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Like Water For Chocolate

A novel in monthly installments with recipes, romances and home remedies is Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel. It was published, originally in Spanish as Como agua para chocolate, in 1989. The novel has been translated into thirty languages since then. It is a story about a young girl, Tita, who struggles for her entire life to be with her true love. The protagonist of the novel and the youngest daughter of a family live on a Mexican ranch at the time of the Revolution. Emotional Oppression It is evident, especially in the first few chapters, that Her dictator-like mother has emotionally oppressed tita. Enforcing a family tradition, her mother decrees that Tita is not allowed to marry because she is obligated to care for her mother until she dies. Thus, deprived of the love of her life, Tita is forced to repress her feelings and transmute them into her cooking.

The feeling she pours into her cooking affects the people who eat it, contributing to the magical realism evident throughout the novel. Thus, her repressed emotions have tangible, magical consequences. Self-Growth At the beginning of the novel, Tita was a generally submissive young lady. However, as the novel progresses, Tita learns to disobey the injustice of her mother and gradually becomes more and more adept at expressing her inner fire through various means. At first, cooking was her only outlet, but she learned to verbalize and actualize her feelings and stand up to her despotic mother through self-discovery. Tita’s mother forbids tra. dition The romantic love is so exalted throughout the novel to blindly enforce the tradition that the youngest daughter is her mother’s chaste guardian.

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However, the traditional etiquette enforced by Mama Elena is defied more and more throughout the novel. This parallels the setting of the Mexican Revolution growing in intensity. The entire story is divided into twelve chapters marked as monthly installments and named after the months of the year. Each chapter begins with a recipe for some Mexican dish, and the cooking and food imagery is interwoven quite intensely throughout the story. The main episodes in each chapter involve the preparation or consummation of these dishes that Tita prepares to express her feelings. Tita is 15 years old at the onset of the story. She and Pedro are madly in love with each other. Pedro Muzquiz comes to the ranch to ask Titas hand in marriage. Her domineering mother, Mama Elena, bluntly refuses the proposal stating the tradition in the De La Garza family which forbids the youngest daughter of the family to marry, as she is supposed to stay at home and look after her parents.

Pedro reluctantly marries Rosaura, Titas oldest sister, but clarifies that he has married Rosaura solely to be near Tita. Pedro and his new wife live on the family ranch, making it possible for Pedro to contact Tita constantly. Unable to marry her love, Tita is distraught with grief and transfers all her energy into her culinary skills, which Rosaura lacks. She excels in cooking and uses the power of food unconsciously to draw Pedro towards herself and away from Rosaura. Tita cooks a meal with rose petals given to her by Pedro, which has an intense effect on Tita’s second sister, Gertrudis, who flees into a lustful state in the arms of a revolutionary soldier. Rosaura bears a son, Robert, who Tita delivers. She treats her nephew as her own child even produces breast milk to feed him as her sister is dry. As Pedro is drawn in the spell created by Titas cooking, Mama Elena moves Rosauras family to San AntonioTexas.

Already unhappy, Tita is totally devastated by the separation. Soon, the family gets the tragic news of Roberto’s death. Tita has a nervous breakdown as soon as she hears the news. Mama Elena decides to institutionalize her. Dr. John Brown, an American doctor, brings Tita to his own house and treats her. He gently treats her broken spirit and her physical ailments. Tita decides that she will never return to her mother. Her decision does not last very long as she had to return to the ranch almost immediately as Mama Elena gets injured in a raid by a rebel soldier. All her attempts to care for her mother are thwarted by Mama Elena. She even refuses Titan’s cooking as she feels that Tita is trying to poison her. Eventually, Mama Elena dies from an overdose of strong emetic, which she takes for fear of poisoning. With Mama Elena’s death, Tita is free from the obligation of looking after her mother. Meanwhile, she accepts when Dr. John Brown proposes to marry her. Pedro and Rosaura return to the ranch with their daughter Esperanza.

After seeing Pedro, Titus’ love for him rekindles. When John asks Pedro to bless the marriage the same night, Pedro makes passionate love to Tita and takes her virginity. After that night, Tita feels with certainty that she is pregnant. She thinks that she has to tell John of her affair with Pedro and end the engagement. Mama Elena returns to the ranch as a spirit and curses Tita and her unborn child. Titas’s sister Gertrudis returns to the ranch. She is now a general in the revolutionary army. Tita is pleased to see her sister back at the ranch. Mama Elena’s spirit returns violently and asks Tita to leave the ranch. Tita finally decides to stand up to her mother and declares her autonomy instead of leaving the ranch. After such a forceful declaration, the ghost shrinks into a tiny light. As soon as the ghost is expelled, Tita feels relieved of the pregnancy symptoms.

The fiery light of Mama Elena’s ghost falls on Pedro, setting him on fire instantly. Tita rescues him, cares for him and helps him in recovering. Even after Tita confesses her relationship with Pedro, he still wants to marry her but leaves the final decision. Many years pass. Rosaura dies and frees her daughter Esperanza from the same tradition as Tita, which is forbidding them to marry. After Rosauras death Esperanza and Alex, Johns’s son, get married. With everything taken care of, Tita and Pedro are finally free to be with each other. On their first night, both of them make intense love and are carried into a tunnel to take them to the afterlife. The intensity of her love kills Pedro. Desperately wanting to be with Pedro, Tita eats all the candles in the room to ignite her inner fire. Finally, she succeeds in reentering the tunnel where she meets Pedro in the world of spirits.

Their union, this time, sets the entire ranch on life. The only thing to remain intact was Titas recipe book. There is a heavy dose of magical realism throughout the story. She translates her feelings into her cooking. She prepares these meals to remain in contact with Pedro. At Pedro’s wedding with Rosaura, Tita prepares a cake that makes the guest vomit. In the end, Titas’s passion opens a portal to the world of spirits, which kills Pedro. Tita remembers all her happy thoughts to reopen the portal and follow Pedro’s spirit. The energy thus created is so intense that the whole ranch is consumed within that fire. Tita finally successfully escaped from her destiny, and now she is free to be with Pedro forever.

Emotional Oppression. It is evident, especially in the first few chapters, that Tita has been emotionally oppressed by her dictator-like mother. Enforcing a family tradition, her mother decrees that Tita is not allowed to marry because she is obligated to care for her mother until she dies. Thus, deprived of the love of her life, Tita is forced to repress her feelings and transmute them into her cooking. The feeling she pours into her cooking affects the people who eat it, contributing to the magical realism evident throughout the novel. Thus, her repressed emotions have tangible, magical consequences.

Self Growth. At the beginning of the novel, Tita was a generally submissive young lady. However, as the novel progresses, Tita learns to disobey the injustice of her mother and gradually becomes more and more adept at expressing her inner fire through various means. At first, cooking was her only outlet, but she learned to verbalize and actualize her feelings and stand up to her despotic mother through self-discovery. Tita’s mother forbids tradition The romantic .love is so exalted throughout the novel to blindly enforce the tradition that the youngest daughter is her mother’s chaste guardian. However, the traditional etiquette enforced by Mama Elena is defied more and more throughout the novel. This parallels the setting of the Mexican Revolution growing in intensity.

Mexican screenwriter Laura Esquivel’s first novel, Like Water For Chocolate, met with unusual success when it was published in 1989. The enthusiasm about the book led to a Spanish-language movie of the same title, which also was immensely popular. Upon translation from Spanish into English in 1992, the novel incited similar excitement, becoming a best-seller; subsequently, the English-subtitled film became one of the most popular foreign-language films in American film history. In addition to this popular success, Like Water For Chocolate received critical acclaim. It emerged during the early 1990s when new ideas about multiculturalism in literature brought attention to previously ignored minority women authors.

Like Water For Chocolate belongs to the genre of magical realism. This literary style, first developed by the Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier in his 1949 essay “Lo Maravilloso real,” generally describes novels by Latin American writers (though it is increasingly applied to writers of any background) infused with distinct fantastic, mythical, and epic themes. Magical realism is often explained as a unique product of the Latin American condition, particularly its history of European colonialism, which resulted in a delicate relationship between the contradictory yet co-existing forces of indigenous religion and myth and the powerful Catholic Church. In the case of Mexico, Esquivel’s homeland, one need only look as far as two of the country’s dearest cultural narratives for an example of this balance. The first is the Aztec myth describing the founding of Tenochtitlan, which later became Mexico City.

The myth tells the story of the Mexica, wandering hunters who received the vision that their empire would be built upon an island where an eagle sat on a cactus devouring a serpent. The fulfillment of this apparition is still held today as the historical beginning of the Aztec empire and modern-day Mexico. The second cultural narrative involves the Virgen de Guadalupe, who, according to legend, appeared to the indigenous man Juan Diego as a brown-skinned Madonna amidst a flurry of rose petals. Catholicism came to the conquered natives thus embodied, and the Virgen eventually became the country’s patron saint. Both stories rely on potent visual imagery that heightened natural elements and events by adding a fantastic element.

Like Water for Chocolate, characters are set against the backdrop of Mexican history’s most important modernizing force, the Mexican Revolution of 1910-17. During this time, peasants and natives banded together under the leadership of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata to reject the old order’s dictatorship, revive democracy, and claim Mexico for the everyday man and woman. Esquivel uses the revolution to explore themes of masculinity and gender identity and examine how individuals appropriate for themselves the revolution’s goal of liberty.

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