Like Water for Chocolate


Like Water for Chocolate
Like Water for Chocolate  
Like Water for Chocolate (Book Cover).png
Author(s) Laura Esquivel
Original title Como agua para chocolate
Translator Carol and Thomas Christensen
Country Mexico
Language Spanish
Genre(s) Novel
ISBN 978-0385420174 (English edition)
OCLC Number 25164505

Like Water for Chocolate (Spanish: Como agua para chocolate) is a popular novel published in 1989 by first-time Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel.[1]

The novel follows the story of a young girl named Tita who longs her entire life to marry her lover, Pedro, but can never have him because of her mother's upholding of the family tradition of the youngest daughter not marrying but taking care of her mother until the day she dies. Tita is only able to express herself when she cooks.

Esquivel employs magical realism to combine the supernatural with the ordinary.[2]

Contents

Plot summary

The book is divided into twelve sections named after the months of the year. Each section begins with a Mexican recipe. The chapters outline the preparation of the dish and ties it to an event in the protagonist's life.[3]

Tita de la Garza, the novel's protagonist, is fifteen at the start of the story, which takes place during the Mexican Revolution. She lives with her mother, Mama Elena, and her older sisters Gertrudis and Rosaura, on a ranch near the Mexico – US border.

Pedro, a neighbor, and Tita fall in love at first sight. He asks Mama Elena for Tita’s hand in marriage, but Mama Elena forbids it, citing the De la Garza family tradition which demands that the youngest daughter (in this case Tita) must remain unmarried and take care of her mother until her mother's death. Pedro reluctantly marries Tita's older sister Rosaura instead. Tita can hardly keep from grieving, despite Pedro’s assurance that it is Tita he loves and not Rosaura, and that he only married Rosaura to be closer to Tita.

Tita has a love of the kitchen and a deep connection with food, a skill enhanced by the fact that she was practically raised from birth by the family cook. Her love for cooking also comes from the fact that she was born in the kitchen. In contrast, Rosaura's cooking skills are poor, making Pedro even less attracted to her, as he barely wanted to consummate their marriage to begin with. Despite this, he and Rosaura have a son, Roberto. Rosaura is unable to nurse Roberto, so Pedro brings him to the kitchen for Tita to feed. Miraculously, Tita begins to produce breast milk and is able to nurse the baby. This draws her and Pedro closer than ever. They begin meeting secretly, snatching their few times together by sneaking around the ranch and behind the backs of Mama Elena and Rosaura.

Tita’s strong emotions become infused into her cooking and she unintentionally begins to affect the people around her through the food she prepares. After one particularly rich meal of quail in rose petal sauce flavored with Tita’s erotic thoughts of Pedro, Tita's older sister Gertrudis becomes inflamed with lust and leaves the ranch making ravenous love with a revolutionary soldier on the back of a horse before being dumped in a brothel and subsequently disowned by her mother.

Rosaura and Pedro are forced to leave for San Antonio, Texas, at the urging of Mama Elena, who suspects a relationship between Tita and Pedro. Rosaura loses her son Roberto and is later made sterile from complications with the birth of her daughter Esperanza.

Upon learning the news of her nephew's death, whom she cared for herself, Tita blames her mother. Mama Elena responds by smacking Tita across the face with a wooden spoon. Tita, unwilling to cope with her mother's controlling ways, secludes herself in the dovecote until the sympathetic Dr. John Brown reasons with her and convinces her to come down. Mama Elena clearly states that there is no place for "lunatics" like Tita on the farm, and wants her to be institutionalized. However, the doctor decides to take care of Tita at his home instead. Tita develops a close relationship with Dr. Brown, even planning to marry him at one point, but her underlying feelings for Pedro do not waver.

Over the course of years, Rosaura and Mama Elena die. With the removal of all obstacles to their relationship Tita and Pedro finally share a night of bliss that is so heated and passionate that Pedro dies while making love to Tita. Upset at being left alone in the world, Tita proceeds to consume kitchen matches and candles while thinking of Pedro’s face. The matches are sparked by the heat of his memory, creating a consuming fire that engulfs them both, leading to their deaths in union and the total destruction of the ranch.

The narrator of the story is the daughter of Esperanza, Pedro's daughter. Dr. Brown's son Alex marries Esperanza near the conclusion of the story. The narrator then says that all that survived under the smoldering rubble of the ranch was Tita's cookbook, which contained all the recipes described in the preceding chapters.

Characters

  • Josefita (Tita) De La Garza – main character
  • Pedro Muzquiz – Tita's lover, marries Rosaura to be closer to Tita
  • Elena de la Garza (Mama Elena) – Tita's cruel and controlling mother.
  • Gertrudis De La Garza – Tita's oldest sister, Mama Elena's illegitimate daughter. She runs away with a soldier.
  • Rosaura De La Garza – Tita's older sister who marries Pedro
  • Dr. John Brown – the family doctor who falls in love with Tita and has a son from a previous marriage.
  • Nacha – the family cook. She was like a mother to Tita,
  • Chencha – the family maid who helps Tita deal with her situations.
  • Roberto Muzquiz – son of Pedro and Rosaura. He dies young
  • Esperanza Muzquiz – daughter of Pedro and Rosaura. She marries Alex Brown.
  • Alex Brown – son of John Brown, marries Esperanza
  • Nicolas – the manager of the ranch.
  • Juan Alejandrez – the captain who took Gertrudis and eventually marries her
  • Jesus Martinez – Chencha's first love and husband.

Themes

Self growth

At the beginning of the novel, Tita was a generally submissive young lady. 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 through self-discovery she learned to verbalize and actualize her feelings, and stand up to her despotic mother.

Cruelty and Violence

Mama Elena often resorts to cruelty and violence as she forces Tita to obey her. Many of the responsibilities she imposes on Tita, especially those relating to Pedro and Rosaura's wedding, are blatant acts of cruelty, given Tita's pain over losing Pedro. Mama Elena meets Tita's slightest protest with angry tirades and beatings. If she even suspects tha Tita has not fulfilled her duties, as when she thought that Tita intentionally ruined the wedding cake, she beats her. When Tita dares to stand up to her mother and to blame her for Roberto's death, Mama Elena smacks her across the face with a wooden spoon and breaks her nose. This everyday cruelty does not seem so unusual, however, in a land where a widow must protect herself and her family from bandits and revolutionaries.

Tradition

The romantic love that is so exalted throughout the novel is forbidden by Tita's mother in order to blindly enforce the tradition that the youngest daughter be her mother's chaste guardian. However, the traditional etiquette enforced by Mama Elena is defied progressively throughout the novel. This parallels the setting of the Mexican Revolution growing in intensity. The novel further parallels the Mexican Revolution because during the Mexican Revolution the power of the country was in the hands of a select few and the people had no power to express their opinions. Likewise, in Like Water for Chocolate, Mama Elena represents the select few who had the power in their hands, while Tita represents the people because she had no power to express her opinions but had to obey her mother's rules.

Meaning of title

Like Water for Chocolate's full title is: Like Water for Chocolate: A novel in monthly installments with recipes, romances and home remedies.[4]

The phrase "like water for chocolate" comes from the Spanish como agua para chocolate.[4] This phrase is a common expression in some Spanish-speaking countries and was the inspiration for Laura Esquivel's novel title (the name has a double meaning). In some Latin American countries, such as Mexico, hot chocolate is made not with milk, but with water instead.

References

  1. ^ "Laura Esquivel Biography". Biography.com. 1950-09-30. http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=185854. Retrieved 2010-02-20. 
  2. ^ Dennard, Mackenzie E.. "Like Water for Chocolate". londonfoodfilmfiesta.co.uk. http://www.londonfoodfilmfiesta.co.uk/Literature%20Main/Like%20Water%20for%20Chocolate.htm. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  3. ^ "Like Water for Chocolate (review)". http://bluerectangle.com/book_reviews/view_one_review/2390. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  4. ^ a b "Like Water For Chocolate". dart-creations.com. Archived from the original on 26 April 2010. http://www.webcitation.org/5pGuqVEjq. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 

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