal with the colonial legacy that many of these countries were emerging from during the century. Using this approach, one would want to look at examples of postcolonial theory and engage with several other major writers, such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Pablo Neruda.

A second way to approach the text is as an example of magical realism, a genre that is often identified with South America and with writers like Borges, Marquez, and Allende. A discussion of this will define magical realism, give several examples, locate Allende's novel in the genre, and explore how she uses these elements to further her themes.

A final way of exploring the novel is from a historical perspective. While the novel is fictional, Allende uses elements from the history of Chile, particularly the coup the overthrow the democratically elected president Salvador Allende, a relative of Isabel's. An essay with this focus would look at some of the history of Chile and how Allende shapes it and reforms it for her own purposes. A question that might be asked is how fiction tells a historical story in a more effective way than an actual history.

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