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Emotions In Like Water For Chocolate English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1602 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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One of the dominant themes observed in the novel by Laura Esquivel is illness and disorder. This theme is supported and resolved by the use of “home remedies” as is suggested by the subtitle of the novel. Being the youngest daughter of the family is one of the many reasons which puts Tita through an emotional ordeal which accounts for these illnesses. The effects of these emotions are counteracted upon by the numerous recipes brought out through the course of this novel. This essay deals with the relationship between illness and disorder, and Tita’s emotions in the novel Like Water for Chocolate. The recipes play an important role her as they help is categorising the protagonists emotions in “monthly Instalments”, as well as act as source of relief for Tita, for it helps her express her feeling of suffocation, helplessness and pain, which in turn has its repercussions on other people.

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Romance here proves to be one of the major sources of grief for Tita and this is suggested by “Yes, she was having problems… At least then there would be some justification for not allowing her to marry and giving Rosaura her place beside the man she loved.” [1] Her constant tears which are a result of this heartache prevent the cake batter of the Chabela Wedding Cake from thickening. This is used by the author as an outlet for all of Tita’s emotions as a method for her to voice her grief by Rosaura and Pedro’s marriage. This is one out of the many instances where Tita takes the help of food to voice her ailments.

Tita’s feeling of nausea which she experiences while making this cake batter has an adverse effect on the people at her sister’s wedding, for all present there had been affected by the “a strange intoxication – an acute attack of pain and frustration – that had seized the guests and scattered them around the patio… all of them wailing over lost love.” [2] This along with the next symptom of pathetic retching creates the effect of magic realism as none of these actions are untrue but they help in bringing out the extent of Tita’s grief and throws light on the injustice of this decision of marriage taken by Mama Elena. Tita uses food as a metaphor to project her ailments. For instance, the cake here not only foreshadows the marriage but is also used by Tita to bring out her grief by the all the tears that went into making it.

Similarly every chapter brings out a different emotion which uses food as an outlet for Tita to vent out her feelings and result in some form of mental and physical illness. Tita once again feels extreme pain and a feeling of loss and numbness when she receives the news of her Nephew Roberto’s death in the month of May. She “felt the household crashing down around her head. The blow, the sound of all the dishes breaking into a thousand pieces.” [3] The narrator here makes a reference to kitchen utensils even through such a moment of pain, thus highlighting the strong connection between Tita and the domestic life of the ranch. This leads to Mama Elena sending her away to the mental asylum as she misinterprets Tita’s grief for a mental ailment when she says, “Fine, if she is acting crazy, then I’m going to put her in an asylum.” [4] , after Chencha reports back to her of Tita’s condition in the dovecote.

These instances bring out the theme of suppression especially felt by Tita, and highlights Mama Elena’s grit and anger. Tita’s emotions thus not only bring out physical and mental ailments but along with this also bring out the various themes that crop up through the course of the book. Suppression as opposed to power and pain as opposed to happiness is brought out here. Her pain here leads to her experiencing “A chronic chill that kept her from feeling warm, in spite of being covered with her heavy woollen bedspread.” [5] This creates the effect of extreme physical illness that has been elicited by her grief and emptiness and emphasises the magic realism that crops up throughout this novel. This hyperbole of cold used here once again brings out the intensity of the emotion and makes the reader aware of the magnitude of what she’s experiencing.

This incident also however leads to the turning point of the novel. It creates a change in the setting of the novel and a change in Tita’s emotions. This marks the turning point, for Tita learns to stand up and speak out for herself while she stays with John Brown and at the same time gets rid of all her pain and the chronic sickness of cold with the help of the Ox Tail Soup that is brought to her by Chencha. Once again food has been used in association with her pain as its cure. The Ox Tail Soup here is used to relieve her of her pain and bring back memories and “the tears began. She cried as she hadn’t cried since the day she was born.” [6] Chencha uses it to relieve Tita of all her unhappiness and as an antidote to her muteness. This is another reference to magic realism and the use of food for Tita to relieve her emotional baggage. The food here instead of being destructive to the health as seen in the previous experience with the Wedding Cake in February helps revive Tita from her reverie and puts back life into her.

Another such instance of emotion resulting in illness is seen in the month of September. Here the magic realism is stretched further by the introduction of Mama Elena’s ghost which leads to Tita believing that she is pregnant with Pedro’s illegitimate child. The introduction of Mama Elena’s ghost fills Tita with fear as “The napkin flew into the air and an icy shiver ran down Tita’s spine.” [7] and leaves her bothered and up in the air that even Checha doesn’t fail to notice it. All of this leaves Tita feeling unwell and desperately wishing for her sister Gertrudis’ support. Her moment of lust with Pedro left Tita with a number of ailments. “…how swollen her belly was… how in the morning when she got up, she felt sick and queasy. Her chest hurt so bad that nobody could touch it.” [8] This hyperbole helps in exaggerating Tita’a pain and reiterates her sickness. This brings out a sickness of another sort as compared to the rest. No one but Tita herself is affected by her emotions as it has a direct effect on her own health here. The pregnancy leaves Tita physically and mentally ill despite the fact that she was able to get the person whom she desired. This creates quite a contrast to her other illnesses.

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Tita is still subjected to suppression by Mama Elena and is given a sound beating after being blamed for Rosaura and Pedro’s disastrous wedding. This leaves Tita bruised in bed for a fortnight and unable to move due to the severity of this thrashing. On one hand where it strains the bond between Mama Elena and Tita even more, on the other hand it strengthens some of the other bonds that prevail in this novel. For instance, it makes Dr. John Brown fall in love with her. It creates a bond of trust between them and helps Tita open up and trust him. A similar understanding is seen between Tita and Pedro by her pregnancy. Pedro expresses his joy at this news and sees this as a moment of their reunion. To Pedro this action seems to have strengthened their bond and driven away the wedge that had been present between them.

“Home made” recipes are used by Tita throughout to overcome these illnesses, as seen with making the matches in the month of June and the Ox tail Soup in July. Making Matches in the ancient way of John Brown’s dead grandmother Morning Light had given Tita a way of expressing all that lay pent up within her by writing on the walls “Because I don’t want to” [9] leads Tita towards her first steps of freedom. This happens by her ignorance of Phosphorus’s glow in the dark properties. This leads to her freedom as she communicates with John Brown for the first time – unknowingly.

Esquival has used food to channel out Tita’s emotions and bringing it forth to a crowd, with adverse effects on the people at the receiving end. She has also inculcated magic realism in it and has presented food as a metaphorical representation of Tita’s emotions, and has thus presented a link between them and the illnesses that follow suit.


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