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...
(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...
(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...
(The entire section is 754 words.)
Chapters 1-4 Summary
Chapters 1-4: Under Mama Elena's Rule
In Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate, the narrator chronicles the life of her great-aunt, Tita De la Garza, who lives in northern Mexico during the early 1900s. The novel's twelve chapters, written one per month in diary/installment form, relate details from over two decades of Tita's life, beginning in 1910, when she is fifteen years old, and ending with her death at thirty-nine. Each chapter also includes a recipe that Tita prepares for her family during this period. After her mother refuses to allow her to marry the man she loves, Tita channels her frustrated desires into the creation of delicious meals that often have strange effects on her family. Through the expression of her culinary art, Tita learns to cope with and ultimately break free from her mother's domination.
Tita is born on her family's kitchen table, amid the fragrant and pungent odors of cooking. Since Tita's mother, Mama Elena, is unable to nurse her, Nacha, the family's cook, takes over the task of feeding her. "From that day on, Tita's domain was the "kitchen" and "the joy of living [for her] was wrapped up in the delights of food."
When Tita is a teenager, Pedro Muzquiz comes to the family's ranch and asks for her hand in marriage, but Mama Elena refuses his request. Ignoring Tita's protestations, Mama Elena forbids her to marry, insisting that she abide by the family tradition that forces the youngest...
(The entire section is 646 words.)
Chapters 5-8 Summary
Chapters 5-8: Tita's Rebellion
After they leave, Tita loses "all interest in life," missing the nephew that was almost like her own child. One day rebels ride up to the ranch and ask for food. Mama Elena tells them they can have what they find outdoors, but they are not permitted in the house. Finding little, a sergeant decides to search inside. Mama Elena threatens him with her shotgun, and the captain, respecting her show of strength, stops the sergeant. Tita becomes even more depressed when she realizes that the men took the doves that she had enjoyed caring for. Later that day, as Tita prepares the family's meal, a servant appears and announces that Roberto has died because "whatever he ate, it didn't agree with him and he died." When Tita collapses in tears, her mother tells her to go back to work. Tita rebels, saying she is sick of obeying her mother's orders. Mama Elena smacks her across the face with a wooden spoon and breaks her nose. Tita then blames Mama Elena for Roberto's death and escapes to the pigeon house. The next morning, Tita refuses to leave the pigeon house and acts strangely. Mama Elena brings Dr. John Brown to remove her to an insane asylum, but, feeling sorry for her, he takes her to his home instead.
Tita is badly shaken and refuses to speak. As she sits in her room at John's home, she sees an old Native American woman making tea on the patio. They establish a silent communication with each other. Later she discovers...
(The entire section is 616 words.)
Chapters 9-12 Summary
Chapters 9-12: Tita's Fulfillment
Later, when Tita suspects that she is pregnant, Mama Elena's spirit appears, warning her to stay away from Pedro. Gertrudis, now married to a general in the revolutionary army, returns for a visit. After Tita relates her fears for her future, Gertrudis insists she must follow her heart and thus find a way to be with Pedro. One night Pedro gets drunk and sings love songs outside Tita's window. A furious Mama Elena soon appears to Tita and threatens her. When Tita tells her mother she hates her, her mother's spirit shrinks to a tiny light. The apparent reduction of Mama Elena's control relieves Tita, which brings on menstruation and her realization that she is not pregnant. However, the tiny light begins to spin feverishly, causing an oil lamp to explode and engulf Pedro in flames. As Tita tends to his burns, Rosaura and John note the strong bond that still exists between them. Upset, Rosaura locks herself in her bedroom for a week.
John has returned with his aunt, wanting to introduce her to his fiancee. Tita prepares a meal for them, knowing she will have to disappoint them by calling off the wedding. When Pedro argues with her because she is taking such care with John's feelings, Tita is angered that he doubts her love. "Pedro had turned into a monster of selfishness and suspicion," she muses. That same morning Rosaura finally emerges from her room, having lost sixty-five pounds, and warns Tita not to make...
(The entire section is 499 words.)