How is the setting in the novels Like Water for Chocolate, The Edible Woman and the Chocolat relate to food and in relation to the protagonists in the novels?My literature course is about "Food for...

How is the setting in the novels Like Water for Chocolate, The Edible Woman and the Chocolat relate to food and in relation to the protagonists in the novels?

My literature course is about "Food for Thought".  Please tell me what the significance of the setting or the places used in the three novels in relation to food, to the protagonists and to the rest of the characters.

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The three novels have a diversity of settings that could not be correlated to each other. However, each setting in particular molds and transforms the main characters by framing their mentality, controlling their innate tendencies, and pushing them towards self discovery.

Tita's story inLike Water for Chocolateis significant. It is the Mexican Revolution, which takes place at the end of the XIX century. During this time, interestingly enough, Mexicans were in a search for self-identity as well and many of the bandits that we know of today come out during this time. Hence, Tita's world is a combination of good and evil, and of patriotism versus submission as the effects of the war are felt in everyday life.

Along with her social context, Tita suffers the daily battle at the farm with her tyrant of a mother, Mama Elena. Mama Elena is, herself, a type of "setting" for all of Tita's actions depend on her mother's will. So much is she influenced by her mother that she even ends up in an asylum for the lunatic when she just cannot take it any longer. The relationship of this setting to food comes from the Spanish tendency to connect women to the role of nurturers. Tita was born on top of a kitchen table and began a magically-realist connection to all the food that she cooked. Food is a way for her to release her inner tortures.

Vianne, is framed and limited at first by her setting. Lansquenet-sous-Tannes is the village to which she moves with her daughter, Anouk. A single mother, independent, and beautiful, Vianne causes commotion with her lifestyle simply because she sees life differently. However, from the beginning of the novel we can tell that there will be a huge contrast between Vianne and her surroundings. While she is vibrant, young, and has a sense of wonder, her village is described as

dun-colored half-timbered houses leaning secretively together

This shows the enmeshed nature of the village, especially when the Church is right in the middle of it, in shiny white, reminding everyone of their sins and limitations. Vianne is fortunate in that she is able to fulfil her mission of bringing some form of joy and flavor into an otherwise bland and blank town.

Marian's story is set in a pre-Woman's Lib Canada, within a society which is barely beginning to recognize how social stigma and stereotype is affecting the lives of younger generations. Marian lives in a conundrum, for which she moves in the same circles all the time, achieving very little in terms of finding herself. She moves in  Ainsley's company, where she hears about men, babies out of wedlock, and other liberties. Then she moves to her other friend's company where she hears the opposite: the boredom of marriage, the sacrifices one has to do for children, and how all goes nowhere.

In Marian's case, the urban diversity of life between men and women serves as her backdrop, making her desperate in her quest for purpose and motivation. In the end, it affects her relationship with food, with people, and with herself. She ends up performing an act of desperation in making a cake in the shape of a woman, which she offers her fiance Peter to eat. When he does not, she eats it, herself. This shows the amount of pressure under which Marian's life develops and from which it will hopefully surface.

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