“Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura
Esquivel tells the story of the youngest daughter from a family that lives in
Mexico. Tita De La Garza’s title as the youngest daughter comes with
restrictions based on old tradition. One of the main things that Tita cannot do
is get married. The tradition is kept in play by her mother, Mama Elena. The
man that Tita loves is named Pedro and he wanted to marry Tita, however, since
the family was still ruled by the old tradition they were not allowed to marry.
Instead, Pedro married Tita’s sister, Rosaura.

Pedro only married Rosaura so that
he would be able to stay near Tita. When Pedro and Rosaura moved into the
ranch, Tita cooked a meal for Pedro using petals of a rose that he had given to
her. The force of their love was felt through the food and this caused her
sister to become lustful and she runs away from the ranch with a soldier from
the revolution. The marriage between Pedro and Rosaura produced a baby boy
named, Roberto, who was delivered by Tita. Tita ends up treating Roberto as if
he was her own child and even nursed him using her own breast milk that she was
able to produce while Rosaura was unable. Eventually, Mama Elena realizes the
deep connection that is growing between Tita and Roberto and sends the small
family away. Roberto eventually dies because of the separation between him and
Tita. This caused Tita to have a mental breakdown that led to her being sent to
an asylum.

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Dr. John Brown is the doctor that
helped Tita get better after allowing her to live in his house. As Tita was
recovering she decided that she was never going to return to the family ranch
because of all the negative associations that she has with it. However, she is
forced to return when she hears the news that Mama Elena had been injured in a
raid led by rebels. Her return home was not greeted warmly by her mother, who
continued to push her away. Tita attempts to cook for her mother to show her
that she cares and to nurse her back to health but her mother refuses to eat
her food and claims it is because the food is poisoned. In the end, Mama Elena
dies because she ingested too much emetic because she was scared of being
poisoned. The death of her mother freed Tita from the old tradition that
prohibited her from getting married and gets engaged to John Brown, her
previous doctor.

When Tita gets engaged Pedro and
Rosaura also move back to the ranch which causes Tita to become unsure of her
feelings for John. Pedro’s presence at the ranch disrupts Tita’s life in ways
that she didn’t anticipate. Pedro and Tita end up having sex the night that
John asked Pedro to bless the engagement. This leads Tita to believe that she is
pregnant and she begins to show all the signs of pregnancy. Mama Elena’s spirit
comes to curse Tita and her baby’s life when the news of the pregnancy is
discovered. When Tita’s sister Gertrudis returns as a general in the
revolutionary army she is able to provide support for Tita and convinces her to
tell Pedro about the pregnancy. Their happiness over the pregnancy causes Mama
Elena’s spirit to return to torment Tita but this time Tita stands up to her
mother which sets Tita free and her pregnancy symptoms are also gone. After
years pass, Pedro and Tita are finally able express their love for each other
with no boundaries when their children with Rosaura and John get married. When
they die they are able to unite in the spirit world and their intense love sets
fire to the ranch, leaving only the cookbook that Tita wrote.

The book had several dynamic
characters present that all had different takes on life. TIta and her family
were different from each other because Tita did not want to be stopped from
living her life because of a tradition that she didn’t necessarily believe in.
Once she fell in love she was unable to hide the fact that she didn’t believe
in the tradition. This relates to real life in that the traditions that
families keep are not always ones that fit into the younger generation’s
lifestyle. Some traditions eventually die out because they have no place in the
current atmosphere of a family’s life. Then there are others that are so
engrained into the family’s culture and dynamic that even if they are
disruptive they are still carried out. The tradition that ruled Tita’s family
was also the tradition that eventually tore them apart. The distance in a
family can stem from their disagreements on traditions in real life.

Tita and her sister displayed a
form of rebellion that her other sister Rosaura never did. They were determined
to live their lives for themselves and not be completely rooted in tradition.
Gertrudis was especially rebellious when she ran away with the man from the
army whom she lusted after. This decision to leave was certainly not one that
was taken very well by the rest of the family but even so, this point in the
story was challenging the usual rules that applied to one’s gender. Gertrudis, being
female, was limited from having the ability to make many decisions about her
own life but leaving was a decision she made for herself. Her decision
eventually led to her own success in the revolutionary army by becoming a
general. This is especially representative of her breaking the traditional
gender roles of this time. She did not conform to what others expected from her
no matter the cost.

Although Tita disagreed with the
role that she was given as the youngest daughter she still played the part. She
took up cooking as her own way to express herself and became the best she could
be at it. This plays into traditional gender roles where the women are
continuously expected to be good at and happy with the roles typically
associated with them. This mainly includes household chores and of course
having children and being a mother to them. Although Tita was not allowed to
have a family of her own she did nurture her nephew in a way that a mother
would and this displays her want for a family, which is expected of her.  

Rosaura is a very traditional
character in the story. She doesn’t display the same type of rebellion as her
sisters. She actually gets married and continues the family tradition. Her
children are raised in the same way that she was raised. Her daughter is also
subject to the same tradition that barred Tita from getting married since she
is the only daughter that Pedro and Rosaura had. The story had the three
sisters exemplify different levels of comfort with the way their lives were
being dictated. This is relatable to an actual family because members of
families will usually have different ideals and they are not going to follow
traditions or traditional roles in the same way.

Some of the aspects of the
characters’ lives are relatable. Rosaura being the oldest of the daughters is
the one who has to uphold the tradition and she is placed under a lot of
pressure to do so. Her status as the first daughter also comes with
expectations that she may not be fully accepting of but she goes through with
everything that is thrown her way. This is relatable because family culture
usually dictates that the first and oldest child is in a way responsible for
setting an example that the rest of the children are expected to follow. They
are placed under pressure to fulfill the parents dreams for them.

Knowing one’s identity and being
able to express that fully is something that many people are not able to do for
a long time. The same issue occurred in the book with Tita because although she
knew what she did and did not want she was unable to defend herself against the
prejudice and could not break out of the tradition that was being upheld by her
mother. Tita was unable to have her own children and when she tried to love her
nephew as a mother would, her own mother was the one that separated them and
caused Tita to lose herself. Her breakdown pushed her away from her family
where she was able to recover and realize that living at the ranch was not the
right thing for her. Even then, she was not able to remain true to her desires
and had to return home to care for a mother who did not want her there. Her
mother was the center of Tita’s struggle to find happiness and it wasn’t until
the very end of the book where she finally stood up to her mother that she was
able to take hold of her life and identity. At the end of the book, she was no
longer the daughter who was trying to make her mother happy at the sake of her
own happiness and was able to live the way she wanted. This change in her life led
her to finally take control of her life and decide for herself who she wanted
to be with.

One memorable aspect of the book
was that Tita no matter the situation was able to get through the disadvantages
that she faced because she had thing that she loved to do. Her cooking was an
aspect of her life that she embraced fully and was able to claim as her own. In
life, there are many times in which a person can feel lost and not know where
they stand in their family or society but having one thing that they can claim
as their passion allows them to have something to look forward to and fall back
on for support. Tita’s love for cooking never wavered and she knew that it was
the thing she could count on no matter what. This love she felt for cooking was
her foundation and the thing she could always count on.

 

 

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