1. Author’s Background:
Esquivel was once married to actor and director Alfonso Arau. She currently lives in Mexico City. In March 2009 Laura Esquivel ran as preliminary candidate of the Local Council in District XXVII of Mexico City for the PRD. Her candidacy was supported by the current Izquierda Unida, which combined various PRD groups. Despite irregularities, all ballots were recovered, confirming her victory. Laura Esquivel is currently the official candidate not only for the PRD, but also for the PT and Convergence, the actress Dolores Heredia being her substitute. 2. Literary Aspect.
Like Water For Chocolate tells the story of Tita De La Garza, the youngest daughter in a family living in Mexico at the turn of the twentieth century. Tita’s love, Pedro Muzquiz, comes to the family’s ranch to ask for Tita’s hand in marriage. Because Tita is the youngest daughter she is forbidden by a family tradition upheld by her tyrannical mother, Mama Elena, to marry. Pedro marries Tita’s oldest sister, Rosaura, instead, but declares to his father that he has only married Rosaura to remain close to Tita. Rosaura and Pedro live on the family ranch, offering Pedro contact with Tita. When Tita cooks a special meal with the petals of a rose given to her by Pedro, the still-fiery force of their love (transmitted through the food) has an intense effect on Mama Elena’s second daughter, Gertrudis, who is whipped into a lustful state and flees the ranch in the arms of a revolutionary soldier. Meanwhile, Rosaura gives birth to a son, who is delivered by Tita. Tita treats her nephew, Roberto, as if he were her own child, to the point that she is able to produce breast milk to feed him while her sister is dry. Sensing that Roberto is drawing Pedro and Tita closer together, Mama Elena arranges for Rosaura’s family to move to San Antonio.
This separation devastates Tita. A short time later, news arrives that Roberto has died, most likely due to his removal from Tita’s care. The death of her nephew causes Tita to have a breakdown, and Mama Elena sends her to an asylum. Dr. John Brown, a local American doctor, takes pity on Tita and brings her to live in his house. He patiently nurses Tita back to health, caring for her physical ailments and trying to revive her broken spirit. After some time, Tita is nearly well, and she decides never to return to the ranch. No sooner has she made this choice than Mama Elena is injured in a raid by rebel soldiers, forcing Tita to return. Tita hopes to care for her mother, but Mama Elena bitterly rejects Tita’s good will. She refuses Tita’s cooking, claiming that it is poisoned. Not long after, Mama Elena is found dead from an overdose of a strong emetic she consumed for fear of poisoning. The death of Mama Elena frees Tita from the curse of her birthright and she accepts an engagement proposal from John Brown, with whom she has fallen in love.
In the meantime, Rosaura and Pedro have returned to the ranch and have produced a second child, Esperanza. Immediately, Pedro’s presence throws into question Tita’s love for John. The night that John officially asks Pedro to bless the marriage, Pedro corners Tita in a hidden room and makes love to her, taking her virginity. Soon after, Tita is certain that she is pregnant and knows that she will have to end her engagement to John. The affair between Pedro and Tita prompts the return of Mama Elena, who comes in spirit form to curse Tita and her unborn child. Tita is distraught and has no one in whom she can confide. In the midst of Tita’s despair, the long-lost Gertrudis returns to the ranch as a general in the revolutionary army, at the helm of a regiment of fifty men. Tita is overjoyed at the return of Gertrudis, who is just the companion she seeks. Gertrudis forces Tita to tell Pedro about the pregnancy. He is gladdened at the news, and he drunkenly serenades Tita from below her window.
Outraged, Mama Elena’s ghost returns, violently threatening Tita and declaring that she must leave the ranch. For the first time, Tita stands up to Mama Elena and, in forceful words, declares her autonomy, banishing her mother’s spirit, which shrinks from an imposing presence into a tiny fiery light. As she expels the ghost, Tita is simultaneously relieved of all her symptoms of pregnancy. The light from Mama Elena’s ghost bursts through Tita’s window and onto the patio below where Pedro still sits, setting fire to his entire body. After rescuing Pedro, Tita is consumed with caring for him and helping him recover. John Brown returns from a trip to the United States and Tita confesses to him her relations with Pedro. John replies that he still wishes to marry her but that she must decide for herself with whom she wishes to spend her life. Years pass, and the ranch focuses its attention on another wedding, this time between Esperanza and Alex, the son of John Brown.
Rosaura has died, freeing her only daughter, Esperanza, from the stricture that had previously forbidden her, as it had Tita, from marrying. With Rosaura dead and Esperanza married, Tita and Pedro are finally free to express their love in the open. On their first night together, Tita and Pedro experience love so intense that both are led to a tunnel that will carry them to the afterlife. Tita turns back, wanting to continue in life and in love with Pedro. Once she does, she realizes that Pedro has already crossed over. Wanting desperately to be with him, Tita attempts to ignite her inner fire by eating the candles that had lit the room until they extinguished themselves at the moment of Pedro’s death. When she succeeds in recreating the climate of true passion, she reenters the luminous tunnel and meets Pedro in the spirit world. The final union of their bodies and spirits sets fire to the entire ranch, and the only remnant left of their love is the recipe book in which Tita recorded her wisdom.
3. Historical Aspect
In Laura’s first novel Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate), released in 1989, Esquivel uses magical realism to combine the ordinary and the supernatural, similar to Isabelle Alende. The novel, taking place during the revolution in early twentieth century Mexico, shows the importance of the kitchen in Esquivel’s life. The book is divided into twelve sections, named after the months of the year, each section beginning with a Mexican recipe. The chapters outline the preparation of the dish and ties it to an event in the protagonist’s life. Esquivel believes that the kitchen is the most important part of the house and characterizes it as a source of knowledge and understanding that brings pleasure, The “title refers to a colloquial phrase used by the Spanish that means an extremity of feeling. It refers to a boiling point in terms of anger, passion and sexuality.”]
The idea for the book came to Esquivel “while she was cooking the recipes of her mother and grandmother reportedly, “Esquivel used an episode from her own family to write her book. She had a great-aunt named Tita, who was forbidden to wed. Tita never did anything but care for her own mother. Soon after her mother died, so did Tita “The book has been a tremendous international success: The No. 1 best-selling book in Mexico for three years, it’s also been translated into 23 languages. Like Water for Chocolate was developed into a film which was released in 1994 concurrently with the book’s English translation by Carol Christensen and Thomas Christensen. In the United States, Like Water for Chocolate became one of the largest grossing foreign films ever released in the US. Esquivel earned the Mexican Academy of Motion Picture. Award; she received eleven in all, from Ariel Awards.
4. Psychological Aspect
Like Water For Chocolate can be distilled into the stories of two women, Tita De La Garza and her mother, the formidable Mama Elena. The trajectory of their struggle against one another is the axis around which the entire novel turns. Tita, the protagonist, strives for love, freedom, and individuality, and Mama Elena, the chief antagonist, stands as the prime opposition to the fulfillment of these goals. This mother-daughter relationship is fraught with difficulty from its inception, when Tita is brought into the world prematurely after her father’s sudden death. Mama Elena is the opposite of a nurturer, never forging any bond with Tita. Tita develops a relationship with food that gives her the power to nurture and give outlet to her emotions. As with most literary pairings, Tita and Mama Elena share a central characteristic that defines both their individual struggles and their conflict with each other. The revelation that Mama Elena herself suffered the pangs of lost love is an important thematic complement to Tita’s deprivation. The reaction of each woman to her predicament helps delineate their differing characters. Whereas Mama Elena lets the loss of love turn her into a sinister and domineering mother, Tita, while obeying her mother’s command outwardly, engages in a lifelong struggle for love, which she eventually wins through the strength of spirit.
5. Cultural Aspect
The primary examples of cultural influences in LWC and in ODLID, are the mindsets of the protagonists. The cultures influence the rather listless conduct of the protagonists by establishing precincts that cripple their inner aspirations. Initially, Tita’s conduct is influenced by the Mexican culture. She demonstrates a submissive behavior towards her mother. This is explained by Mexican culture of the early nineteen hundreds, when it was commonplace to obey the parental figures and never challenge their say. The children were taught they had no voice and had to follow their parent’s instructions under all circumstances. In LWC this cultural principle takes a toll on Tita and forces her to constantly concede to her mothers commands and demands. “You don’t have an opinion and that’s all I want to hear about it. For generations, not a single person in my family has ever questioned this tradition, and no daughter of mine is going to be the one to start”(Esquivel 11), shows Mama Elena’s, Tita’s mother, reprimand forbidding Tita from ever getting married. 6. Context (Opinion)
Mexican screenwriter Laura Esquivel’s first novel, Like Water For Chocolate, met with unusual success when it was published in 1989. The enthusiasm about the book led to a Spanish-language movie of the same title, which also was immensely popular. Upon translation from Spanish into English in 1992, the novel incited similar excitement, becoming a best-seller; subsequently, the English-subtitled film became one of the most popular foreign-language films in American film history. In addition to this popular success, Like Water For Chocolate received critical acclaim, as it emerged during the early 1990s, when new ideas about multiculturalism in literature brought attention to the work of previously ignored minority women authors.