Como agua para chocolate As A Novel of Self-Discovery Formulated Through Parody

Patricia Sánchez-Flavian

Fort Lewis College of Durango


Reflecting the diversity of authors, genres, themes, and techniques in this postmodern era, contemporary women’s writing in Spanish America takes many forms. Often, feminine writing, in an attempt to counter the dominant patriarchal voice, appropriates, and then reformulates a traditional male genre from the perspective of the marginalized female. As seen in Como agua para chocolate, Mexican author Laura Esquivel borrows from the general configurations of the traditional male Bildungsroman and applies them to her own novel.

The Bildungsroman features a male protagonist who progresses through certain stages in his growth from which he acquires knowledge about his role in society. In other words, it involves a journey of "rites of passage." Susan Rosowski defines this male genre as a novel which recounts the youth and young manhood, of a sensitive protagonist who is attempting to learn the nature of the world, discover its meaning and pattern, and acquire philosophy of life and 'the art of living.' (48) The female in the "Bildungsroman" is present only to support the role of the male protagonist. Her development isn't traced; rather, she is a ‘signpost’ in the journey of the male hero - a measure of his success or failure.

In the female novel of self-discovery, the protagonist is elevated to the position of hero, and undergoes a journey of development and maturation. However, in contrast to the masculine form of this sub-genre in which the male’s journey is usually exterior, the female journey is largely an interior experience. According to Rita Felski, one of the paradigms of this type of novel "emphasizes spatial and symbolic patterns rather than temporal and open-ended dimension of narrative; it is mythical rather than historical" (137). It is precisely because her search is inward, and the awakening of the female hero is a result of a changed consciousness, that her voyage is symbolic and mythical rather than historical.

Many of the feminine protagonists of the novel of self-discovery in fact reflect opposition to male oppression. Felski points out that this resistance may identify itself under various factors: "economically, in financial dependence and poverty; sexually, in the lack of a self-defined sexuality; and emotionally, in the feelings of inadequacy and the acceptance of the supportive and passive role" (133). In this type of narration the protagonist encounters the impetus to overcome these barriers; Esquivel’s Como agua para chocolate indeed encompasses these aspects.

The major conflict in the work is due to a cultural and familial issue; as the youngest of three daughters, it is expected that the protagonist, Tita, never marry, but remain at home in order to care for her mother until her death. Of course, as the novel opens, she has already encountered Pedro, the love of her life, and is in hope that Mamá Elena will relent. As expected, she does not, and, adding salt to the wound, offers Rosaura, Tita’s older unmarried sister, to him instead. Another custom holds that younger sisters should not marry before their older siblings, and Mamá Elena sees this development as a way of obtaining a husband for her more homely daughter, who also happens to be her favorite. Thus is the foundation laid for the internal journey that Tita must traverse in order to do battle against time-honored traditions.

The principal technique employed by Esquivel to subvert the masculine genre of Bildungsroman in order to present it as a feminine novel of self-discovery is parody, one of the principal characteristics of Latina feminine writing of recent years. In her study La parodia en la nueva novela hispanoamericana, Elzbieta Sklodowska maintains that this approach has been initiated by many Latin American women in order to sabotage the discourse of the patriarchal paradigm (144), and Heidi Schmidt agrees that it has evolved as a major characteristic of modern literature written by women - especially those from México and Germany (247).

In Como agua para chocolate, Esquivel not only parodies the male Bildungsroman, but also some traditional forms of feminine literature. For example, traces of formulaic fairy tales in which the heroine is abused by a wicked mother figure are evident, while there is ingenious reference to a genre of writing that has historically been attributed to feminine literary production of the Nineteenth Century. As Kathleen Glenn relates, "the narrative conventions, emotions, language, and imagery of the novela de entregas or the folletín are the main target of Esquivel's irony, she in addition pokes fun at fairy tales" (44).

Literary critic Elaine Showalter contends that women have always been forced to write subversively; she argues, "that feminist content of feminine art is typically oblique, displaced, ironic and subversive; one has to read it between the lines" (270). She additionally proposes that this female literary past must be recovered in order to establish a "community of female tradition" in the present (271). Kathleen Glenn concurs, suggesting that the revival of old-fashioned forms of writing has become a conscious act of contemporary female writers:

A number of female writers have resurrected forms that traditionally have been looked down on by the male literary establishment and excluded from the canon: La novela rosa, the gothic and the epistolary. They have consciously revitalized these supposedly secondary, minor forms. In so doing they have claimed a voice, a room, and a literature of their own. (47)

Laura Esquivel accomplishes this feat in Como agua para chocolate; the author’s flagrant exaggerations of obstacles encountered by the protagonist are indubitably reminiscent of literature of the late Nineteenth Century. Also, in contrast to the epigraph, a common characteristic of masculine writing of that era, the format of the novel is based on recipes. They introduce each of the twelve chapters, representing the months of the year, and at the end of each, there is an announcement of the recipe to appear the subsequent month. The "to be continued" feature emulates the Spanish folletín and the Romance Novels written by Nineteenth Century women; both were published in monthly episodes (Glenn 44). By the end of the Third Chapter, Tita begins to incorporate personal journal entries into the recipes, a biographical aspect, also significant to that type of female writing. Framing the novel within the Mexican Revolution completes the allusion to writings from that literary epoch. Through the parody of conventional feminine writing, Esquivel is able to deconstruct traditionally accepted interpretations, opening up the possibility for different and deeper meanings.

Kristine Ibsen also associates the structure of Como agua para chocolate, through recipes, to women's magazines of the Nineteenth Century: "These periodicals, sometimes called calendarios por señoritas, included, like Esquivel's novel, recipes, home remedies and often, sentimental novels in monthly installments" (137). The recipes in Esquivel’s work frame each chapter literally and figuratively: literally, by being physically present, at the beginning and at the end, and figuratively, by being responsible for the exaggerated and bizarre behavior of many of the characters. This novel thus establishes its links with one of the only forms of writing originally approved for women, and it becomes the principal vehicle for expression.

Recipes as a method for conveying information cannot be sold short; as Susan Leonardi argues, a recipe is "an embedded discourse, and like other embedded discourses, it can have a variety of relationships within its frame, or its bed" (340). And, Diana Rebolledo describes just how closely the recipes in Como agua para chocolate are intertwined with the narrative:

Esquivel structures the narrative around recipes that are so central to the narration, they cannot be separated. The recipes, household remedies....become the central icons for 'seeing' and 'knowing,' freedom of expression....Meaning and authority are incarnated in the recipes. (130)

The recipes and food are clearly responsible for much of the parody in the novel, which in turn, discloses many different "embedded discourses." The importance of the role of food is in fact established in its opening pages, and it is employed for the initial parody of a male Bildungsroman. Tita’s father dies suddenly of a heart attack and Mamá Elena gives birth prematurely to Tita from the shock of the tragedy. Her birth amidst a torrent of tears on the kitchen table during the preparations of a meal, denotes at least two possible meanings. On the one hand, it establishes the groundwork for the "heartrending" existence her future holds:

Pues Tita nació llorando de antemano, tal vez porque ella sabía que su oráculo determinaba que en esta vida le estaba negado el matrimonio. Contaba Nacha que Tita fue literalmente empujada a este mundo por un torrente impresionante de lágrimas que se desbordaron sobre la mesa y el piso de la cocina. (13)

Tita was born crying while her mother was dicing a cebolla (an onion); which most likely represents the oráculo mentioned by Nacha (the cook who becomes a close companion): the prediction of Tita's dismal future without love and marriage. Since the conditions of the moment of birth have traditionally been seen in literature as representative of the course of the hero's journey, Tita’s path has been clearly charted. Indeed, Tita’s birth also parodies, and thereby subverts, that of El Cid, hero of the Spanish Epic that records his ‘rites of passage,’ beginning with his birth: él que en una hora buena nació (Anónimo 130). As opposed to being fortunate enough to have been born at a "good" hour, Tita has had the misfortune to be born at a "bad" hour.

The shock of her husband’s sudden death affects Mamá Elena’s ability to nurse the newborn. Nacha takes responsibility for her feeding and Tita is therefore raised in the kitchen among the servants. She continues to find herself in situations of despair, another important aspect of the novel of self-discovery (Felski 133). Antonio Marquet describes Tita as the "unloved" child of the house: es una niña odiada: detestada por su hermana, vigilada estrechamente por su madre (58). (1) Flashbacks concerning mistreatment by her mother during her childhood appear throughout the narration, until finally, Tita’s ruminations, while preparing a special dish requiring quail, clearly illustrate the tenuous relationship existing between mother and daughter. As she contemplates killing the birds, she muses,

[e]n este momento pensó en lo bueno que sería tener la fuerza de Mamá Elena. Ella mataba así, de tajo, sin piedad. Bueno, aunque pensándolo, no. Con ella había hecho una excepción, la había empezado a matar desde niña, poco a poquito, aún no le daba el golpe final. (50)

This type of introspection contributes to the journey toward self-awakening as Felski argues that "[w]hat is significant is that self-discovery is defined as a developmental process occurring over time" (139). Tita is beginning to recognize and admit the unfairness of Mamá Elena’s past treatment.

Tita’s despair reaches new heights when Mamá Elena ignores her pleas to marry Pedro, instead arranging a marriage between him and Rosaura. According to Felski, the major problem faced by women is generally attributed to socially constructed gender roles: "the starting problem posed is invariably that of the restrictive nature of female social roles" (133). However, in Como agua para chocolate, Tita is not even allotted the traditional role of housewife, a role she greatly desires; rather, she is given an even more repressing role as her mother’s life-long caretaker. Ironically, since a "female identity is thus characterized as a lack, a problematic absence, existing only as a projection of male wishes and needs...." (Felski 133), Tita's dilemma is compounded. She is not even permitted the status of ‘signpost’ to measure Pedro’s personal growth. Rationalizing that at least they will be close to each other, Pedro agrees to marry Rosaura, and Tita is thus subjected to living in the same house as the newlyweds.

Taking her own expectations - which have been formulated by her own society - into consideration, Tita's circumstances only serve to sustain her growing lack of identity. She finds tranquility in the only place in which she feels content: the kitchen where she spent most of her childhood. When Nacha dies, Tita takes over the cooking and it becomes her private domain. In contrast to the Bildungsroman, in which the male leaves home to "slay the dragon," the female on a journey of self-discovery seeks surroundings that aren’t a threat to her: "a place that echoes rather than threatens her sense of self" (Felski 135). Esquivel thus keeps her heroine in a female space and, by ascribing to it monumental importance and power, she has cleverly inverted another masculine facet. The kitchen becomes the hub for the action in the novel, and it is from there that Tita controls the other characters through her cooking; as Gastón Lillo and Monique Sarfati-Arnaud point out,

[l]a cocina es espacio doméstico al que ha sido tradicionalmente confinada la mujer. La cocina y la cama, vuelve a aparecer aquí como un elemento central del mundo representado. Pero ese espacio doméstico es investido de otras funciones, y las mujeres de la obra ejercen desde allí su control. (486)

The kitchen, thus, becomes an extension of Tita, and through it Esquivel reinforces a nucleus for the community of women, a very important component for the novel of self-discovery (Ibsen 137). Felski agrees, contending that

[e]ncounters with other women also form a central part of the discovery process....the group of women providing the organic and harmonious community which opposes the rationalized world of male society. (135)

The women who make up Tita's community of support compose an eccentric group. There are two ghosts: Nacha, who’s spirit goes on to appear to Tita to offer continued support, (2) and Luz del amanecer, the ghost of John (an American doctor who takes Tita to his Texas ranch when she reaches her breaking point) Indian grandmother, and is instrumental in Tita's self-awakening process. (3) Two other primary companions are Chencha, another servant, also very supportive of Tita, and Gertrudis, the oldest sister who experiences her own "awakening" in the novel. (4)

Even though Esquivel keeps Tita blameless from deliberate evil-doings, she equips her with the instruments to unwittingly control the other characters. Many of the dishes prepared by Tita result in consequences of one form or another to those who consume the delicacies. Through a parody of Pedro and Rosaura’s elegant wedding, for example, which was planned according to El Manual de Carreño, "the" book of etiquette of the time period, the author provides Tita with the opportunity to inadvertently undermine her sister's wedding day. While mixing the batter for the cake, Tita cannot help but shed tears over the loss of her beloved Pedro. Because of the depth of her sadness, the addition of her tears to the other ingredients affect all of the guests; they become not only inexplicably sad, but also excruciatingly ill. Rosaura, while trying to reach a place amongst the others lined up along the riverbank to be sick, slips and slides in the overwhelming waves of vomit. Her dignity is crushed as her wedding dress is covered with the substance: "no hubo un solo pedazo de su vestido que quedara libre de vómito" (42). This occurrence clearly implies that the wedding should never have taken place, suggesting a bad omen for the marriage itself. It also provides Pedro with an excuse for postponing the wedding night: it was weeks before he "felt" well enough to consummate the marriage.

Another example of the effect Tita’s food has on others is seen in an unmistakable inversion of sex-roles through the parody of a sexual conquest. The special aforementioned quail-dish, prepared with petals from roses given to Tita by Pedro, provides an unexpected opportunity for the two to unite mentally, but results in genuine physical feelings. The combination of the quail (which Tita had struggled to kill) and the rose petals (which absorbed some of her blood from thorn-pricks) proved to be a very effective union, with Tita as the aggressor:

[d]e esta manera penetraba en el cuerpo de Pedro, voluptuosa, aromática, calurosa, completamente sensual....Parecía que habían descubierto un código nuevo de comunicación en el que Tita era la emisora, Pedro el receptor.... (53)

The role of aggressor, usually granted to the male hero is bestowed upon Tita. Controlling the sex act, it is she who penetrates Pedro through the vehicle of the food; and, in turn, Pedro's reaction seems feminine, especially in his appreciative "thank you" at the end of the episode:

Pedro no opuso resistencia, la dejó entrar hasta el último rincón de su ser sin poder quitarse la vista el uno del otro. Le dijo, 'nunca había probado algo tan exquisito, muchas gracias.' (53)

Tita and Pedro had stumbled upon a way to be together, even with others present. Gertrudis, also in attendance, is so captivated by their encounter that she also experiences similar sensations: y Gertrudis la afortunada en quien se sintetizaba esta singular relación sexual, a través de la comida. She leaves to cool off in the outside shower, but her fevered skin begins to sizzle at the water’s touch. She runs off, still unclothed with smoke emanating from her body, and is literally scooped up, onto his horse, by a general of the Revolution, who was drawn to the ranch by the sensations radiated by Gertrudis. Thus is her escape from under Mamá Elena’s dominance; the young woman eventually becomes an officer in the Revolution, responsible for leading hundreds of troops. (5)

Mamá Elena, also witness to this episode, realizes that Pedro and Tita have not overcome their feelings for each other. She had already noticed the development of a closer relationship between them since the birth of Pedro and Rosaura’s baby. Rosaura had been unable to nurse Roberto, and due to the scarcity of wet-nurses, even Tita makes an attempt to feed him. She is surprised to discover that she is able to nurture the child; becoming Pedro’s son’s wet-nurse has drawn the two even closer. After their comportment at the table, Mamá Elena now believes it’s time to take action, so she sends Pedro and Rosaura to live in the United States.

The baby dies soon after the move because "he wouldn't eat." This is the final straw for Tita as she finally breaks down at the news of his death. As tragic as this incident is, it provides the basis for Tita's salida: her ability to escape from under her mother’s control, another important feature in the process of self-discovery. According to Felski, "[a] shift in physical space can be central to the process of self-discovery" (134). She is not leaving to prove herself, as does the male hero in a Bildungsroman, rather, she is being removed from the site responsible for her collapse. Because Mamá Elena displays indifference to Tita’s catatonic state, John Brown, the doctor who services the pueblo, takes her to his ranch in Texas. (6) As they are leaving, Chencha runs out to the carriage to give Tita the afghan she has been knitting since the eve of Pedro and Rosaura's wedding. It is so long that it cannot fit inside the carriage, so it trails along the road behind it:

Chencha, corriendo y llorando a su lado, apenas alcanzó a ponerle a Tita en los hombros la enorme colcha que había tejido en sus interminables noches de insomnio. Era tan grande y pesada que no cupo dentro del carruaje. Tita se aferró a ella con tal fuerza que no hubo más remedio que llevarla arrastrando, como una enorme y calidoscópica cola de novia que alcanzaba a cubrir un kilómetro completo.

This passage brings to mind, once again, the heroes of Epic Poems; in this instance, a vision of them riding away on their horses, their cloaks trailing in the wind behind them. For Tita, however, the afghan is the external symbol of her internal journey – knitting was part of her reflection process, and its exaggerated length symbolizes the intensity of that process.

Tita is still in a catatonic state when she arrives in Texas. She refuses to speak or eat, but soon realizes through John’s quiet reassurance that she is not obliged to do anything. Free from the stress and tension produced by her mother’s demands, she begins to take more concentrated steps toward her self-awakening. Her greatest epiphany comes about through watching her hands move; Tita begins to understand that she is the one who controls them and thus should be able to manage her own life as well, but since her mother always directed their movements, she does not know what to do with them. As Tita begins to realize the depth of the hold that Mamá Elena has had on her, she slowly begins to recover. When she retrieves her voice, she makes two important decisions: she will never return home and that she will marry John, who by this time has fallen in love with her.

However, Mamá Elena is paralyzed during an attack by revolutionaries and Tita doesn't hesitate to return home to care for her. Her reaction is not surprising because according to Marianne Hirsch, women do not break family ties as easily as men; however, apart from that factor, this event actually contributes to Tita’s self awakening - returning to the original site of dependency is an important step in the process. Hirsch points out that contrary to the Bildungsroman, which is linear in nature, the woman’s "awakening" is distinguished by its circularity – her need for repetition (46). Indeed, Felski suggests, "[t]he heroine must become what she once was, recover an identity which is complete and self-contained, rather than contingent, and historically and socially determined" (141). Even though Tita is now the one in charge, she does remain under her mother's dominance, financially and culturally; however, this time around her emotions are in rein. Actually, Mamá Elena imagines that Tita is trying to poison her, so she gladly allows Chencha to serve her.

Tita takes yet another step towards her self-awakening when Mamá Elena dies. Her mother takes a remedy that is supposed to counteract the poison she believes Tita is feeding her, and it ironically causes her death. While going through her things, Tita uncovers a secret that finally enables her to understand her mother - she had also lost her own true love as a young girl. He was the father of Gertrudis, but her family forbade their marriage because he was a Mulatto, and he was killed before they had the opportunity to run away together (130). Tita realizes that she had a great deal in common with her mother, and she truly mourns her death, though she does not backslide and forgive unequivocally. She clarifies that she does not cry for the woman who treated her so badly: "Durante el entierro Tita realmente lloró por su madre. Pero no por la mujer castrante que la había reprimido toda la vida, sino por ese ser que había vivido un amor frustrado" (130). Through this incident, Esquivel not only allows Tita to display her emotional growth, but also draws attention to the fact that each generation of women has to cope with current societal and cultural expectations.

Mamá Elena’s spirit continues to haunt Tita even after her death, illustrating Tita’s difficulty in trying to escape her influence. Pedro and Rosaura return so that Pedro can manage the ranch, and Tita and Pedro finally consummate their love. Tita thinks she may be pregnant, triggering one of her mother's more memorable appearances in which she blames Tita for the unhappy state of Rosaura’s marriage. She comes to believe that she must indeed give up Pedro: "renunciar para siempre a Pedro, pues no podía hacerle más daño a Rosaura" (61). Tita thus makes a concentrated effort to stay away from him and reaffirms her decision to marry the doctor:

It is not until Pedro is badly burnt, and Tita defiantly cares for him, that she begins to complete her self-awakening. When she stands up to Rosaura and the ghost of her mother, Tita also stands up to herself. She admits to herself that she really does love this man, even though he has displayed weakness during times when she needed him; Prince Charming has not been much of a prince - he has never stood up to Mamá Elena in defense of Tita, much less made an attempt to rescue her from the "wicked mother."

In her novel, Esquivel illustrates that the "self-awakening" process is not easy. In their introduction to Voyage of Woman, the editors speculate that, "it may be frustrating because in some novels it occurs in stages" (Ashland, et al, 14). This also illustrates Rosowski's contention that the woman's "awakening" includes the recognition and acceptance of her limitations:

The protagonist's growth results typically not with 'an art of living,' as for her male counterpart, but instead with a realization that for a woman such an art of living is difficult or impossible; it is an awakening to limitations. (49)

Tita accepts that it is Pedro she loves and would rather be with him - even with limitations. They strike a bargain with Rosaura – they will fulfill their love discretely in order for Rosaura to save face, and they even agree to share in Esperanza’s (the new baby) upbringing. (7) In making these decisions, Tita begins to take charge of her life and achieve autonomy. However, Esquivel parodies even this; on the night of Esperanza’s wedding, when the couple are finally able to make love without fear of discovery, Pedro dies. Realizing she does not want to live without him, Tita swallows the matches she knows will ignite through the combustion provided by the heat of her body, and the two undertake their final journey through a glorious pathway created from the fireworks generated through the enormity of their love.

Through the parody of the Bildungsroman and conventional forms of female writing, Esquivel accomplishes several feats. The gross exaggeration of Tita's plight, not only mocks the male version of the hero, but also emphasizes the dilemma in which women have historically found themselves: culturally, emotionally and financially. The author places very real people in very real situations; for example, Tita lives under her mother's dominance, and when she dies, she is transferred to Pedro's. It is indeed ironic that it is from him, whom John must request Tita's hand in marriage.

By presenting Pedro as the weak character, however, and Tita as the strong one, Esquivel not only inverts traditional Mexican gender roles, but also cleverly subverts the notion of the weak woman awaiting her rescue. The role of the customary male hero is inverted to that of support to the female hero: Pedro becomes the ‘signpost’ of measure for Tita’s personal growth. As Alberto Julián Pérez notes in his study: "El personaje omnipotente....El personaje masculino queda marginado en la casa: no le corresponde honor, ni autoridad. Es débil, manejable, dependiente, subalterno" (51). By awarding Tita a traditionally female role, through which she functions with power and control, Esquivel undermines a "macho" ideal - the kitchen obviously represents the headquarters for her community.

In granting Tita her powers through food, Esquivel calls attention to, and reinforces, the historical importance of women. The primary indication of this is the obvious connection between the food she prepares and her herself: the food and she are literally intertwined:

Tita, too, is a succulent dish, and the text of Como agua is written on and with her body. She knows that creativity is as necessary in the kitchen as in the bedroom and recipes for cooking, loving, living, and writing need not be followed literally. (Glenn 45)

This type of revision of a traditionally masculine genre through traditionally feminine aspects accentuates even more the mockery of the masculine features thus eliminating the need to appropriate the language of men. According to Sklodowska, this corresponds to a standard format implemented by many contemporary female authors:

La mujer imita a los sistemas expresivos masculinos, pero sin dejarse reducir a ellos. Al contrario, la mujer descontextualiza la práctica discursiva masculina, sea por medio de una repetición juguetona, sea a través de una desautomatización (en el sentido otorgado al término por los formalistas rusos). (145)

Esquivel clearly illustrates in Como agua para chocolate that women do not have to appropriate the language of men in order to create successful literature. She also undeniably succeeds in the retrieval of the essence of women's literature of the past and makes a major contribution to women's literary production of the present.

Tita’s journey of self-discovery is important because of its significance for women in general. A woman should be able to pursue whichever career she desires without fear of criticism, whether it is housewife and mother or doctor. Tita emerges from her journey a complete person – a hero, who has battled her inner dragons and won. The greatest aspect of her journey, however, is that through the writing talents of Laura Esquivel, the reader has been able to accompany her.



(1). Being the youngest and least favorite of three daughters, Tita could easily be Cinderella.


(2). Tita’s Godmother appears in the form of Nacha who literally raised her. She is her strongest ally against her mother and continues to appear to her after death to provide guidance.

(3). After Tita has a total breakdown and is taken to his ranch by John Brown, food again reflects its prominence in this novel. She refuses to eat and talk upon her arrival, and initially becomes aware of her surroundings through the aroma emanating from Luz de Amanecer’s cooking of Indigenous foods. This affair is clearly reflected in the name, Luz de Amanecer, which literally translates to "Light of awakening/morning/dawn." The two women spend many gratifying hours talking together. Instead of having only one Godmother as is common in fairy tales, Esquivel grants Tita two of them, and it is interesting to note that they are both Indigenous.

(4). Gertrudis, the oldest sister, is the child of a mulatto, an unfulfilled love from Mamá Elena’s youth. More explanation of Gertrudis appears in he development in the paper.

(5). Through Gertrudis, Esquivel subverts more literally the male hero in the Bildungsroman. She spends some time working in a brothel after she leaves home – Mamá Elena of course disowns her, but Tita remains in touch with her. Gertrudis eventually reunites with the general who absconded with her and becomes a generala in the Mexican Revolution. Multiple sexual conquests along with commanding hundreds of troops indeed invert traditional Mexican gender roles.

(6). At the news of Roberto’s death Tita climbs up to the loft inhabited by pigeons, removes her clothing and wallows in their excrement. In order to demonstrate her disapproval of her daughter’s behavior, which Mamá Elena considers to be extremely inappropriate, she removes the ladder so Tita cannot climb down. By the time Chencha is allowed to get her, Tita refuses to come down – she has entered a catatonic state.

(7). Rosaura is already telling the infant that she will never marry because she will have to remain at home to care for her mother. Tita, however, is determined never to allow that to happen. Rosaura dies before Esperanza is grown, however, so there is no danger in that occurrence. Even though Rosaura is no longer alive, Pedro and Tita remain discrete in their relationship until Esperanza’s wedding day.


Works Cited

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