Who are the antagonists in the novels Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood and the Chocolat by Joanne Harris?   My literature course is about Food for Thought.  I am trying to make sense of the events in the novels in relation to how are they characters relate to food and their relationships with the protagonists in the novels?

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The common theme thatLike Water for Chocolate, Chocolat,andThe Edible Womanshare is the women's search for identity within a male-dominated, and limiting, society.

Tita, Vianne, and Marian, respectively, are women whose circumstances render them unable to fully express themselves philosophically, spiritually, sexually, and socially. As a result, they express themselves through food, for different reasons. However, the motif of food is ubiquitous in all three novels because it represents the nourishment and sustenance that each woman is supposed to provide and yet is not getting in return.

Tita's mother is her worse enemy. You could say that she is Tita's direct antagonist in Like Water for Chocolate. She reduces Tita to the role of a care-taking servant without taking into consideration Tita's innate talents, nor her needs. This is because, in Tita's society, her role as a youngest daughter carries with it a series of socially-imposed responsibilities. It is obvious that Tita is being neglected and emotionally starved in the process. The irony that she is born on top of a kitchen table, creating a cosmic connection to food, suggests that while she cannot nurture as a mother, wife, or lover, she can still use her magical powers to feed a spiritually hungry world.

Vianne also brings with her a cosmic connection...to sweets. She comes from a long line of strong and independent women who, like her, are often shun and rejected for these very qualities. In the village where Vianne moves, she opens a chocolate parlor and uses her ancestry to re-create recipes that move the soul within an otherwise boring and bland society. She also wants to nourish and feed. She also wants to cause satiety and pleasure. In her case, it is society who directly antagonizes with this; the fact that Vianne has an innate need to create pleasurable experiences which may or may not go noticed, nor appreciated. Once she feels that she has done her part, Vianne needs to move on and find another home. She must nourish the world again.

However, Marian's story is different. She is in no way a "cosmically-connected" woman, nor does she bring with her any specific charm. She is an office girl who is bored and scared that her life will end up like the lives of the women whom she knows. In Marian's case, her immediate antagonist is Peter, her fiance. This is because, while Marian's society does not quite encourage the search for independence, Peter's engagement is an even bigger block in the way.

Marian believes that being married and having children will ultimately become the end of the journey of every woman. However, she cringes at the idea. Moreover, the only reason why Peter proposes seems to be because he also feels obligated by society to do so. This being said, Peter is sure to follow the lead of other men and will expect Marian to behave and respond the way "women are supposed to". It is no wonder that, in the fear of being eaten alive by society, Marian ends up rejecting any form of food and then creates the cake of a woman who she, in a fit, begins to eat desperately.

Therefore, Tita's mother, Vianne's society, and Marian's fiance are arguably the antagonists that block and limit the journey of these three amazing women.




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