While we cannot underestimate the significant role played by feminism in the contemporary world, Laura Esquivel’s like water for chocolate in an epic style shows the effect of feminism on the characters in the story. Set in Mexico, the story gives the story of Tita De, La Garza the last born daughter in a family ruled by their violent mother. The struggle that exists between Tita De La Garza and her mother Mama Elena is the axis around which the novel revolves. Tita who is the main protagonist yearns to have freedom, to experience love, and a sense of individuality. While on the other hand, Mama Elena is the main antagonist and is primarily opposed to such fulfillments and therefore subjects Tita to a lifelong sentence of taking care of her till the day of her death. Indeed, it is clearly evident that like water for chocolate is a story that is mainly populated by women who represents a distinct version of feminism in which while some are obedient, others are cruel and violent.
From the beginning of the novel, it is clearly evident that tradition plays a significant role in defining how women behave and take on their role in that Mexican society. The prevailing tradition forbids Tita to marry before her elder sisters leaving her with the duty of taking care of her mother which is primarily the role of the last born daughter. Being the youngest of Mama Elena she explicitly tells her “…you have to take of me until the day I die” (8). Tita does not accept this lying down and when she tries confronts her mother, “a very angry Mama Elena left the kitchen, and for the next week, she didn’t speak a single word to her” (9). The story depicts Mama Elena as a harsh and cruel woman who does not conform to the medieval view point of motherhood. Nonetheless, the story shows her as a tyrannical woman, who finds pressure in ensuring the life of Tita is hard. The story further shows the dictatorial nature of Mama Elena who the story states, “when it came to dividing, dismantling, dismembering, desolating, detaching, dispossessing, destroying, or dominating, Mama Elena was a pro” (97).
Gradually, the story shows us how Mama Elena controls and decides for every action that her daughters take. Furthermore, her children conform to her every command and always end up doing their various household chores allocated to them. In the world of Mama Elena, her children were not allowed to go against her wishes and if any of them tried to do that she was to disown them ultimately. The story also shows the savage nature of Mama Elena when she denies Tita the opportunity of getting married to the person she loves; Pedro. In retrospective, Mama Elena tells Pedro to marry the oldest daughter Rosaura as such making marriage lack the act of commitment exhibited by two people in love. Indeed, she makes marriage look like a business pact. Notwithstanding, she made it hard for Tita by ordering her to cook in her sister’s weeding “… not am I going to let you ruin your sister’s wedding with you acting like a victim. You’re in charge of all the preparations starting now, and don’t ever let me catch you with a single tear on your long face do you hear” (20).
The author uses such scenes as those to depict the role of feminism in the Mexican society. Clearly, the author uses Tita and her love for cooking to symbolize certain aspects of life throughout the story. Indeed, her relationship with food gives her an absolute power that allows her to nurture and provide an outlet for her building emotions. Undeniably, the male characters in the story portray certain aspects of feminism for example Pedro waits for the woman that he loves which is attributed as a female trait. Nonetheless, Sargent Trevino can decipher the readings on the cook book which contains the recipes made by Tita an action which a woman like Gertrudis is incapable of understanding the inscriptions with the author stating “Gertrudis read the recipe as if she were reading hieroglyphics” (192). Contrary to the expectations of the readers, Mama Elena subjects Tita to aspects of male brutality, and it is clearly evident that the author Laura Esquivel shows women with personalities that overshadow the men in the story. In the story, Tita manages to confront her mother a task that Pedro does not manage to do. Consequently, in the entire story, the author depicts all men as indecisive, weak, and submissive character traits prevalent in women.
The author succinctly describes the role of women in the Mexican society. Though in the contemporary setting women are the weaker sex, the aspect of feminism is profound as such making the author portray women through the lens of male characteristics. On the other hand, the author shows men as the weaker sex. The strategy adopted by Laura Esquivel makes the feminist property of like water for chocolate to be evident in Tita’s struggle to be independent and be herself. In coming up with such characters, the author manages to create the world in which men are only present occasionally.
Esquivel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate. 1st Ed. New York: Doubleday, 1992. Print.