Revenge in Medea, by Euripides, and The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Last Updated: 13 Jul 2020
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Often, when someone commits evil deeds, it causes the victim to take action. This, however, may simply escalate the situation to the point where the characters forget about morals and beliefs for retribution. In the novel, The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende, and the play, Medea, by Euripides, the characters from both works react intensely to get revenge on others.

Although Allende mainly uses effective diction, and Euripides the power of the chorus, both authors challenge the view that when faced with injustice, defiance is the solution. In The House of the Spirits, Allende’s use of diction enhances the injustice that Esteban Garcia ll must confront, but also to emphasize the consequences of such confrontation. To begin, he loathes Esteban Trueba for raping his grandmother, Pancha, the cause for his revenge.

During the death of Pedro Garcia, Allende details Esteban Garcia’s hatred for Esteban Trueba: “[h]e hated Esteban Trueba… Trueba had forgotten all about Pancha Garcia and the fact that he had had a child with her… [Esteban Garcia] would lie awake at night imagining all sorts of dreadful illnesses and accidents that could put an end to the life of [Esteban Trueba]… [Esteban Garcia] always reproached Trueba for the dark existence he had forged for him, and he felt constantly punished” (Allende, 189). Evidently, Esteban Garcia has passionate contempt for his grandfather, rooted by the transgression he commits by raping Garcias grandmother.

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Allende emphasizes his hatred by using harsh diction, such as: “dreadful, reproached, dark, forged, [and] punished”. This depicts the extent to which Garcia regards such actions as injustice. Later in the novel, the consequences of getting revenge on Esteban Trueba are revealed. As Alba writes about her family history with Esteban Trueba, she discusses, “[Alba] wrote in [her] mind that one day Colonel Garcia would stand before [her] in defeat and that [she] would avenge [her]self on all those who need to be avenged.

But now [she has] begun to question [her] own hatred… Afterward the grandson of the woman who was raped repeats the gesture with the granddaughter of the rapist, and perhaps forty years from now [Alba’s] grandson will knock Garcia’s granddaughter down among the rushes, and so on through the centuries in an unending tale of sorrow, blood, and love” (431-432). Allende explores the inevitability of retribution, that revenge will always take place because the two families would continue to see injustice in the way their ancestors deal with situations.

Effective diction is used to intensify the reader’s feelings about this, such as “repeats, so on through the centuries, [and] unending”, which enhances the feeling of continuity, and therefore negativity, in the consequences. She also uses gloomy words, like “sorrow” and “blood” to deliver the message that such consequences are also gloomy and unfavourable. To summarize, Allende indicates that revenge should not be taken as a result of injustice, through the manipulation of diction. Similarly, in Medea, Euripides illustrates that injustice is not necessarily resolved when the victim seeks vengeance.

However, he uses the ability to communicate directly to his audience, instead of elaborate words with deep meanings. The use of the chorus, along with rhetorical questions, aids Euripides in conveying his message to his audience. Euripides uses the chorus to emphasize the difficulties that Medea must cope with, but also to emphasize the immorality in the way she chooses to resolve the situation. To begin, the chorus is used to depict the injustice that Medea is faced with. When Creon banishes Medea from the city of Corinth, the chorus sympathizes for Medea by saying, “[h]apless woman!

Overwhelmed by sorrow! Where will you turn? What stranger will afford you hospitality? ” (Euripides, 45. 359-360). Clearly, the chorus is feeling sympathy toward Medea, as they exclaim her feelings and worry about her future. In the ancient Greek setting of this play, the audience would confirm what their feelings toward the play should be through the chorus. This would therefore cause the audience to feel sympathy for Medea as well, and Euripides would succeed in making the audience realize the injustice that Medea faces.

The use of the two rhetorical questions also emphasizes this feeling. If the all-knowing chorus cannot even answer these questions, there must not be any answer, and Medea must really have nowhere to go. Further into the play, however, the chorus’s opinion on Medea changes when she reveals her plot to get revenge on Jason for causing her misery. When she announces her intention of killing Jason’s new family, the chorus asks. “Whence you got the hardihood to conceive such a plan? And in the horrible act, as you bring death on your own children, how will you steel your heart and hand?

When you cast your eyes on them, your own children, will you not weep that you should be their murderess? ” (58. 843-847). Suddenly, the chorus is against Medea, and the audience would follow this dramatic turn. Through the use of rhetoric, Euripides shows that any rational person should not plan as such, should not be able to “steel” themselves, and should not be able to murder her own children without weeping. As Medea begins lose her ability to think ethically, Euripides demonstrates Medea’s immorality because she descends too deep in the choices she makes to resolve her problems.

The rhetorical style enables the audience to be engaged and actually think about the situation as they try to answer the question. This is in contrast to the way Allende shows the irrational decisions people tend to make in their attempts to confront injustice. Allende uses elaborate diction that effectively portrays the negativity in both situations, whereas Eurpides has the option to engage his audience directly. However, both authors, despite having their own methods, succeed in proving that defiance tends to go out of control, when it either lasts continuously causes the characters to forget how to act morally.

In conclusion, both Allende and Euripides take different routes to reveal their underlying purpose: that seeking revenge is not necessarily the correct path to take when faced with injustice. The phrase “two wrongs do not make a right” has a powerful effect in both works, as it causes permanent retaliations of “wrongs” and results in the disregard for ethics and morals. Overall, it can be seen that people tend to reciprocate injustice due to their desire for retribution.

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Revenge in Medea, by Euripides, and The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. (2017, Dec 18). Retrieved from

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