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Like Water for Chocolate

Laura Esquivel

April (Chapter 4)

March (Chapter 3)

May (Chapter 5)

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.

Commentary

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.

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