Jared Smith's Reviews > Like Water for Chocolate

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
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M_50x66
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Feb 03, 08

Read in June, 2003

Few times does an author create something completely unique; Laura Esquivel has accomplished just that. Her themes of passion, familial insubordination, dictatorial governance, and romance are not new to literature. But communicating those themes through family life on the ranch of northern Mexico using magical realism and monthly recipes as metaphors is truly pioneering.

Tita is a suppressed daughter of Mama Elena, head of a Mexican ranch at the time of the Mexican Revolution. Tita was denied the consent of her mother to marry her true love, Pedro, who decided to wed Tita’s older sister to be close to Tita. It is a recipe for disaster. What ensues is how Tita progresses and finds happiness under her mother’s masterdom.

Food becomes the central metaphor in Like Water for Chocolate, as a life sustainer and a passion stimulant. Tita expresses herself through the food she prepares, obtaining a degree of creativity and professionalism that is obtained only through generations of tradition; she becomes the family nurturer, feeding babies, the sickly and the healthy. Food is the way that this matriarchal Mexican ranch family sustains their culture and tradition.

The political allegory is also significant, mapping what the key personalities are under a stifling dictatorship. Mama Elena maintains her power with the force of her own personality: personalismo. When that doesn’t work, she cites tradition and “respectability.” The third line of power is fear and castigation. Past political dictators have used all of these leadership tactics to maintain their regency. All of the characters have interesting allegorical places: Rosaura the ideological conformist, is a weak personality who carries on the traditions set by her mother without realizing why she is doing them. Gertrudis plays the rebel and Pedro the selfish conformist. Pedro abides by his mother-in-law’s rules but tries to maximize his own happiness without contributing to the happiness of others. Marrying the sister of the woman he loves is a solution of someone who cannot think outside the box. He only marries Rosaura because Mama Elena suggests it—the marriage is within the rules. If he were a true free-thinker, he would run away and liberate Tita at the beginning.

By setting the novel against the Mexican Revolution, Esquivel shows how a family and a country can change its dogmatic and unproductive traditions. Just as the country overthrows its leadership, the De La Garza family overthrows Mama Elena and changes how it functions. The daughters of the De La Garza revolution decide just how they want to live after Mama Elena is gone.

The magical realism in Like Water for Chocolate makes the novel fun to read. From seeing ghosts to Gertrudis bursting the shower into flames, the novel becomes more of a tall-tale than a historical novel. These magical phenomena accentuate the humanity of the characters—using the magical elements to put the characters in positions where their true emotions can be seen. Overall, magical realism is an excellent technique in a well-written book.
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Melvin Rodríguez-Rodríguez This was a nice, historic view of the novel, I hadn't seen it like that. :)


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