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Like Water for Chocolate

Laura Esquivel

December (Chapter 12)

November (Chapter 11)

Analysis

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.

Commentary

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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