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Like Water for Chocolate

Laura Esquivel

Contents

May (Chapter 5)

Summary

In the wake of Pedro's departure, Tita is moved to do little but tend to a pigeon she has taken as a pet. She grows despondent and ignores her duties in the household. During this time, federal troops raid the ranch. Mama Elena confronts them with a shotgun hidden in her petticoats and proves herself a formidable opponent when she shoots the chickens they have stolen from her and threatens them with her best shot. When she finally lets them search her property, they find nothing but Tita's large dovecote filled with her cherished doves and pigeons. The soldiers trap as many birds as they can and depart. Before the arrival of the regiment, Mama Elena had skillfully hidden most of her valuable goods and livestock, ensuring that the ranch would not be totally plundered.

The absence of the doves and pigeons heightens Tita's sense of loss after the departure of Roberto and Pedro. In the midst of this depression, word arrives from San Antonio that Roberto has died, unable to consume anything but his Aunt Tita's breast milk. When she is rebuked for mourning the child, Tita lashes out at Mama Elena, screaming that Mama Elena is to blame for the baby's death. Mama Elena strikes Tita across the face with a wooden spoon, breaking her nose. Tita retreats to her dovecote; when Chencha tries to retrieve her, she finds Tita in a catatonic state. Mama Elena orders Tita to be sent to an asylum. Dr. John Brown rescues Tita from the dovecote and takes her away. As Tita leaves, Chencha gives her the enormous bedspread that Tita has been crocheting. It is now a full kilometer long, the product of Tita's endless sorrow.

Commentary

Tita's confrontation with Mama Elena marks the first time that Tita is able to assert her beliefs, though she does so from a position of weakness in a moment of tremendous anguish. Her grief at learning of Roberto's death inspires Tita to challenge Mama Elena's cruelty, and she manages, tentatively, to establish the power of her voice. This proves important, as Tita soon retreats into silence, but eventually finds power over Elena by means of words. However, her bold protest here is not triumphant; rather, Mama Elena rewards Tita with another beating. As with the beating after the spoiled wedding of Pedro and Rosaura, Mama Elena's chief mechanism for countering Tita's rare moments of opposition to her is physical attack. These abuses, physical and emotional, subject Tita's body and mind to the constant threat of violence. She is unable to exert control over her emotional and physical well-being. The domestic space, in which Tita is usually able to exercise some measure of power through her motherly activities, is now entirely hostile.

The coupling of this watershed moment between Tita and Mama Elena with the raid of federal troops draws a parallel between the disruption of the ranch by outside forces and Mama Elena's aggression. The turbulence of the revolution disturbs the domestic space, and in robbing Tita of her pet birds, the soldiers not only strip her of the opportunity to nurture, but also steal symbols of freedom. Likewise the violent attack from Mama Elena finally raids Tita's spirit of its remaining sustenance, letting Mama Elena keep Tita under her control. Tita's subsequent withdrawal into mental oblivion and physical detachment suggest that her only way out of this broken world is madness. Lying naked in the dovecote, covered with bird droppings, Tita's body is no longer a source of pleasure or nurture, but merely a shell racked with pain and grief.

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Feminism

by kat_salle, December 05, 2016

Violence is another trait that is not in tune with the female ideal in Mexico during the Mexican revolution, where only men are expected to be aggressive. However, while Mama Elena’s masculinity can be perceived as her having an unfavorable character, there might be an underlying reason for her becoming so hard and unyielding. It is possible that she decided to take on the role of household patriarch to keep a sense of stability on the ranch. During the Mexican revolution many women found themselves head of the household after their husban... Read more

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Magical Realism through cooking

by macbeth_1, December 05, 2016

"Something strange was going on. Tita remembered that Nacha had always said that when people argue while preparing tamales, the tamales won’t get cooked. They can be heated day after day and still stay raw, because the tamales are angry. In a case like that, you have to sing to them, which makes them happy, then they’ll cook."

218-219
Rosaura and Tita get into a heated argument when Rosaura accuses Tita of sneaking around with Pedro and prohibits Tita from having any more to do with Esperanza. The intensity of their argument... Read more

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4 out of 5 people found this helpful

Passion in Like Water for Chocolate

by sravsa, December 05, 2016

The romantic love that is so exalted throughout the novel is forbidden by Tita's mother in order to blindly enforce the tradition that the youngest daughter be her mother's chaste guardian. However, the traditional etiquette enforced by Mama Elena is defied progressively throughout the novel. This parallels the setting of the Mexican Revolution growing in intensity. The novel further parallels the Mexican Revolution because during the Mexican Revolution the power of the country was in the hands of a select few and the people had no power to ... Read more

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5 out of 5 people found this helpful

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