Like Water for Chocolate

by Laura Esquivel

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How is Like Water for Chocolate an example of magical realism?

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The origins of the sub genre of Magical Realism is attributed to Swiss-born essayist and writer Alejo Carpentier Valmont, who took residence in Cuba since infancy, and who considered himself a Latin American. He is one of the main influences of the most celebrated magical realism representatives, the Nobel Literature Prize Winner from Colombia, Gabriel García Márquez. 

Magical Realism consists on the use of creative license to include unlikely elements or situations into the narrative. These can be magic, supernatural powers, ghosts, and any other factor that will take a regular situation to a much higher level. Keep in mind that it is still meant to be "realistic", therefore do not confuse it with a "fantasy". The meaning of this is that it must remain a human story about human issues. The difference is that, with Magical Realism, the senses that all humans have (plus one more, the psychic component) will be intensified to the core.

In the case of Tita De La Garza, everything from her birth and throughout her life has been directly related to the supernatural: Her basket of sorrows, the salt of the tears when she was born, and the effects that her pent up emotional frustrations cause in her immediate environment.

Aside from this, notice other instances of realism which, through the agency of the supernatural and the magical, make reality all the more powerful and colorful by unveiling the deepest passions of the human being. 

Food, the conduit of it all, makes Tita different. She is not only a great cook but, similarly, a nurturer of people. She nurses her brother Roberto although she is a virgin and, as such, unable to produce any mother's milk. 

Gertrudis, a woman with a super high libido, exerts her passion in a way that, according to the story, the men can "smell" it. Sex, hunger, passion, anger, revenge, and pain are at the core of this story that shows how oppression turns you into a modern day slave, even of your own family. 

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May I have a quick summary on how magical realism is used in "Like Water for Chocolate"?

Magical realism is a fictional style in which the fantastic or bizarre is mixed with the realistic.  It includes time shifts, dreams, surrealistic descriptions, elements of surprise, and the inexplicable.  In "Like Water for Chocolate", magical realism is evident when Tita's recipes have an impossible effect on those who taste them.  Other examples of the style element are when spirits appear to her, and when she cries actual "rivers of tears".

Magical realism in "Like Water for Chocolate" has a symbolic function.  The extreme impact of Tita's cooking represents the power of female domesticity and creativity which extends far beyond appreciation for talent and effort to touch deep into human emotions.  The spirits that appear to Tita signify the deep and long-lasting impact that the people with whom she comes in contact have on her, as well as the feelings with which they are associated.

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