Like Water for Chocolate
October (Chapter 10)
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.
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.
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