Like Water for Chocolate

by Laura Esquivel

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What does Mama Elena's ghost symbolize in Like Water for Chocolate?

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In Like Water for Chocolate, Mama Elena's ghost represents traditional family roles, expectations to fill those roles, and the guilt and shame that someone can be burdened with when that person chooses to not fully meet those expectations. Mama Elenas's ghost visits Tita and guilts Tita for choosing to follow her heart and pursue romance with Pedro, since that decision affected how much Tita could meet familial expectations. Mama Elena's ghost also represents inter-generational tension between familial members as Mama Elena had a certain expectation of Tita that can be attributed to differences in generational expectations of family members. Mama Elena's ghost also represents general control and hierarchy. Tita is shamed for choosing to follow her own path in life, even as she also responds to her family's needs.

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When Mama Elena's ghost appears to Tita, it tries to reassert the control that this mother had in life over her daughter. As the youngest daughter, it was Tita's "job" to remain unmarried and care for her mother until she died. Tita did her duty, but was torn between her passion for Pedro and her family responsibilities.

When Tita gives in to her passion for Pedro, Mama Elena's ghost appears to make her feel guilty and remind her of the traditional role she is neglecting. The ghost represents authority, control, and the imprisoning nature of frustrated love.

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