Although Like Water for Chocolate playfully appropriates resources from the Spanish American canon (most notably, from Magical Realism), the novel may be identified more closely with popular serial formulas such as the sentimental novel and its descendants. Laura Esquivel has chosen to use conventions from popular discourse that will be easily recognized by the reader: Tita, treated like a servant in her own home, is denied marriage to the man she loves because of the social sanctions represented by her mother; there is a growing tension between the lovers prior to the consummation of their relation; there is a series of impediments and tragedies, including the death of Pedro’s son and Tita’s subsequent emotional crisis; Tita is rescued by a kindly older man (the fact that he is North American makes him particularly innocuous) whose selfless love cannot be reciprocated; there is an obligatory (false) pregnancy; and there is even a scene in which Tita swoons. In short, like the archetypal romantic heroine, Tita must go through difficult trials, but she is ultimately rewarded at the end as love triumphs. In addition, as is typical of serial discourse, there is a continual play in the novel of climax/anticlimax as each crisis is resolved and a new one takes its place, as well as a tendency to fall into melodramatic and overwrought prose.
The appropriation of popular discourse, with its emphasis on such “feminine” values as nurturing and selflessness, is a means of undermining the patriarchal system. Furthermore, since such genres are forms of discourse often written by women and for a female public, Esquivel reinforces the idea of a community of women....
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