Like Water For Chocolate By Laura Esquivel

1312 words - 5 pages

Like Water for Chocolate—a novel rich in history, culture, food, and scandal; a breathtaking portrayal of a love affair, of the strength of character of desperate women, and of humbling traditions—captivates both the soul and mind, enchanting its readers by way of causing them to become immersed in its story-line. Prominent among its themes is that of finding an identity—or a lack thereof—which seems to pervade the lives of those most engaged in the process of self evaluation and discovery, and as such Laura Esquivel’s novel is comparable to Haruki Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes, in which the characters from several stories seem to be in a state of perpetual dislocation and disconnection from the world around them. Tita in Esquivel’s novel, best portrays this struggle of gaining personal identity and freedom amidst repressive, external forces, while specific characters from stories in Murakami’s collection such as “Sleep”, “The Wind-Up Bird and Tuesday’s Women”, or “A Slow Boat to China”, reflect a struggle that arises instead from both external and internal forces. Particularly important however, is Esquivel and Murakami’s contrasting approach to addressing the theme—be it through symbolism, language or characterization—that requires close critique.

In Like Water for Chocolate, Tita De la Garza’s principle struggle steams from the fact that she has little control over her affairs. From the day she was born, her fate was already sealed, and she would be expected to acknowledge tradition. Her life was not hers to live, for Mama Elena—her mother—dictated everything that she did, for whose house was it if not Mama Elena’s, who made it clear that “in the De La Garza family, one obeyed—immediately” (Esquivel 12). There was nothing Tita could say to change anything, and being quite aware she knew that she could never “have even the slightest voice in the unknown forces that” condemned her world (11). Therefore, in order to possess some level of control over herself, she had to forge an identity so that she would also be able to communicate with others in her surrounding without been restricted by Mrs. De la Garza. In order for Tita to achieve this, Laura Esquivel uses food as a means of communication—which affords Tita with a chance to acquire personal identity and freedom—because it becomes a medium through which she can conceal her emotions and express herself more liberally. Thus, Laura Esquivel employs food as a symbol to articulate Tita’s struggle to gain identity, because food represents both what Tita desires and her emotions, which define her character.

Arguably, Murakami’s approach to the theme of attaining personal identity and freedom is best exemplified in the short story “sleep”, which by no surprise—considering its storyline and syntax—also reflects the author’s crafty, mysterious, out-of-this-world style. The female narrator in the story is an ordinary housewife who does everything that she’s supposes...

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