War Rages On in Like Water for Chocolate
Although wars are waged for many reasons, ultimately, wars are fought for one
reason; freedom. It is no different in Laura Esquivel's magical realism Like Water for
Chocolate. Just as this novel is staged during the time of the Mexican Revolution of
1910-1917, another war rages on in the confines of a family ranch and in the lives of the
people who dwell there. Esquivel cleverly uses the backdrop of the war to explore the
individual lives and their struggle to attain the revolution's goal for themselves;
"War is Hell," a famous, yet simple quote from General William T. Sherman in
another great civil war, is accurate in this story as Tita the youngest daughter of Mama
Elena finds that her own life is hell, while living under the rule of her tyrannical mother.
Though her mother keeps Tita from marrying the love of her life (Pedro) and living
in that joyous communion, Tita eventually becomes victorious in her pursuit of love and
her journey toward self realization. She is forbidden to marry because of a long held
family tradition enforced by her mother and Tita not only finds herself in conflict with
her mother, sister and her lover but also within her own existence.
The rigid family tradition that the youngest daughter is to remain unmarried in
order to care for her mother in old age becomes a thorn in Tita's flesh. Her unwillingness
to accept this undesirable assignment causes her to become a rebel against the abuse, pain
and fear her mother inflicts upon her. Her cause is evident; injustice. Tita is willing to
commit herself to fight against a life of injustice, a life that confines her to a life without
love. Though Tita submits to the demanding regimen her mother sets for her daily
through unending chores, she has an inner strength that fuels her purpose to continue to
fight for generation of daughters to come.
Tita uses an unexpected weapon to achieve her goal of victory; food. She realizes
the power that food offers her. The first experience of this power is wielded at the
wedding of her sister Rosaura and Tita's forbidden lover. At conflict with her sister for
accepting the marriage proposal from Pedro, angered and hurt by Pedro's decision to
submit rather than fight valiantly for her, Tita pours her tears and emotions into the
food she is forced to prepare for their wedding. The result is a violent display of
vomiting and a terrible sense of loss and sadness among all the wedding guests as they
partake of the wedding cake. This may very well be Tita's initial victory of the many
battles she encounters in this war.
Explosions are necessary at times during war to gain ground against the enemy
and advance toward victory. When Tita is taught how to make matches from the loving
and caring Dr. John Brown, she also learns the theory that an inner fire burns in each
person. He explains to her his ideas about this internal box of matches and how each one
contains the explosions necessary for an individual to live and how one must protect this
inner fire. This theory helps Tita understand her own situation and in her thoughts she
realizes that she knew what set off her explosions, but each time she had managed to light
a match, it had persistently been blown out. Tita slowly emerges from a traumatized
event resulting after Rosaura and Pedro are forced to move from the family ranch and
their infant son dies from the absence of Tita's nurturing. She is asked by John Brown her
reason for not talking during this time of loss and grief. She writes the words: Because I
don't want to. (118) The answer reveals her strong will and it is those words that catapult
her toward freedom. But more importantly the match is lit and it continues to burn.
Many times in war, those who fight...
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