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 spinal injury she suffers when a group of bandits try unsuccessfully to rape her. She is then forced to rely on Tita to cook for her. Needlessly suspicious that Tita is poisoning her food, Mamá Elena soon dies from an overdose of the emetic she takes to counteract the food’s supposed noxious effects. She continues to plague Tita and Pedro from beyond the grave. After Mamá Elena’s death, Tita...
(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.)