Like Water for Chocolate
August (Chapter 8)
The death of Mama Elena frees Tita from her mother's wretched sentence, and her excitement about marrying John Brown is diverted only by the birth of Rosaura's second child, a girl, whom Tita names Esperanza. Tita chooses this name after refusing to let Pedro name the child Josefita (Tita's real name). Tita chooses the name Esperanza, which means "hope," because she wants her niece, who is by default Rosaura's youngest daughter, to escape the familial tradition that prevented Tita from marrying.
Tita is intimately involved in raising her niece, as Rosaura is bedridden due to a complicated delivery and unable to nurse. Esperanza is reared in the kitchen, just as Tita was, and fed with the same teas and gruels with which Nacha nurtured Tita. Rosaura is quite jealous at the closeness between Tita and the infant. One day she confirms Tita's fears: She announces her intention to follow family doctrine and prohibit Esperanza from marrying. This announcement, combined with Pedro's confrontational efforts to dissuade Tita from marrying John Brown, inspires a terrible rage in Tita. It is with this rage that Tita prepares a meal called champandongo, to be served during John's visit to ask for her hand in marriage.
While cooking, Tita experiences a sensation of tremendous heat that compounds the heat of the kitchen to create an intense steam. Anger permeates her body, and everything surrounding her aggravates her. Tita's feeling is said to be "like water for chocolate," referring to the preparation of chocolate, during which water is brought just short of boiling several times before use in the recipe. The heat of Tita's anger rises until she is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of Chencha, who has returned to the ranch happily married and ready to begin a new life.
Chencha's return lets Tita take a break from cooking to prepare for John's arrival. She takes a shower in the outdoor bathroom (a new one built on the same spot where Gertrudis's shower episode occurred). In the shower, Tita's rage subsides, and the heat slowly dissipates. However, the water suddenly becomes so hot that it burns Tita's skin. Fearing that the bathroom is once again on fire, Tita opens her eyes and sees that Pedro has been standing outside of the shower watching her intently, his eyes radiating lust. Tita flees the shower when Pedro approaches her.
John arrives during this commotion. Before dinner, John and Pedro argue about politics, adding to the tension. When John formally petitions Pedro, now head of the household, for Tita's hand in marriage, Pedro agrees begrudgingly. John presents Tita with a beautiful diamond ring, making the engagement official. John leaves that night for America to bring back his only living aunt for the wedding.
After dinner, Tita is left to clean the kitchen. In a small room off the kitchen in which Mama Elena used to bathe, Pedro once again confronts Tita. Without any words, he takes her to a bed in the room and makes love to her, taking her virginity. Though Rosaura and Chencha see the "phosphorescent plumes" and strange glow coming from the room, they refuse to go near, fearing that the commotion is the ghost of Mama Elena, bringing fury from the other side.
The consistent images of intense heat in this section reflect the tensions plaguing Tita, building to the release of passion in which Tita loses her virginity. Rosaura's decision to prohibit Esperanza from marrying evokes a violent emotional reaction in Tita, as does Pedro's lust; these emotions overwhelm Tita, suffocating her in an almost unbearable sensation of heat. Additionally, the overwhelming presence of heat surrounding Tita's body recalls John Brown's lesson to Tita about her internal fire. Recognition of her internal flame forces Tita to consider letting passion rule her life, throwing into focus the new conflict between Tita's love for John, who first revealed to her the mysteries of her inner fire, and her passion for Pedro, with whom she has finally experienced it.
The presence of Tita's rage strongly governs the events of this chapter, in contrast to the control that Mama Elena's violence exhibited over Tita's earlier expressions of anger. Tita's emotions are now free to grow to nearly dangerous proportions. Tita does not directly confront Rosaura and Pedro, the triggers of her anger, but rather suppresses her rage, causing the physical manifestation of her feelings in the overwhelming waves of heat.
By showering in cool water, Tita is able to exert some control over the heat arising from her emotions, but Pedro's lust imposes a second, equally intense wave of heat upon her. His voyeurism transforms Tita from a subject deep in contemplation of her own intense emotions into an object of his desire and the focus of his own emotional heat. Again, Tita's involvement in her sexual relationship with Pedro is passive. Her flight from the shower as Pedro approaches her clearly echoes Gertrudis's earlier escape from the burning shower. However, instead of fleeing, like Gertrudis, in active pursuit of desire, Tita runs away from a sexual encounter with Pedro because it is forbidden and, to some extent, undesired, because she is engaged to John Brown.
Tita's flight from the shower does not end Pedro's pursuit. When Pedro confronts Tita in Mama Elena's former bathing room, the language used to describe the encounter is hardly indicative of consensus. Tita exercises no control in the episode, but is a sort of vessel, receiving the long-stifled force of Pedro's desire. Pedro's forceful sexual behavior renders their sexual encounter extremely potent, as embodied by the "phosphorescent plumes" and glow emitted from the room, suggesting that the only manner in which Tita can express herself sexually is as the object of her lover's desire. From a feminist point of view, this confined sexuality is problematic, as it serves to illustrate that though Tita may seek the "freedom" of true love, the possibilities for women of the novel's time period and culture are rather limited.
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