The debut book by Laura Esquivel under the name "Like Water for Chocolate" was published first in 1989 and met an unexpected success among the readers and the critics. The success was so big that in 1992 Alfonso Arau, a talented Mexican director, has shot a movie under the same name based on this book. The movie was also a success and brought much fame to a director and the actors making it one of the most recognized non-American films in Hollywood. Moreover, the book itself and the popularity of it made the world publishers reconsider their cooperation with female writers and started to publish them more often. All these sentences come to the question: what is so special about the book and the themes highlighted in it? How did it make all these changes in the world of culture of the end of 20th century? We`ll try to answer on these questions in the paragraphs below.
The first thing to do is to summarize the plot of the novel. It`s a narrative about Tita De La Garza, living in Mexico with her big family by the first decade of the 20th century, the times of the Mexican Revolution during these years. She`s in love with Pedro Muzquiz, and she is asked to marry him once. However, she is forbidden to accept the marriage by her despotic mother, Mama Elena, as Tita is the youngest daughter in the family and according to the family traditions, she is not allowed to ever get married. Pedro makes a tricky move to solve this problem – he marries her oldest sister, Rosaura, but he doesn`t deny the fact that it was done only to be closer to Tita before her father. Therefore, all of them live under the same roof and the lovers have their possibility to meet each other. The power of their love and passion depicted here as big as it could affect even the food that Tita cooks for the family. Once it even has it`s passionate effect on another sister of Tita, Gertrudis, who escaped the Mother`s house with a revolutionist affected by a lascivious taste of Tita`s cookery. By the time Gertrudis leaves the family, Rosaura gives birth to her child; a boy called Roberto, whom Tita treats as her own son. However, Mama Elena wasn`t appreciating such care from Tita and started to notice that the child makes her and Pedro closer to each other and forces Pedro`s family to leave for San Antonio from the house. Sometime later, Tita finds out that her nephew dies from the parting from her and her emotional status loses its stability; moreover, she is being transferred to an asylum where a careful and kind doctor is treating her. Once she recovers from her depression, she is forced to return to her home to look after Mama Elena, who suddenly felt sick. The tyranny of her mother makes her also mad about the fact that Tita tries to poison her with the food and medicine and she dies after taking a big dose of vomitive. However, Tita`s mother continues to haunt her as a ghost telling her that she must leave the house forever. Tita`s patience to her mother ends with these arguments, she refuses to listen to this spirit and proclaims that she wants to live her life and love freely. This scene is the culmination of the book and after this event come a couple of events with Pedro and Rosaura, Tita`s new love with John Brown, which is doubtful for her until the end of the book. I don`t want to tell much about the end of the book because it depicts too much emotion and passion that a reader should experience them by himself, the only thing that I`ll tell about the end of the book is that Pedro and Tita will be together.
Let`s go for a deeper analysis of the book to highlight the themes and symbols that the book hides. The main theme of the book is the Tita`s struggle for love with her mother. On the one hand, Tita here is a symbol of freedom, independence, individuality and care; however, on the other hand, Mama Elena is the embodiment of conservatism, blind following of the rules, despotism and every characteristic that opposes Tita`s will to love and be loved. Mama Elena doesn`t want to be a mother for Tita during the narrative and doesn`t want to establish any bond with her either. This forces Tita to develop a supernatural ability to infuse the food she cooks with her deepest feelings as nothing and nobody else cares about them. Nevertheless, we find out that Mama Elena wasn`t always so despotic against her daughters, the death of her husband made her to behave such way. She has found her remedy and the reason why she lost her love and her daughters are to blame for this. On the contrary, Tita`s loss of love makes her stronger and more patient, her spirit wins against the hostile environment she lives in and she wins this struggle for love due to much strength in her heart and soul.
The major symbols of the book are the heat and fire that widely used throughout the story. As everyone knows, those are the inevitable in cooking and they are the reflection of Tita`s love, passion and desire here. There is an enormous amount of moments and events that can be symbolized by heat and fire – on the one hand, they are the symbols of deepest feelings of lovers; on the other, they are sometimes depicted as the dangerous destructing forces.
Such a great symbolism and the topics highlighted in the book make it one of the brightest examples of the literature of the 20th century; it shows how the common scenes of casual life of simple people can be magically depicted using the enigmatic signs and symbols to exaggerate their feelings and thoughts about themselves and each other. This book is a classic example of magical realism genre and everything mentioned above proves that; however there`s so much left to say about this book and I hope that you`ll read it and find the feelings of yourself reflecting in the images pictured in it.
Esquivel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies. Random House Inc, 1995.
SparkNotes LLC. Like Water for Chocolate. n.d. http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/likewater/section13.rhtml. 02 03 2014.