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Tita fears that she has become pregnant as a result of her encounter with Pedro. She has missed a period and knows she will have to cancel her engagement to John Brown now that she is not a virgin. She is preoccupied with these thoughts during the preparation of King's Day bread. This particular recipe evokes memories of her childhood, especially the loving care of Nacha and companionship of the disappeared Gertrudis.
While Tita bakes the bread, Rosaura visits to ask for Tita's help. Rosaura suffers from digestive problems that make her overweight and give her bad breath and flatulence, estranging her even further from Pedro. John Brown has prescribed a diet to ease her discomfort, but Rosaura asks Tita for further assistance with her illness and her marriage. Tita agrees to help Rosaura, providing a special family recipe to cure bad breath and offering special foods to help her lose weight. She is simultaneously warmed by the good will that leads Rosaura to confide in her and desperately guilt-ridden about her encounter with Pedro, especially because Rosaura pinpoints the breakdown in her relationship with Pedro to the night she and Chencha saw flames from the "ghost" of Mama Elena.
No sooner does Rosaura leave the kitchen than the true spirit of Mama Elena enters with a cold chill. She scolds Tita for her relationship with Pedro and curses the baby growing in Tita's stomach. Chencha enters unexpectedly, forcing Mama Elena's ghost to flee. Tita is distraught, but there is no one to whom she can turn.
That night, during the party held for the festival of Three Kings, Gertrudis returns to the ranch. She gallops up alongside the man who swept her away on his horse so many years ago and a regiment of fifty troops. Now a general in the revolutionary army, Gertrudis is a veteran of many battles, and the ranch spends the rest of the night listening to her improbable stories. Tita is joyous at the return of her lost sister.
That Rosaura seeks assistance from Tita reinforces the implicit power Tita has over Rosaura resulting from Pedro's lust for her. With her physical afflictions (which one can interpret as a sort of bizarre punishment for her role in Tita's unhappiness), Rosaura has become an unappealing, de-feminized caricature. She has no power over food, as it alters her weight and breath, and occasions flatulence in her. Tita, on the other hand, wields control over food, and is able to offer suggestions for a diet to solve Rosaura's problems. Tita finds power and nourishment in food, whereas Rosaura is disconnected from the wisdom of the kitchen, and food becomes for her a source of discomfort and diminished self-esteem.
The return of Mama Elena in the form of a ghost epitomizes the degree to which Mama Elena exercises influence over Tita. Even in death, she has more power over Tita than Tita, in life, has over herself. However, one can argue that Mama Elena's spirit does not appear of its own volition, but is rather invoked by Tita's profound sense of guilt about her affair with Pedro, as though Tita seeks a reprimand that she knows she deserves. In this reading, Mama Elena's cursing of the child echoes Tita's own desire not to be pregnant, because she dreads the inevitable judgment that society will pass on her. Either way, it is clear that Tita will not be free of Mama Elena until she asserts her individuality.
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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"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."
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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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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