Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The grandniece of Tita de la Garza begins telling Tita’s life story. Tita is the daughter of Elena de la Garza, an authoritarian and inflexible woman who, with an iron fist, rules the lives of her three daughters, Tita, Rosaura, and Gertrudis. Mamá Elena forbids Tita from marrying Pedro Muzquiz, arguing an old family tradition that insists on keeping the youngest female of a family from marrying, so that she can take care of her parents instead.
Pedro asks for Tita’s hand, but Mamá Elena offers her middle daughter, Rosaura, to him instead. Pedro accepts this proposal, realizing it is the only way he can be close to Tita, his real love. Likewise, Rosaura accepts her mother’s proposal of marriage to Pedro, knowing the damage it will cause her. Indeed, she is haunted by jealousy and the fear of losing Pedro.
Tita becomes the caregiver of the couple’s first child, Roberto, when Rosaura is unable to feed him. Miraculously, Tita starts to produce breast milk, and she begins to feed the baby. Mamá Elena worries that Tita and Pedro are getting too close, so she sends Rosaura and Pedro to live in another town with their baby. Tita remains in the house, devastated and worried for the baby’s well-being. Soon, Roberto has died of hunger. Tita, who is unable to cope with the grief, goes crazy. Full of sorrow, she hides in the dovecote, set up in the roof of the home, and remains there until Dr. John Brown, an American, convinces her to come down from the roof. Mamá Elena decides that Tita should be committed to an asylum, but John takes Tita to his home instead. With loving care, John nurses her back to health.
Tita returns to her home after learning that her mother has fallen ill, but not before promising John that she will marry him. Rosaura and Pedro also return to the house. Upon seeing each other, Tita and Pedro realize that their love is as strong as ever. Unable to contain themselves, they consummate their love, before John returns from a short trip. Tita also believes that she is pregnant with Pedro’s baby. Tita does not want to be unfair to John, so she breaks up her engagement, realizing that she loves Pedro more than she...
(The entire section is 888 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies, as its full title suggests, is a hybrid work, combining the elements of a historical novel set during the turbulent times of the Mexican Revolution, the mystical and healing art of food that Esquivel learned in her grandmother’s kitchen, and a highly romantic love story. The story unfolds through the twelve divisions of the novel, one chapter for each month of the year, beginning with January and ending with December, with one recipe per chapter, each recipe in some way relevant to the events that will occur in that chapter. After the list of ingredients, the narrative begins with instructions for the preparation of that month’s recipe. The cookbook-style organization of the text blends with a romantic story that many critics consider a clever parody of the typical romance novel.
The heroine of the novel, Tita de la Garza, is born in the kitchen and raised there by the Indian family servant, Nacha. As the youngest of three daughters of the domineering matriarch, Mamá Elena, Tita is required to take care of her mother until her mother’s death, forsaking any life of her own. Tita falls in love with Pedro. Pedro courts Tita in hopes of marrying her, but the tradition of caretaking (a tradition invented by Esquivel for her purposes in the novel) prevents their marriage. Frustrated but determined, Pedro marries Tita’s sister, Rosaura, in order to be close to Tita, but Tita envies Pedro’s intimacy with Rosaura and bemoans his lack of intimacy with her. Though Mamá Elena is aware of Tita’s feelings for Pedro, she forces Tita to prepare the cake that will be served at her sister’s wedding. Tita’s tears season the batter with sorrow and longing and transfer her emotions to the wedding guests, who suffer uncontrollable melancholy and sobbing before forcefully vomiting their meal.
Tita’s most provocative recipe is “Quail in Rose Petal Sauce,” which causes all those who eat it to become consumed with the same passionate desire with which Tita crushes the rose petals. In an attempt to put an end to Pedro and Tita’s love, Mamá Elena sends Rosaura and Pedro, with their son, to the United States to separate the would-be lovers. Away from his beloved Aunt Tita, the child dies, and Tita, who (magically) had nursed him despite having never been pregnant, suffers a nervous breakdown. She spends some time in Texas under the treatment of a kindly but very boring American doctor, John Brown. Dr. Brown asks Tita to marry...
(The entire section is 1045 words.)
Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Like Water for Chocolate combines the story of a forbidden romance between Tita de la Garza and Pedro Muzquiz with a collection of traditional, mouth-watering Mexican recipes. The title, from a Spanish expression meaning “boiling mad,” refers to Tita’s anger that an absurd family tradition prevents her from marrying and dictates that, as the youngest daughter, she remain at home to care for her mother, Mamá Elena. Like the title, all the incidents in the novel are related to cooking.
Organized like a recipe calendar, each chapter corresponds to a month of the year and begins with the name and list of ingredients for one of Tita’s recipes along with the method of preparation. In its form, the book also imitates the romantic novels presented in monthly installments in women’s magazines; each chapter ends with the note “to be continued. . . .” The narrator is Tita’s grandniece, who reconstructs Tita’s recipes and her love story from the diary in which the protagonist recorded her recipes along with the events that occurred when she prepared each of them.
The novel’s plot revolves around the tension between Tita’s love for the kitchen, where she creates magic with food, and her rebellion against the tradition that confines her there. The novel opens with the proper method of chopping onions for the January recipe and connects the tears caused by the onions to the flood of tears that accompanied Tita’s birth on the kitchen table. The narrator explains that Tita cried her way into the world because she somehow knew her fate, and her tears at birth produced ten pounds of salt for cooking. This beginning typifies the relationship between cooking and the events in Tita’s life and introduces into the narrative the recurrent Magical Realism common in modern Latin American fiction.
(The entire section is 754 words.)