Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Tita de la Garza
Tita de la Garza (TEE-tah), the youngest daughter in a ranch-owning family. The rules of her tradition-bound family dictate that the youngest daughter remain single and care for her mother until the latter dies; therefore, Tita grows up in the kitchen, learning about life and cooking from the ranch’s Indian cook, Nacha. Her childhood sweetheart marries her older sister Rosaura so that he can be near Tita, but Tita’s vengeful mother regularly punishes the lovers for their clandestine meetings. Tita rebels against her fate through the marvelous recipes she prepares, which provoke magical reactions. After the deaths of her mother and her sister, Tita and her lover, Pedro, are united in a passion so intense that they perish in its blaze. Tita is immortalized in her diary and recipe book, in which she had written all of her recipes and the events surrounding their preparation.
Mamá Elena (mah-MAH eh-LEH-nah), Tita’s tyrannical mother, widowed with three daughters. Her attempts to prevent an adulterous relationship between Tita and Pedro occupy much of Mamá Elena’s destructive attention. Fearless in her cruelty, she even intimidates the captain of a marauding band of revolutionary soldiers, thus preserving the ranch’s inhabitants and livestock from attack. Later, she becomes paralyzed from a...
(The entire section is 762 words.)
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The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Tita de la Garza, the youngest daughter in her family, wins the reader’s sympathy immediately as the victim of the repressive family tradition that prevents her from marrying. Like most of the characters in the novel, in certain respects she resembles someone from a fairy tale. Beautiful, desirous of pleasing her mother, enormously talented, but cursed by an unfortunate destiny and a wicked mother and sister, Tita can be likened to Cinderella. She propels the novel’s action forward through the effects produced by the dishes she prepares. Tita represents a model of female liberation because, rather than rejecting the domestic space that confines her, she employs the resources of the kitchen to obtain self-fulfillment.
Mamá Elena, Tita’s cruel mother, like most female characters in the novel, is characterized largely by her relationship to the activities of the kitchen. In contrast to Tita, who uses ingredients creatively and generously, Mamá Elena displays and demands rigid obedience to rules in cooking. She is the principal villain, notorious for loving any destructive culinary activity, such as dividing, dismembering, detaching, or carving. She inspires a modicum of sympathy after her death, when Tita discovers Mamá Elena’s secret: Before and during marriage, she had enjoyed an affair with a mulatto until her scandalized family had the lover murdered. Readers interpret her authoritarian ways as the tragic result of being so severely punished...
(The entire section is 497 words.)
Women dominate Esquivel's cast of characters. The three sisters—Rosaura, Gertrudis, and Tita—exemplify three possible responses to the tyranny of conventions and expectations. Rosaura follows the rules to the letter, Gertrudis breaks all the rules, and Tita follows the rules outwardly while rebelling inwardly. Their mother, Mama Elena, who tried to rebel in her youth, grows into a cold tyrant, incapable of love. The men, on the other hand, hardly matter.
Mama Elena is the tragic character of Esquivel's tale. She is the villain of Tita's life, who abandoned her to the kitchen at birth, forbids her to marry, and seems bent on destroying her every hope for love and happiness, but she is a victim, too. Her punishments are creative—and brutal. When she notices a sparkle in Tita's eye, for example, at Roberto's baptism celebration (which arose from an innocent encounter in the kitchen with Pedro while she was nursing Roberto), Mama hits on the worst possible punishment—to send Rosaura and family to San Antonio to live, thus denying Tita not only of Pedro's company but of the child, whom she loves as her own son. When this decision results in the child's death, Mama's response to the tragedy is to forbid mourning: "We can't give in to sorrow, there's work to do. First work, then do as you please, except crying, do you hear?" Tita grows to hate her for her arbitrary meanness and her constant fault finding, but she remains the faithful daughter, even...
(The entire section is 1412 words.)
Mama Elena De la Garza
Mama Elena De la Garza is the tyrannical, authoritarian, middle-class matron who runs her daughters' lives along with the family ranch. Not only does she enforce the tradition that compels the youngest daughter to care for her widowed mother for the remainder of her life, but she compounds Tita's suffering by forcing her to prepare the wedding feast for Pedro and her sister. Suspecting a secret relationship between Pedro and Tita, she sends Rosaura, Pedro, and Roberto to her cousin's in San Antonio. When Roberto subsequently dies, Tita blames her mother because she separated the child from Tita, who fed and nurtured him. Mama Elena doles out severe beatings and/or banishment from the family in response to any acts of rebellion. She beats Tita after the wedding guests eat Tita's meal and become ill, and breaks her nose with a wooden spoon when Tita blames her for Roberto's death. She banishes Tita from the ranch after Tita shows signs of madness and disowns Gertrudis for working in a brothel. Her need for control over her daughters is so strong that it does not end with her death. Her spirit appears to Tita to warn her to stay away from Pedro. When Tita refuses, Mama Elena becomes so angry that she causes Pedro to be severely burned. Her proud and stubborn nature also emerges after the bandits who raid the ranch injure her health. She feels humiliated by her need for Tita's assistance and thus cannot accept her daughter's offer of food and comfort—a rejection that...
(The entire section is 306 words.)
Tita De la Garza
Tita De la Garza is the obedient but strong-willed youngest daughter of Mama Elena. On the surface she accepts her mother's dictates, even when they cause her to suffer the loss of the man she loves. Yet, she subtly rebels by rechannelling her feelings for him into the creation of delicious meals that express her passionate and giving nature. She obeys her mother's order to throw away the roses Pedro has given her, but not before she creates an exquisite sauce from the petals. Through her cooking, she successfully communicates her love to Pedro. Tita's caring and forgiving nature emerges as she takes over the feeding of Rosaura's two children when their mother is unable to nurse them and as she tends to her mother after being banished from the ranch. Even after Mama Elena accuses Tita of trying to poison her so she will be free to marry John, Tita patiently prepares her meals. When Rosaura suffers from severe digestive problems, Tita also comes to her aid. Even while Rosaura rails against Tita about her feelings for Pedro and threatens to send Esperanza away to school, Tita serves a special diet to help her sister lose weight and ease her suffering. Tita does, however, have a breaking point. Her strength crumbles when Mama Elena sends Pedro, Roberto, and Rosaura away, and later she hears the news of Roberto's death, which pushes her into madness. After she regains her sanity, she seems to redouble her will. She stands up to Mama Elena's spirit and thus refuses to be...
(The entire section is 328 words.)
Juan is a captain in the revolutionary army when he first sees Gertrudis. He is known for his bravery, but when he smells the scent of roses emanating from Gertrudis' body after she eats one of Tita's magical dishes, he leaves the battlefield for the ranch. Juan sweeps Gertrudis up on his horse and carries her away from her home and her mother's tyranny. The two later marry and return for a visit to the ranch as generals.
He is the son of Dr. John Brown; his mother died during his birth. He marries Esperanza Muzquiz, daughter of Pedro Muzquiz and Rosaura De la Garza, at the novel's end.
Dr. John Brown
The family doctor who lives in Eagle Pass. When he comes to attend Rosaura after Roberto's birth, he is astounded by Tita's beauty as well as her ability to assist her nephew's difficult birth. He returns to the ranch when Mama Elena De la Garza calls him to take Tita to an insane asylum. He instead takes Tita to his home and nurses her back to health. Tita responds to his kindness and patience and agrees to marry him. His understanding of her dilemma after she confesses her infidelity with Pedro leads her to reconsider her decision to call off the wedding: "What a fine man he was. How he had grown in her eyes! And how the doubts had grown in her head!" At the last minute, however, she realizes that her love for Pedro is stronger than her affection for John.
(The entire section is 1364 words.)