A Point of View
In fiction, the point of view is the perspective from which the story is presented. The unique point of view in Like Water for Chocolate helps convey the significance of the narrative. Esperanza, Tita De la Garza’s niece, finds her aunt’s cookbook in the ruins of the De la Garza ranch. As she recreates the recipes in her own home, she passes down to her daughter the family stories. Her daughter becomes the novel’s narrator as she intersperses her great-aunt’s recipes, remedies, and experiences into one book. She justifies her unique narrative when she explains that Tita “will go on living as long as there is someone who cooks her recipes.”
The turbulent age of rebellion in Mexico provides an appropriate setting for the novel’s focus on tyranny and resistance. Soldiers, bandits, and rebels are regularly mentioned in the novel, and often make actual appearances important to the narrative. It is a bandit’s attack, for instance, which compels Tita’s return home after her mother has disowned her. As Pancho Villa’s revolutionary forces clash with the oppressive Mexican regime, Tita wages her own battle against her mother’s dictates.
The narrative structure, or form, of the novel intersperses Tita’s story with the recipes and remedies that figure so prominently in her life. By placing an actual recipe at the beginning of each chapter, the author is reinforcing the importance of food to the narrative. This structure thus attests to the female bonding and creativity that can emerge within a focus on the domestic arts.
A symbol is an object or image that suggests or stands for another object or person. Food provides the dominant symbol in the novel, especially as expressed in the title. “Like water for (hot) chocolate” is a Mexican expression that literally means water at the boiling point and figuratively means intense emotions on the verge of exploding into expression. Throughout the novel, Tita’s passion for Pedro is “like water for chocolate” but is constantly repressed by her dictatorial mother. An incident that symbolizes Mama Elena’s oppression occurs when Tita is preparing two hundred roosters for the wedding feast. As she castrates live roosters to insure that they will be fat and tender enough for the guests, the violent and gruesome process makes her swoon and shake with anger. She admits “when they had chosen something to be neutered, they’d made a mistake, they should have chosen her. At least then there would be some justification for not allowing her to marry and giving Rosaura her place beside the man she loved.” Food becomes a symbol of Tita’s love for Pedro as she uses it to communicate her feelings. Even though Tita remains confined to the kitchen, her creative preparation of the family’s meals continues to serve as the vehicle of her love for Pedro and his children, and thus as an expression of her rebellion against her mother’s efforts to separate them.
Magic realism is a fictional style, popularized by Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, that appears most often in Latin American literature. Authors who use this technique mingle the fantastic or bizarre with the realistic. Magic realism often involves time shifts, dreams, myths, fairy tales, surrealistic descriptions, the element of surprise and shock, and the inexplicable. Examples of magic realism in Like Water for Chocolate occur when Tita’s recipes have strange effects on those who eat them, when spirits appear to her, and when she cries actual rivers of tears. The fantastic element in Tita’s cooking is that it produces such strong emotions in her family. The art of cooking, however, does reflect the patience and talent of the cook-qualities that are appreciated by those who enjoy the results. The spirits who appear to Tita symbolize the long-lasting effects of those who impact our lives and our own feelings of responsibility and guilt.
Foreshadowing is a literary device used to create an expectation or explanation of future events. In Like Water for Chocolate, foreshadowing occurs when John tells Tita about his grandmother’s theory of love and life. She said that “each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can’t strike them all by ourselves.” We need the breath of the person we love to light them and thus nourish our souls. She warns, however, that lighting the matches all at once would be fatal. This process occurs at the end of the novel when Pedro’s suppressed passion for Tita is finally “lit,” and the intense flame is too much for him to bear.
A paradox is a statement or situation that seems contradictory or absurd, but is actually true. The kitchen becomes a paradoxical symbol in the novel. On the one hand, it is a place where Tita is confined exclusively to domestic tasks, a place that threatens to deny her a sense of identity. Yet it is also a nurturing and creative domain, providing Tita with an outlet for her passions and providing others with sustenance and pleasure.