A major part of the novel relates their stormy marriage and the birth of their three children, punctuated with deaths and disaster, and seasoned with Trueba's worsening temper. A democratic senator in his later life, he witnesses the changing political scene before, during and after the military coup, and the disintegration of his family, health and everything that he holds dear.
Esteban is one of the narrative axes of the novel. It is often through his eyes as the first-person narrator, or his emotions via the omniscient narrator, that the reader weighs the effects of the events of the story, bearing a witness to accompany Clara's notebooks until the moment when Alba would write her "testimonio". For example, when Rosa dies by accidental poisoning, it is from Esteban's perspective that we feel the senseless tragedy in the words: "no poda nadie comprender mi frustracin por haber pasado dos aos rascando la tierra para hacerme rico, con el nico propsito de llevar algn da a esa joven al altar y la muerte me la haba birlado." (p. 25). Likewise, the deaths of Jaime and Clara, and the arrest of Alba, are filled with pathos because of his gaze and voice:"cay de rodillas al suelo gimiendo como una criatura," (p. 174). Esteban is also witness to the destruction and ruinous passage of time, as he observes: "Dej sus maletas sobre una mesa y sali a recorrer la casa, luchando contra la tristeza que comenzaba a invadirlo. Pas de una habitacin a otra, vio el deterioro que el tiempo haba labrado en todas las cosas." (p. 34)
Trueba is the cornerstone of the family saga. His violent, delusional and idealistic personality is a catalyst for the many family disasters, and to some extent, the political disaster. His chauvinistic arrogance leads him to rape, impregnate and repudiate Pancha Garcia, whose grandson, Esteban, fed on his mother's dishonour, his uncle's resentment of the patrn, and his own sense of injustice at having to live a life of bastardry, takes revenge on the family by arresting, maiming and raping Alba. His arrogance forces the lovers to hide their love, Blanca to marry Jean de Satigny against her wishes and discover his "malfico reino de los incas" (p. 156). He outcasts his sister, Ferula, out of jealousy for her (unnatural) love for Clara, relegating her to a solitary death in the slums (p. 92). A symbol of just what a destructive force he is in the life of his family is when he and Jaime go to steal Rosa's body to place it beside Clara's in the "el mausoleo color salmn". The effect of his egotistical desire to see her and kiss her once more is that:
en un instante la novia inmutable se deshizo como un encantamiento, se desintegr en un polvillo tenue y gris. Cuando levant la cabeza y abr los ojos, con el beso fro an en los labios, ya no estaba Rosa, la bella. En su lugar haba una calavera con las cuencas vacas, unas tiras de piel color marfil adheridas a
los pmulos y unos mechones de crin mohoso en la nuca. (p. 184)
But aside from the havoc of his attempts at control on his family, he bears no little responsibility in stirring up the political assassination of the