“Like Water for Chocolate” is a text that I believe should be used in a classroom context for high school students because of the emotions, changes and challenges affecting teenagers as they do the central character in the text, and its uses of distinctive methods to demonstrate this. The relationships, Mexican culture, and literary techniques make it an alternative yet invaluable source in the classroom context.
Most texts that students are expected to study in senior high school tend to be chosen by adults for their literary qualities that are not especially relevant to some of the challenge and emotions that teenagers face in their daily twenty-first century lives. Whilst the text “Like Water for Chocolate” is not set in the culture we live in today nor is it a direct reflection teenage life, it certainly has particular components that make it relevant to high school students while still being as beneficial literary source as a Shakespearean text, just in different manners.
While a story written about unrequited love is one of the most familiar, universal and almost over told stories ever written, the essence the author has brought to it using different methods bringing new life and to this commonplace story line. While the entire story is almost epic-like in its traditional plot, characters and the way it is told, techniques used by the author convey a deeply personal view of Tita De la Garza’s life even when written in the second person, by Tita’s great niece, Esperanza’s daughter.
The way that Laura Esquivel uses magical realism in the text enhances the novel overall. The main purpose of using this writing technique is to evoke certain emotions in the reader about love such as when Gertrudis is having a shower in the small room outside made of roughly nailed planks. Because she has just consumed Tita’s “quail in rose petal sauce” the emotion that it was prepared with and love put into the food by Tita directed towards Pedro has shown effects in her. Magical realism recurs throughout the text and in this example Gertrudis is unable to enjoy her shower “because the drops that fell from the shower never made it to her body: they evaporated before they reached her. Her body was giving off so much heat that the wooden walls began to split and burst into flame.” (Like Water for Chocolate, pg 51). The way that the sheer passion of Gertrudis is expressed works very well to make known to the reader a feeling that can only be experienced to be truly understood. Similarly this is demonstrated when Tita’s Сenormous bedspread that she had woven through night after night of insomnia “covered the whole ranch, all three hectares.” (Like Water for Chocolate, pg 220) It is unbelievable that one person’s passion could set fire to a hut or that a bedspread could cover 30 000m2, but this is the author’s way of expressing the immeasurable passion experienced or just how many sleepless nights were spent by Tita suffering in her unrequited love.
Adolescence is a part of a human’s life when they begin to experience new and changing relationships. The relationships that the teenage Tita begins to experience, (when she meets Pedro she is just 15) and fulfil are quite similar, even if not in context, as ones that high school aged students are beginning to have. They are able to relate to the text in this way while they also may find parallels from characters to ones in their own life. For example, an older person who they can confide in like Nancha, a young love such as Pedro or a sibling they have similar experiences with as Tita does with Rosaura or Gertrudis. Teenagers are all beginning to experience aspects of love as they grow up and I think that the central theme of this in the book will prove attractive to them.
Secondary school and the years of being a teenager is a time of change and transition from when they go from being almost totally reliant on the care of their parents to being an independent adult who is able to run their own life. Independence and personal freedom becomes very important to them. While teenagers generally strive to be free from the ties of their home, Tita is bonded by her family tradition insisting as Mama Elena says to Tita, “that being the youngest daughter means that you have to take care of me until the day I die.” (Like Water for Chocolate, pg 14). This freedom being denied to Tita may relate well with the restrictions felt by students at home by their parents who may be trying to protect them or prevent them from doing their own will.
The style in which “Like Water for Chocolate” is written is really quite unique. It is set out with the chapters of the book being represented by months of the year with a separate recipe for each chapter. The sensuality of food in relation to the sentiment of the characters and what they experience combine very well together with the preparation of each particular recipe. This adds to the plot as well as the emotions and mood being created for the remainder of the chapter. In January, Tita expresses her first passions toward Pedro making her feel “like dough feels when it is plunged into boiling oil” (Like Water for Chocolate, pg 18) Emotion that Tita puts into her food can make the people that eat it passionately in love to violently sick.
The text shows a glimpse of Mexican culture and even the history of that country talking about the family’s experiences with civil war like when the revolutionaries with Captain Juan Alejandrez visited the ranch. Especially Mexican food is explored here in depth as an essential part of this foreign culture.
I believe that the book is relevant to a class of secondary students today. It deals with similar emotions, changes and challenges affecting teenagers as they do the central character in the text, and uses distinctive methods to demonstrate in a different way to other texts, making it something for the student to experience.