The book begins with some wisdom from one it’s focal settings; the kitchen. To avoid ters when chopping onions one must simply place a small piece of onion on one’s head. Onion induced weeping is what brings the protagonist Tita, into the world, as she is born in the kitchen crying, among the tears of her mother. Her mother, Mama Elena, after hearing the death of her husband, can not produce milk for Tita, so ME hands Tita to the house cook, Nacha.
As a result, Tita grows up surrounded by the smells and tastes in the kitchen, and so understands the world in terms of good.
Tita enjoys the isolation in the domain of the kitchen. Outside the kitchen, Tita follows a strict regimen that ME sets for her daughters, Getrudis, Rosaura and Tita. The routine inclues: cooking, cleaning, sewing and prayer. One day, they are interrupted by Tita’s aburupt yet timid announcement that a suitor, Perdo Muzquiz, would like to pay T a visit.
ME is insulted by this announcement as it invokes the De la Garza tradiotn that the youngets daughter is to remain unmarried so that she can care for the matriarch in the martiachs old age. Titas is dismayed by this rigid family tradition.
On the outside, Tita accepts MEs wishes, however she secretly questions the family tradition and maintains her feelings for Pedro. The next day, Pedro and his father arrive at the de la Garza house to ask for Titas hand in marriage. Obviously, ME refutes this proposal and insteads offers the hand of Rosaura. MEs bold disregard for Ts feelings shockes everyone, but Perdro and his faher accept the new arrangement. N overhears P confessing to his father that he only agreed to this arrangement so that he can be near T. T is still not consoled by this revalation- not even her favourite food, the Christmas Roll, can cure her sadness.
T is struck by a cold sensation, so to warm herself up, she resumes work on a quilt she had begun when she and P first began talking about marriage. . Analysis. The story of T entry into the world marks the fantasty-like image in the novel, pulling the reader into the nobe;s world of magical realism and illustrates the intensity and improbability that characterize the events in the story. The image of T flowing into the world, setes the sadness and longing that will percade her life. After the birth of T, the flood of tears dries to leave ten pounds of salt, which is collected to be used in cooking.
This practical attitude that the charcaters greet Ts birth with, establishes the acceptance of the supernatural element in their lives. Due to her isolated childhood in the kitchen, T has developed a different outlook on life of those of her sisters. As a young woman, T rebels against the family tradition that pushes her to a confienement of a loveless life. Her constant questioning, not directly to ME, of her life’s situations, can be identified as one of the feminist impulses in the novel, T’s refusal to accept the assigned undesirable social-role marks her journey to self-assertation and freedom.
The overwhelming sense of coldness that T feels after the enagement of P and R is an introduction of the theme that will prominently be conveyed throughout the novel: an emotional state manifesting itself physically. T’s nights of insomnia religiously crocheting a bedspread represents her desperate desire for the heat/warmth of love and establishes the pattern of T passion being channelled into domestic activities. T’s reaction to the cold is exaggerated, so it can highlight the intensity of emotion behind the action. Another important aspect about T’s sadness, is that not even her favourite meal can life her spirits.
The warmth she would normally receive from the Christmas rolls cannot warm the coldness induced by her starved love. Her understanding of life through food fails to comfort her and so the inadequacy of food as a substitute is shown. Capitulo 2: Febrero: Pastel Chabela Summary The fateful wedding of P and R is a blur in the de la Garza household. The kitchen is consumed with the preparation of the Chable wedding cake, the recipe that begins this chapter. The wedding feast requires gigantic proportions of food e. g. 170 eggs etc. N and T make the majority of the food themselves.
Still in shock and now tired, T begins to have hallucinations. ME sternly states that she will not have T ruin the wedding “No voy a permitir tus desmandads, ni voy a permitir que arruines a tu hermana su boda, con tu actud de victima’ (pg 25) T continues to cook, however she and N reach a point of breakdown. When ME leaves the kitchen, N tells T to release her emotions before the wedding, causing T to break down in to tears. T continues to cook however herr tears have made the cake batter soggy. T runs into P in the garden whilst she is picking apricots.
P makes clear to her that he still desires her and tries to explain himself but T blanks him out. Back in the kitchen, T is fixated on the whiteness of the icing she has prepared. T is continually affected by hallucinations, so N insists that T get some rest. Alone in the kitchen, N tastes the icing to see if Ts tears have made it salty. The taste is unchanged, but N is suddenly overcome with a sense of immense loss. She records her own lost, youthful love, and becomes sick with ache that inhibits her from attending the wedding.
T still has to attend the wedding and suffers intense scrutiny from thr guest who all know her feelings for P. She is harassed by their comments and stares, but remains a stoic appearance. As she passes through receiving line where the guests congratulate the newlyweds, T is forced to face P. , who uses this opportunity to whisper to T that his love for her is undying. ME sees this unusual long embrace and questions T about the words exchanged. T does not divulge what hapene, but scared of ME threats, T tries to stay away from P and R.
Tita spends the rest of the wedding in newfound happiness, basking in the warmth of Pedro’s confession. When the guests began to eat the wedding cake, everyone is reduced to the same fit of longing and wailing that struck Nacha earlier. The heartache is coupled with bouts of vomiting, and the entire wedding is ruined. Having left immediately after eating a single piece of cake, Tita is the only person to escape the scourge. Her happiness over Pedro’s love is tempered by the physical pain of the vicious beating of ME she suffers , who is certain that Tita purposefully poisoned the wedding cake.
Tita is unable to convince her mother otherwise and unable to seek defense in Nacha, who is found dead, clutching a portrait of her lost lover. Analysis. The weakness and hallucinations that Tita experiences while preparing the wedding feast are physical manifestations of the heartache that begins with her terrible cold. She fixates on the wedding cake and wedding gown, which serve as dreadful symbols of her hopeless love. The focus of her hallucinations on the whiteness of these objects comments on the purity of Tita’s emotions, in contrast to the loveless, and hence impure, nature of the impending union between Rosaura and Pedro.
Plus, the color white evokes ideals of femininity and womanhood–ideals to which Tita will never be able to conform because she is forbidden to love and marry. White also represents a virginity that Tita is never supposed to escape. The wedding of Rosaura and Pedro marks the first instance when Tita wields, albeit unknowingly, the power that food offers her. Afflicted by sadness, Tita pours her emotions into the food she prepares by means of her tears (recall the flood of tears in which Tita was born). Tita’s tears induce incessant vomiting and a terrible sense of loss among the wedding guests.
However,more than a mere echo of Tita’s sorrow, these effects constitute a violent and amplified expression of emotion, as the cake inflicts actual pain. Tita’s emotions have been transfigured: For Tita, trapped in the domestic sphere and denied not only control but also the right to rage at her fate, food serves to exact the vengeance she seeks. She subconsciously transforms the emotional violence she has suffered into an act of social violence. However, Mama Elena responds with real physical violence, illustrating the limits of Tita’s expression.
Though the marriage occurs, the fits of vomiting ruin the wedding party and Rosaura’s pure white dress, exposing the event for the false and impure affair it is. Capitulo 3: Marzo: Cornices en Petalos de rosas. Summary The death of Nacha leaves Tita alone and without a confidant in the domain of the De La Garza kitchen. Inheriting the role of ranch cook, Tita comforts herself by preparing elaborate dishes. With a rose given to her secretly by Pedro, Tita prepares quail in rose petal sauce. The recipe is of pre-Hispanic origin, and it is in Nacha’s voice that the secrets are transmitted.
The meal receives an ecstatic response from Tita’s family members, especially Pedro, who always compliments Tita’s cooking. A more weird affect is observed in Gertrudis, the second sister. The meal serves as an aphrodisiac for her, arousing in her an insatiable sexual desire. This turbulent emotion pulses through Gertrudis and on to Pedro. Tita herself goes through a sort of out-of-body experience. Throughout the dinner, Tita and Pedro stare at each other, entranced. When the meal is finished, Gertrudis goes to prepare a shower to rid herself of the pink sweat and rose-scented aroma she emits.
The force of her heat and passion, still strong from the aphrodisiacal meal, causes the water from the primitive ranch shower to evaporate on contact and eventually sets the structure on fire. Fleeing naked from the burning shower, Gertrudis is scooped up onto a galloping horse by a soldier in the revolutionary army, who was drawn to the area by her intoxicating scent. The soldier and Gertrudis ride off. Unable to follow the lustful path of Gertrudis, Tita is left on the ranch. Analysis The escape of Gertrudis serves as a foil to Tita’s stifled passion.
The intensity of the former’s reaction to the meal serves to communicate the potency of the passion that the latter possesses but is unable to express directly. With her primary form of expression limited to food, Tita takes the illicit token of love from Pedro and returns the gift, transforming it into a meal filled with lust. The manner in which Gertrudis is affected by the food and later swept away on a galloping horse is clearly fantastical, and the vivid imagery (the pink sweat and powerful aroma) exemplifies the novel’s magical realism. The disappearance of Gertrudis reveals much about female sexuality in Like Water for Chocolate.
While Tita can only articulate her sexuality within the domestic sphere, Gertrudis is able to exceed these boundaries without a second thought. Her flight can be seen as a triumph, wherein she sheds notions of social propriety to pursue her unbridled desires. Conversely, her departure from the ranch is also a sort of expulsion: The free expression of female desire clearly has no place in the ordered domestic realm. The contrasting experiences of Gertrudis and Tita illustrate the only two possibilities for female desire, both of which are extremes: stifled and unarticulated, or hypersexualized to the point of
being pornographic. The later revelation that Gertrudis is of mixed ancestry makes it interesting to read this chapter (and further characterizations of Gertrudis) in terms of racial stereotypes. Her intense eroticism (her strong sense of rhythm is mentioned later) corresponds to typical depictions of mulatto characters. It is possible to argue that, in showering, Gertrudis is attempting to rid herself of her inherent sexuality. Additionally, her insatiable desire may also be related to the circumstances of her parentage, because she was born of a love that was never fulfilled.
Yet, though there is some textual support for a reading of Gertrudis as sexualized by her background, such a reading seems out of place in a novel normally so sensitive to issues of marginality and otherness. Capitulo 4: Abril: Mole de guajolotye con alomendra y ajonjoli Summary Unexpected joy comes to Tita with the birth of Roberto, the son of Pedro and Rosaura. Tita works feverishly to prepare a special baptism meal. While in the kitchen, she has another chance encounter with Pedro that dramatically alters their relationship. A simple exchange of glances communicates the layers of unspoken desire between them.
After this “consummation” of sorts, Tita’s faith in Pedro’s love is restored. During a flashback, the narrator recalls the tumultuous birth of Roberto while the village was being occupied by federal troops. No doctor was available at the time, so Tita was left alone to help Rosaura birth the baby. During the long and difficult delivery, Tita was aided by the spirit voice of Nacha, guiding her in the delicate and dangerous procedure. Rosaura produces no milk and is thus unable to nurse her child. Tita eventually takes on the responsibility of nursing Roberto, at first with special teas that he rejects.
Once she offers her breast to pacify the child, Tita discovers that she is miraculously full with milk and is able to feed her nephew. Pedro discovers Tita secretly nursing Roberto and helps her to conceal this from the rest of the family, strengthening the illicit bond between the two even further. Sharp-witted Mama Elena senses something between them and holds to her resolve to keep them apart. She arranges for Rosaura, Pedro, and baby Roberto to move to San Antonio under the guise of seeking better medical attention for Rosaura. This news devastates Tita, who loathes the thought of being separated from her nephew and the man she loves.
Analysis The interaction between Tita and Pedro in the kitchen is a landmark in their erotic relationship and is described as having transformed Tita “from chaste to experienced” without the benefit of touch. This development in Tita’s sexuality is especially noteworthy in that Tita is mostly a passive participant; the only significant action she takes in the encounter is letting her clothing fall so that Pedro may view her breasts more clearly. It is Pedro’s gaze that alters Tita’s sexuality, while her part is merely to let herself be seen.
Here, as in subsequent episodes, Tita’s sexuality is depicted not as particularly independent or articulate, but rather as a reaction to Pedro’s carnal desire. The location and circumstance of this exchange are also of significance: It occurs in the kitchen while Tita is preparing the baptism meal. This mingling of nurturing with eroticism solidifies the fact that Tita’s entire worldview is filtered through the kitchen. Tita prepares a traditional meal for a child whom she has nursed but did not birth; she exudes motherly love, and the physical act of making a meal is a substitute for the physical act of making love.
In lifting her chest to Pedro, Tita offers up her flesh as though she were serving food, and her sexuality becomes an extension of her ability to nurture through food. This “consummation” of the relationship between Pedro and Tita is also important because it is after Tita is made an “experienced” woman that she miraculously provides breast milk for her nephew Roberto. Tita’s relationship to Roberto evokes the Virgin Mary and her Immaculate Conception of Jesus; though still a virgin, Tita produces milk as though she had been pregnant.
Tita’s breasts symbolize both sexuality and ability to nurture, and her ability to breastfeed Roberto is directly linked to her new status as a sexualized object. This creates a dichotomy between Tita, the desired, sexual nurturer, and her sister Rosaura, the cold, undesired, and incomplete mother who cannot nurse her own child. Pedro’s role in hiding Tita’s means of feeding Roberto is important because it is another example of the displacement of their sexual contact onto an act of nurture. Their complicity in concealing Tita’s breast milk brings them closer, and Roberto serves as a vehicle through which their desire is transmitted.
Capitulo 5: Mayo: Chroizo Norteno In the wake of Pedro’s departure, Tita is moved to do little but tend to a pigeon she has taken as a pet. She grows despondent and ignores her duties in the household. During this time, federal troops raid the ranch. Mama Elena confronts them with a shotgun hidden in her petticoats and proves herself a formidable opponent when she shoots the chickens they have stolen from her and threatens them with her best shot. When she finally lets them search her property, they find nothing but Tita’s large dovecote filled with her cherished doves and pigeons.
The soldiers trap as many birds as they can and depart. Before the arrival of the regiment, Mama Elena had skillfully hidden most of her valuable goods and livestock, ensuring that the ranch would not be totally plundered. The absence of the doves and pigeons heightens Tita’s sense of loss after the departure of Roberto and Pedro. In the midst of this depression, word arrives from San Antonio that Roberto has died, unable to consume anything but his Aunt Tita’s breast milk. When she is rebuked for mourning the child, Tita lashes out at Mama Elena, screaming that Mama Elena is to blame for the baby’s death.
Mama Elena strikes Tita across the face with a wooden spoon, breaking her nose. Tita retreats to her dovecote; when Chencha tries to retrieve her, she finds Tita in a catatonic state. Mama Elena orders Tita to be sent to an asylum. Dr. John Brown rescues Tita from the dovecote and takes her away. As Tita leaves, Chencha gives her the enormous bedspread that Tita has been crocheting. It is now a full kilometer long, the product of Tita’s endless sorrow Analysis Tita’s confrontation with Mama Elena marks the first time that Tita is able to assert her beliefs, though she does so from a position of weakness in a moment of tremendous anguish.
Her grief at learning of Roberto’s death inspires Tita to challenge Mama Elena’s cruelty, and she manages, tentatively, to establish the power of her voice. This proves important, as Tita soon retreats into silence, but eventually finds power over Elena by means of words. However, her bold protest here is not triumphant; rather, Mama Elena rewards Tita with another beating. As with the beating after the spoiled wedding of Pedro and Rosaura, Mama Elena’s chief mechanism for countering Tita’s rare moments of opposition to her is physical attack.
These abuses, physical and emotional, subject Tita’s body and mind to the constant threat of violence. She is unable to exert control over her emotional and physical well-being. The domestic space, in which Tita is usually able to exercise some measure of power through her motherly activities, is now entirely hostile. The coupling of this watershed moment between Tita and Mama Elena with the raid of federal troops draws a parallel between the disruption of the ranch by outside forces and Mama Elena’s aggression.
The turbulence of the revolution disturbs the domestic space, and in robbing Tita of her pet birds, the soldiers not only strip her of the opportunity to nurture, but also steal symbols of freedom. Likewise the violent attack from Mama Elena finally raids Tita’s spirit of its remaining sustenance, letting Mama Elena keep Tita under her control. Tita’s subsequent withdrawal into mental oblivion and physical detachment suggest that her only way out of this broken world is madness. Lying naked in the dovecote, covered with bird droppings, Tita’s body is no longer a source of pleasure or nurture, but merely a shell racked with pain and grief.
Chap 6 Under the loving care of Dr. Brown, Tita slowly emerges from her traumatized inner shell. Initially, she is withdrawn and numb, still suffering from the chronic sense of cold that on Rosaura and Pedro’s wedding day. Subsequently, she begins to comprehend her new life away from the oppressive ranch and Mama Elena. At John Brown’s house she encounters a figure who reminds her of Nacha. Tita is visited daily by the comforting presence of this silent woman, who turns out to be the ghost of John’s grandmother, a Native American named Morning Light.
It is from Morning Light that John acquired his interest in science and medicine. His house is full of experiments that fascinate Tita. Throughout her stay at John’s house, Tita remains silent. Nevertheless, a bond grows between her and John as they spend a great deal of time together. John shares with Tita a recipe for making matches, and with this recipe, he explains the theory that an inner fire burns in each person and describes the ways in which one must protect this fire. Eventually, John asks Tita to write on the wall (with a glow-in-the-dark stick) her reason for not talking.
When he returns, he finds that she has written, “Because I don’t want to. ” With this assertion of her will, Tita moves further toward her freedom and becomes certain that she wishes never to return to her mother’s house. Analysis For the first time, Tita is removed from the domestic world of the kitchen and the ranch. At Dr. Brown’s house, she is able to explore a new way of existing in the world, not circumscribed by the limits imposed by Mama Elena or by her role as nurturer. For the first time, she is simply an individual, not responsible for the care of anyone but herself.
During this time, Tita achieves a bit of independence as she gains a sense of her desires, but she is only able to do so after returning from the depths of madness and remaining still within a very protected domestic space. The gentle Dr. Brown is the ideal person to guide Tita toward well-being. His position as a white American male lets him offer Tita a completely different set of values (decidedly more liberal than those learned on the De La Garza ranch) with which Tita may function. As an outsider, John offers Tita access to the independence she seeks.
Yet even the option that arises out of her relationship with John Brown relies on her domesticity, as they are eventually to become engaged. Despite this, his sensitivity to her plight is crucial and is best exemplified in his explanation to her of his ideas about the internal box of matches, each one containing the explosions necessary for an individual to live. The theory allows Tita a metaphor through which to understand her own situation, for in her thoughts she realizes that “she knew what set off her explosions, but each time she had managed to light a match, it had persistently been blown out.
” This inner fire becomes the central image of the novel, one that pervades, and comes to symbolize, Tita’s continuing journey toward selfhood. Chap 7 Summary Appropriately enough, it is food that finally restores Tita to stability. Visiting from the De La Garza ranch, Chencha brings her ox-tail soup. With one spoonful Tita instantly recalls the best time of her life, her youth in the kitchen with Nacha, where she enjoyed many foods and Nacha’s love. Crying with Chencha, Tita remembers and recounts the recipe for the soup–the first recipe she has been able to remember since her breakdown.
Chencha brings news of the ranch, where Tita’s name is no longer spoken, and a letter from Gertrudis, who is living and working in a brothel. Tita asks Chencha to return to the ranch with the news that Tita has decided never to return. After Chencha leaves, John Brown proposes marriage to Tita, who, now fully recovered, looks forward to beginning a new life with him. Before Chencha can deliver Tita’s message to Mama Elena, a group of bandits attacks the ranch. The bandits rape Chencha and thrash Mama Elena, who was trying to defend Chencha, rendering her a paraplegic.
Tita returns to the ranch to care for Chencha and Mama Elena. In hopes of helping her mother to a full recovery, Tita prepares the same ox-tail soup that so miraculously cured her own illness. Mama Elena rejects Tita’s care, humiliated that her disowned daughter has returned. Tita is crestfallen, confident that her meal, prepared with such love and care, would heal Mama Elena. But Mama Elena refuses to eat Tita’s food, certain that it is poisoned. Mama Elena only lets Chencha prepare and serve her food. One day, when Chencha is unavailable, Tita secretly prepares food for Mama Elena, but Mama Elena is not fooled.
She immediately detects the “bitter taste” always present in Tita’s food. Furious, Mama Elena fires Chencha. Unable to find anyone else to satisfy the demanding needs of her mother, Tita herself eventually resumes cooking for Mama Elena. Within a month, Mama Elena dies. The cause of her ailments and eventual death is revealed to be massive doses of ipecac (an emetic she took when she feared poisoning), not Tita’s cooking. Despite the endless cruelty that she suffered at the hands of Mama Elena, Tita is moved to great sorrow by her mother’s death.
Further, when dressing the dead body of Mama Elena for the wake, Tita discovers a set of keys that open a box of love letters. The letters reveal that as a young woman, Elena was deeply in love with a mulatto man. Her parents forbid this relationship and forced her into a marriage with the man who would become Tita’s father. However, Mama Elena continued the affair, and she eventually became pregnant with Gertrudis. Elena planned to run away with her lover but he was murdered, so she gave into her loveless marriage and hid the true identity of her second child’s father.
Tita mourns Mama Elena and this thwarted love. At the funeral, she swears that “she would never renounce love. ” She feels ready to accept John as her true love and companion, but her love for Pedro still survives, creating tension in her heart. Now that Mama Elena is dead, and with her the dictate forbidding Tita to marry, Pedro is determined to have Tita. Analysis The attack of the bandits represents another invasion of the domestic sphere, highlighting the vulnerability of the female-dominated ranch.
In raping Chencha and injuring Mama Elena, the bandits reduce the two women to mere objects of male aggression. The absence of Tita, the customary target of Mama Elena’s abuse, leaves Mama Elena no outlet for her own aggression, thus reinforcing her vulnerability and victim status. In contrast, when the federal troops raided the ranch, Tita’s mourning for the dead Roberto provided Mama Elena a reason to explode at Tita, letting Mama Elena exercise some degree of control in her life. However, the bandits’ attack revisits upon Mama Elena the emotional and physical trauma that she created in Tita’s life.
Tita’s return to the ranch thrusts her back into the role of caretaker. She enters this role gracefully, her spirit renewed by the stint at John Brown’s. The ever-difficult Mama Elena, however, thwarts Tita’s steadfast belief in the healing properties of food. Despite her weakened condition, Mama Elena continues to wield tremendous power over Tita, reaffirming the mother-daughter hierarchy. One can interpret Mama Elena’s particular nastiness in this chapter as her desperate attempt to retain control over Tita in the face of her own mortality.
Snubbing Tita’s cooking is the sole remaining means for Mama Elena to hurt her youngest daughter. More than simply rejecting the food, Mama Elena knowingly rejects the love, healing, and nourishment with which Tita always imbues her offerings. Mama Elena’s fatal self-poisoning is the literal effect of the medicine she takes to counteract Tita’s “bitter” food and the metaphorical effect of so many years of bitter living. The revelation about Mama Elena’s own forbidden love is a crucial moment in Tita’s development, as Tita comes to understand Mama Elena’s cruelty toward her.
Her ability to sympathize with her mother about the pain of restrained love–even though Mama Elena was never willing to sympathize with Tita–coupled with her initial grief at her mother’s death, demonstrates her maturity. Tita possesses the strength to confront her feelings, and with a new understanding of her mother’s life and a recognition of the fact that she is not the only one to have loved against the wishes of others, she resolves to be steadfast in her own pursuit of true love. Chap 8 Summary
The death of Mama Elena frees Tita from her mother’s wretched sentence, and her excitement about marrying John Brown is diverted only by the birth of Rosaura’s second child, a girl, whom Tita names Esperanza. Tita chooses this name after refusing to let Pedro name the child Josefita (Tita’s real name). Tita chooses the name Esperanza, which means “hope,” because she wants her niece, who is by default Rosaura’s youngest daughter, to escape the familial tradition that prevented Tita from marrying. Tita is intimately involved in raising her niece, as Rosaura is bedridden due to a complicated delivery and unable to nurse.
Esperanza is reared in the kitchen, just as Tita was, and fed with the same teas and gruels with which Nacha nurtured Tita. Rosaura is quite jealous at the closeness between Tita and the infant. One day she confirms Tita’s fears: She announces her intention to follow family doctrine and prohibit Esperanza from marrying. This announcement, combined with Pedro’s confrontational efforts to dissuade Tita from marrying John Brown, inspires a terrible rage in Tita. It is with this rage that Tita prepares a meal called champandongo, to be served during John’s visit to ask for her hand in marriage.
While cooking, Tita experiences a sensation of tremendous heat that compounds the heat of the kitchen to create an intense steam. Anger permeates her body, and everything surrounding her aggravates her. Tita’s feeling is said to be “like water for chocolate,” referring to the preparation of chocolate, during which water is brought just short of boiling several times before use in the recipe. The heat of Tita’s anger rises until she is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of Chencha, who has returned to the ranch happily married and ready to begin a new life.
Chencha’s return lets Tita take a break from cooking to prepare for John’s arrival. She takes a shower in the outdoor bathroom (a new one built on the same spot where Gertrudis’s shower episode occurred). In the shower, Tita’s rage subsides, and the heat slowly dissipates. However, the water suddenly becomes so hot that it burns Tita’s skin. Fearing that the bathroom is once again on fire, Tita opens her eyes and sees that Pedro has been standing outside of the shower watching her intently, his eyes radiating lust. Tita flees the shower when Pedro approaches her. John arrives during this commotion.
Before dinner, John and Pedro argue about politics, adding to the tension. When John formally petitions Pedro, now head of the household, for Tita’s hand in marriage, Pedro agrees begrudgingly. John presents Tita with a beautiful diamond ring, making the engagement official. John leaves that night for America to bring back his only living aunt for the wedding. After dinner, Tita is left to clean the kitchen. In a small room off the kitchen in which Mama Elena used to bathe, Pedro once again confronts Tita. Without any words, he takes her to a bed in the room and makes love to her, taking her virginity.
Though Rosaura and Chencha see the “phosphorescent plumes” and strange glow coming from the room, they refuse to go near, fearing that the commotion is the ghost of Mama Elena, bringing fury from the other side. Analysis . The consistent images of intense heat in this section reflect the tensions plaguing Tita, building to the release of passion in which Tita loses her virginity. Rosaura’s decision to prohibit Esperanza from marrying evokes a violent emotional reaction in Tita, as does Pedro’s lust; these emotions overwhelm Tita, suffocating her in an almost unbearable sensation of heat.
Additionally, the overwhelming presence of heat surrounding Tita’s body recalls John Brown’s lesson to Tita about her internal fire. Recognition of her internal flame forces Tita to consider letting passion rule her life, throwing into focus the new conflict between Tita’s love for John, who first revealed to her the mysteries of her inner fire, and her passion for Pedro, with whom she has finally experienced it. The presence of Tita’s rage strongly governs the events of this chapter, in contrast to the control that Mama Elena’s violence exhibited over Tita’s earlier expressions of anger.
Tita’s emotions are now free to grow to nearly dangerous proportions. Tita does not directly confront Rosaura and Pedro, the triggers of her anger, but rather suppresses her rage, causing the physical manifestation of her feelings in the overwhelming waves of heat. By showering in cool water, Tita is able to exert some control over the heat arising from her emotions, but Pedro’s lust imposes a second, equally intense wave of heat upon her. His voyeurism transforms Tita from a subject deep in contemplation of her own intense emotions into an object of his desire and the focus of his own emotional heat.
Again, Tita’s involvement in her sexual relationship with Pedro is passive. Her flight from the shower as Pedro approaches her clearly echoes Gertrudis’s earlier escape from the burning shower. However, instead of fleeing, like Gertrudis, in active pursuit of desire, Tita runs away from a sexual encounter with Pedro because it is forbidden and, to some extent, undesired, because she is engaged to John Brown. Tita’s flight from the shower does not end Pedro’s pursuit. When Pedro confronts Tita in Mama Elena’s former bathing room, the language used to describe the encounter is hardly indicative of consensus.
Tita exercises no control in the episode, but is a sort of vessel, receiving the long-stifled force of Pedro’s desire. Pedro’s forceful sexual behavior renders their sexual encounter extremely potent, as embodied by the “phosphorescent plumes” and glow emitted from the room, suggesting that the only manner in which Tita can express herself sexually is as the object of her lover’s desire. From a feminist point of view, this confined sexuality is problematic, as it serves to illustrate that though Tita may seek the “freedom” of true love, the possibilities for women of the novel’s time period and culture are rather limited. Chap 9
Summary Tita fears that she has become pregnant as a result of her encounter with Pedro. She has missed a period and knows she will have to cancel her engagement to John Brown now that she is not a virgin. She is preoccupied with these thoughts during the preparation of King’s Day bread. This particular recipe evokes memories of her childhood, especially the loving care of Nacha and companionship of the disappeared Gertrudis. While Tita bakes the bread, Rosaura visits to ask for Tita’s help. Rosaura suffers from digestive problems that make her overweight and give her bad breath and flatulence, estranging her even further from Pedro.
John Brown has prescribed a diet to ease her discomfort, but Rosaura asks Tita for further assistance with her illness and her marriage. Tita agrees to help Rosaura, providing a special family recipe to cure bad breath and offering special foods to help her lose weight. She is simultaneously warmed by the good will that leads Rosaura to confide in her and desperately guilt-ridden about her encounter with Pedro, especially because Rosaura pinpoints the breakdown in her relationship with Pedro to the night she and Chencha saw flames from the “ghost” of Mama Elena.
No sooner does Rosaura leave the kitchen than the true spirit of Mama Elena enters with a cold chill. She scolds Tita for her relationship with Pedro and curses the baby growing in Tita’s stomach. Chencha enters unexpectedly, forcing Mama Elena’s ghost to flee. Tita is distraught, but there is no one to whom she can turn. That night, during the party held for the festival of Three Kings, Gertrudis returns to the ranch. She gallops up alongside the man who swept her away on his horse so many years ago and a regiment of fifty troops.
Now a general in the revolutionary army, Gertrudis is a veteran of many battles, and the ranch spends the rest of the night listening to her improbable stories. Tita is joyous at the return of her lost sister. Analysis That Rosaura seeks assistance from Tita reinforces the implicit power Tita has over Rosaura resulting from Pedro’s lust for her. With her physical afflictions (which one can interpret as a sort of bizarre punishment for her role in Tita’s unhappiness), Rosaura has become an unappealing, de-feminized caricature.
She has no power over food, as it alters her weight and breath, and occasions flatulence in her. Tita, on the other hand, wields control over food, and is able to offer suggestions for a diet to solve Rosaura’s problems. Tita finds power and nourishment in food, whereas Rosaura is disconnected from the wisdom of the kitchen, and food becomes for her a source of discomfort and diminished self-esteem. The return of Mama Elena in the form of a ghost epitomizes the degree to which Mama Elena exercises influence over Tita. Even in death, she has more power over Tita than Tita, in life, has over herself.
However, one can argue that Mama Elena’s spirit does not appear of its own volition, but is rather invoked by Tita’s profound sense of guilt about her affair with Pedro, as though Tita seeks a reprimand that she knows she deserves. In this reading, Mama Elena’s cursing of the child echoes Tita’s own desire not to be pregnant, because she dreads the inevitable judgment that society will pass on her. Either way, it is clear that Tita will not be free of Mama Elena until she asserts her individuality. The return of Gertrudis offers Tita a role model–a woman who has achieved success by taking risks in her search for personal freedom.
Gertrudis’s only access to the power denied to her as a woman in early twentieth-century Mexico requires a rejection of the all-female world of the ranch and an embracing of the all-male world of the military (her intervening stint in a brothel proves unsatisfying). Donning the costume of an army general, Gertrudis bucks the limits of femininity; as La General, she is able to exert a power unavailable to women in the domestic realm. Recounting stories of improbable battlefield bravado, Gertrudis conforms to the stereotype of the machismo-exuding Mexican male of the early twentieth century.
The involvement of a woman such as Gertrudis in the Mexican Revolution is historically accurate (women indeed played significant roles in the war) and serves to illustrate the extreme alternative available to women in that time period; Rosaura, in contrast, exemplifies the traditional female role of wife and mother (albeit unsuccessfully). Chap 10 Summary The ranch is overwhelmed by the presence of so many houseguests, as Gertrudis and her army stay for more than a week. Tita longs to share her problem with her sister and finally gathers the strength to do so. Gertrudis calmly hears Tita’s story and offers steadfast support.
She urges Tita to talk with Pedro about the pregnancy. At first, Pedro is joyous and wants to run away with Tita, but he then remembers his family. Neither is sure what should be done. That night, the ghost of Mama Elena appears, angered by the sight of Pedro drunkenly serenading Tita under her window. The ghost threatens Tita violently, ordering her to leave the house. Tita stands up to the ghost, expelling her with severe words: “I know who I am! A person who has a perfect right to live her life as she pleases. Once and for all, leave me alone, I won’t put up with you! I hate you, I’ve always hated you!
” This proclamation banishes the haunting spirit of Mama Elena, which shrinks into a small, spinning light. At the same instant, Tita feels changes in her body: Her swollen belly is eased, her pained breasts are soothed, and she lets loose a “violent menstrual flow. ” Meanwhile, the spinning light has turned into a small fireball. It bursts through the window of Tita’s room and onto the patio below, where Pedro remains in a drunken stupor. The fireball causes an oil lamp near Pedro to explode, setting fire to his entire body. Everyone rushes to Pedro’s side, with Tita weeping uncontrollably and Rosaura trying to be the dutiful wife.
When Pedro cries out for Tita alone, Rosaura is humiliated and locks herself in her room for a week. Tita is consumed with caring for Pedro. Soon after this incident, Gertrudis and her regiment leave the ranch. On the same day, John returns from the United States. Tita is happy to see him, but dreads the news she must deliver. Analysis Tita’s clear articulation of her desires and assertion of her life force hold the key to her power over Mama Elena’s haunting spirit. The fact that Tita’s words are enough to banish the ghost demonstrates the extent to which her declaration alters her relationship with her mother.
In stating that she has “a perfect right to live… as she pleases,” Tita locates herself outside the realm of the stifling traditional values imposed by her mother. Tita believes that her identity depends not on her place in a regimented hierarchy, but rather on her desires, exhibiting a fundamental American value that John Brown introduced to her in his discussion of the individual’s internal fire. The disappearance of Tita’s pregnancy accords with Tita’s elevation from being the object of others’ emotions to asserting control over her identity.
The recognition of herself as an individual lets Tita fight back against Mama Elena’s emotional abuse and shed her unwanted pregnancy, which was facilitated by Pedro’s objectification of her. The disappearance of the pregnancy brings great relief to Tita, because she will not have to suffer the stigma of having mothered a child under scandalous circumstances. It also introduces a strange paradox: Tita, depicted throughout as the consummate nurturer, is stripped of her own child. Her desire to avoid the societal predicament that her pregnancy would put her in outweighs the power of her impulse to nurture.
One can argue that Tita’s ability to assert her identity is limited, to a degree, by her fear of the crippling judgments of both Mama Elena and society at large. The novel’s quality of magical realism illustrates the important relationship between Tita’s emotions and her pregnancy. Whether one reads Tita’s pregnancy as a real condition or an imaginary one induced by fear and shame after her encounter with Pedro, its termination is a clear sign of the emotional development that Tita’s assertion of her identity in the face of Mama Elena evidences.
The fantastical termination is an abortion translated into the magical real, giving the emotionally empowered Tita control over her body. Chap 11 Tita, busy nursing Pedro back to health, is nervous around John, because she is certain that she must call off the engagement because she is no longer a virgin. While Tita prepares tamales for dinner, Rosaura emerges from her weeklong exile, having lost sixty-five pounds. Rosaura confronts Tita about her relationship with Pedro, claiming that she has been made a laughingstock while Tita has assumed the wifely role in caring for the injured Pedro.
Tita finally voices her anger at Rosaura for marrying Pedro in the first place. Rosaura bitterly insults Tita as a “loose woman” and says that she will no longer let Esperanza be in her presence. After her fight with Rosaura, Tita returns to cooking. Suddenly, a frenzy erupts in the yard as all the chickens on the ranch violently attack each other, filling the air with bloody feathers. Tita tries to stop them but the fury continues, such that the immaculate, embroidered baby diapers hanging outside on the clothesline become stained with blood. The chicken fight creates a huge whirl of energy, turning into a forceful tornado.
Tita attempts to save a few of Esperanza’s precious diapers, but soon has to focus her energy on not being swept away by the wind. The tornado whips so vigorously that it burrows a hole in the ground, and all but three chickens are sucked into this void. When it is finally safe, Tita staggers back to the kitchen, where she finds that her tamales are not ready for the meal. She remembers Nacha’s wise saying that tamales don’t cook when people are arguing. In order to counteract the force of the bad blood between her and Rosaura, Tita conjures up all of her happiest memories of Pedro and sings to the beans.
Just as she expects, the beans react to this infusion of joy and become ready to cook. Tita begins the dinner with John and his aunt with much apprehension, as she knows that she must end her engagement. John senses that she is disturbed. The two talk in Spanish to keep the matter from John’s aunt (who is deaf and can only read lips in English), and Tita reveals everything to John. Though disappointed, John says that he still loves Tita and is willing to marry her despite her relations with Pedro. However, he asks her to decide for herself with which man she wants to spend her life.
Analysis The confrontation between Tita and Rosaura illustrates the strong contrasts that delineate their personas. Rosaura counters the established dichotomy that separates Tita, the desired nurturer, from Rosaura, the undesirable failed mother, with a social construct concerning female sexuality. In calling Tita a “loose woman,” Rosaura claims for herself the status of the proper, wedded matriarch. The employment of this virgin/whore dichotomy hits on Tita’s rejection of a value central to the De La Garza family and to the culture in which the family lives.
By constructing Tita as a defiled woman, Rosaura deflects whatever pain she caused Tita by marrying Pedro. Further, in her declaration that she will no longer touch Pedro, thus leaving him to pursue Tita for his sexual needs, Rosaura wields sex as a weapon against both her husband and her sister. This further illustrates the limits of female sexuality in the novel: For Rosaura, sexuality is utterly divorced from desire and love, and is laden with shame. The chicken fight symbolizes the chaos in Tita’s life and the disorder that has overwhelmed the household.
Tita feels a figurative pressure equal to the intensity of the literal pressure of the vicious tornado that sucks up the chickens. The image of Esperanza’s pure white diapers recurs throughout the scene as a locus of Tita’s anxiety. Tita fixates on keeping these clean diapers from becoming bloodied because they represent her purity, which Rosaura has just challenged. When these precious diapers are spattered with chicken blood and sucked into the tornado, Tita’s status as a sinner is reinforced. The impartial care and understanding with which John listens to Tita’s confession separates him from the other characters in the novel.
Mama Elena exemplifies the belief in the subjugation of the individual to tradition, while Gertrudis, at the other extreme, embodies the reckless indulgence of individual needs and disregard for societal norms. John offers a rational approach to Tita’s situation, advising her to reason out her options. John’s values as a white man contrast with those of the Mexican De La Garza family; he is not imbued with the same passion as the De La Garzas, but is endowed with a spiritual wisdom that they do not possess. It is this quality that makes John capable of guiding Tita closer to her own heart. Chap 12 Summary
The busy preparations for another wedding find Tita and Chencha working hard in the kitchen. It seems, at first, that this is the wedding of Tita and John; however, it is slowly revealed that many years have passed and the celebration honors the union of Esperanza and Alex, John Brown’s son. In the intervening years, Tita has lived in the household with Rosaura, Pedro, and Esperanza under the guidelines of a silent pact. Their delicate coexistence erupted when Esperanza and Alex wanted to marry: Tita and Pedro pleaded that Esperanza’s wishes be respected, while Rosaura staunchly upheld the rigid tradition that her mother had forced on Tita.
After days of violent arguments, Rosaura died, still suffering from her unpleasant disorder. Her funeral was poorly attended because of the unbearable smell still emanating from her body. Rosaura’s death left Esperanza free to marry Alex, and everyone in the household is overjoyed. Simultaneously, Pedro and Tita are somewhat free to express their true emotions, though they try doggedly to keep all desire at bay. After the beautiful wedding of Esperanza and Alex, Tita and Pedro are finally left on the ranch alone, with no one to keep them apart.
They make love for the first time without restraint or fear of interruption, and experience a bliss so wonderful that Tita views a luminous tunnel leading toward the spirit world. Remembering how John Brown told her of this possibility and how the soul will return through this tunnel, Tita calms herself so that she might continue living and experiencing her newfound joy. At the same time, she feels Pedro’s heartbeat rapidly accelerate and then cease. He has died and enters the tunnel in vision afforded him by his bliss. Tita desperately wishes to have gone with him.
In order to spark again the inner fire that opened up for her a passage to death, Tita consumes the candles that lit the room up until the moment of Pedro’s passing. The tunnel again opens itself to Tita, and this time she sees the figure of Pedro at its end. Tita leaves the world to go to him. When she meets him, their spirit bodies create sparks that set fire to the ranch. The fire is full of beautiful explosions that the townspeople mistake for fireworks celebrating the wedding of Esperanza and Alex. Upon returning from their honeymoon, Esperanza and Alex find the ranch burned to the ground.
They discover, under many layers of ash, a cookbook that contains all the recipes mastered by Tita. Analysis The final consummation of the passion between Tita and Pedro is both tragic and triumphant in that the light of Tita’s inner fire is finally free to blaze, but only at the expense of her earthly life. It is perhaps only now that Tita’s inner fire can truly burn, as she has, for the first time, made an active decision based on her desires, leaving behind the constricting confines of the cultural role into which she was forced throughout her life.
Whereas Pedro goes toward the luminous tunnel uninitiated in the idea of the inner fire, Tita approaches with full knowledge that she is fulfilling her true desire. This divergence in their experience of their final erotic encounter contrasts with their previous affairs, in which Pedro was always the active, powerful subject, while Tita was the uninitiated, powerless object. Left alone in the world by Pedro’s death, Tita makes the active choice to recreate and enter the tunnel.
The wedding of Esperanza and Alex marks the end of a cycle of repression in the De La Garza family and the beginning of a new happiness for Tita and Pedro. The fire that results when Tita and Pedro embrace in the afterlife destroys the De La Garza ranch and all the stifling cultural notions that bore themselves out there. The demise of the physical domestic space seems an important aspect of Tita’s legacy, for though she could not completely alter the code of the domestic realm during her life, the circumstances of her death destroy the realm in which she suffered so deeply.
The only item that survives the fire is Tita’s recipe book, which records not only her kitchen wisdom but also small tidbits (which come up periodically throughout the novel) about happenings in the family, preserving the De La Garza family history. However, the family will now continue in a new direction, epitomized by the cross-cultural marriage of Alex and Esperanza, from which the legacy of sorrow will be absent.
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