The novel “Like Water For Chocolate” deals with the shift from a traditional to a modern society & women’s liberation from the oppressive judgment of the society & the traditions that degrade them as well.
The novel falls under the genre magical realism. In magical realism, fantasy & other coexisting forces contradicting religion are infused into a story to uniquely illustrate a certain condition. Latin American writers commonly use this genre or writing style. Laura Esquivel perfectly & appropriately applied this writing style in her novel, which has received critical acclaim as it surfaced during the mid 90s.
Magical realism is a writing style in which fantasy and reality are combined to create a fantastic image or occurrence.
“Tita was literally washed into this world on a great tide of tears that spilled over the edge of the table and flooded across the kitchen floor”
The quote describes an occurrence of childbirth. The author has combined the reality of childbirth with the fantasy of a baby being washed into the world on a large body of water. The deeper meaning of the quote is that Tita is born prematurely due to a sensitivity to onions which foreshadows the pain she will endure in life. An aesthetic image is created by contrasting the strong, sharp smell and taste of an onion instead of stating that Mama Elena will be cruel to Tita because she did not want her. While Mama Elena in her treatment of Tita could easily be compared to the step-mother in Cinderella, the author has used magical realism to show the cruelness in a unique way.
“That afternoon, when the uproar had subsided and the water had been dried up by the sun, Nacha swept up the residue the tears had left on the red stone floor. There was enough salt to fill a ten-pound sack—it was enough salt….long time”
Simile & Metaphor
A simile is a comparison between two basically dissimilar things. Similes use the words “as” or “like” to make a comparison. “A face like marbles.”
A metaphor is also a comparison but one that does not use the words “as” or “like.” “A heart of stone.” The implied or indirect comparison here is that the heart is as hard as a stone.
“How unfortunate that black holes in space had not yet been discovered, for then she might have understood the black hole in the center of her chest, infinite coldness flowing through it”
“Her hands were shaking and she was dripping sweat and her stomach was swooping like a kite on the wind”
lExplain how Tita’s relationship with Mama Elena is different from her relationship with Nacha.
lDescribe the elaborate banquet Tita prepared for Rosaura’s wedding.
How was Mama Elena able to obtain the French silk for Rosaura’s wedding sheet?
Who is the Chinaman? How was he able to become a millionaire during revolution?
What is your reaction to Mama Elena throwing such an elaborate wedding for Rosaura in the midst of the revolution? What conclusion can be made about Mama Elena?
What causes Nacha’s death?
How is Tita’s life similar to Nacha’s?
"Like Water for Chocolate" is a Mexican revolutionary-era "Heartburn," an overly rich fable on the mysterious link between sex and food. It aims to portray the onset of Mexican feminism in 1910, but it's really just another hearth-set Cinderella story, one that connects cooking to sorcery and servitude.
The tale focuses on Tita, a lovelorn cook who finds that the way to a man's heart is slightly south of his border. Tita, the youngest of the wealthy widow Mama Elena's three daughters, literally grew up in the kitchen "amidst the smell of chicken soup, thyme, bay laurel, steamed milk, garlic and, of course, onion." But, by family custom, Tita must forgo marriage to care for her mother till the day the wretched woman finally dies. Tita is consigned to the ranch's enormous kitchen, where she is expected to live out her days as a spinster.
But Tita is a scrumptious dish, a taco belle who has already won the heart of a handsome rancher, Pedro (gwapo ba?), whose request for Tita's hand is refused by Mama Elena. Instead Elena proposes he marry her eldest daughter, Rosaura , a selfish beanpole who dreams of a traditional life as mother and wife. "You can't just exchange tacos for enchiladas!" cries the middle daughter, Gertrudis, the spitfire of the bunch.
But Mama Elena is meaner than a tequila hangover, and Pedro, like his fairy tale forebears, is handsome but dumber than a half-baked adobe brick. To be near Tita, he agrees to the ill-fated marriage, which begins with a telling omen. When the guests at the wedding feast partake of the chabella cake prepared by Tita, they are overcome with tears and then nausea. Tita had wept into the batter, thereby flavoring it with her own sadness and barely suppressed desires.
Raised by the family's part-Indian cook, Nacha Tita learned not only the chemical but the alchemical reactions brought on by cooking. And these the film's narrator relates to the heroine's own heated state:
"Preparing the mole, Tita knew how contact with fire alters elements, how dough becomes a tortilla and that a breast untouched by love just isn't a breast but a useless ball of dough."
For all the metaphorical oven-stoking, the film isn't especially raunchy since most of Tita's specialties cause gastrointestinal distress. Her recipe for quail and rose petal sauce, however, made everyone felt the heat of her passions.
The sauce, which she squeezes from a bouquet given to her by Pedro, literally sends her sister Gertrudis into heat. In trying to cool down, she sets the bathhouse on fire. This draws the attention of a handsome revolutionary who happens to be passing by and lifts the naked woman onto his saddle and gallops off into the Mexican kabukiran.
The diverse characters in the novel “Like Water For Chocolate” have different significations in the society. Moreover, their characters can be appropriate in any race, culture or country that is also suffering from the strict dictates of tradition & society.
Tita is the protagonist & the central character of the novel. She signifies any ordinary woman in the society with her own principles & identity. However these women are subject to violence, not just by men but also by other women in the society, and to the traditions & other killing social norms. Given this kind of situation, she cannot assert her individuality, and thus, mislays her identity.
Since these women are subject to the harsh dictates of the society, and also traditions & other social norms, they repress their emotions. They are anxious on what the society might throw into them and they fear condemnation. However, in their own little ways, they try to fight oppression by simply objecting to it.
Mama Elena represents the traditions & the closed minded, harmful & violent society. She exudes the strong power & force that the society over its individuals through the reinforcement of social norms & standards, and the pressure of conforming to all of it.
Furthermore, she also reveals the epitome of a woman who grew into repression & bitterness. With those things, she forgot what real love truly means, the same way the society has forgotten the simple pleasures in life that could cause happiness due to the existing problems they encounter & the difficult life.
Her relationship with Tita reveals the hierarchy in the family, that there is a gap between parents & children. However this hierarchy is expressed in a very exaggerated manner.
Rosaura represents the continuing force of traditional society in the modern days. She is an ugly, unappealing remnant of the old society that has to be abolished & forgotten, and be replaced by a new approach that is more logical, rational & empowering.
The character of Pedro signifies those people who willingly & actually fight the control of the oppressing traditions. He symbolizes a revolutionary. Even if what he does is wrong, he would still go for it for the satisfaction of his passion & desires.
The half witty half sister of Tita represents the liberated type of women, more commonly called as the “woman of the world”. Although they are not the ideal women & they are denounced by the society, they are still contented with what they have become in their successes & triumphs. They are the women who have the strength to fight the suppressing cultural & social norms & inappropriate traditions of a certain society for the better expression of herself. Her character “embodies reckless indulgence of individual needs & disregard for societal norms”.