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Like Water For Chocolate By Esquirel

Laura Esquirel’s, Like Water for Chocolate, is a modern day Romeo and Juliet
filled with mouthwatering recipes. It has become a valued part of American
literature. The novel became so popular that it was developed into a film,
becoming a success in both America and Mexico. Alfonso Arau directs the film.


After reading the novel and seeing the movie, I discovered several distinct
differences between the two as well as some riveting similarities. The novel
begins with the main character, Tita, being born on the kitchen table. “Tita
had no need for the usual slap on the bottom, because she was already crying as
she emerged; maybe that was because she knew that it would be her lot in life to
be denied marriage …Tita was literally washed into this world on a great tide
of tears that spilled over the edge of the table and flooded across the kitchen
floor” (Esquirel 6). Although this is included in the film with tremendous
accuracy, the movie begins with a different scene. The movie opens with Tita’s
father going to a bar to celebrate the birth of his daughter. On the way a
friend informs him of his wife’s, Mama Elena, affair with a man having Negro
blood in his veins. The terrible news brings on a heart attack killing him
instantly. In the book, this information is not given until the middle chapters.

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As the novel continues, another character is introduced, Gertrudis. Gertrudis,
the older sister of Tita, is the first to rebel against her mother’s wishes.


Wanting to escape the securities of home, Gertrudis is overwhelmed by her
lustful passions. A soldier, not too far away, Juan, inhales the aroma of her
desire and heads her way. “The aroma from Gertrudis’ body guided him…The
woman desperately needed a man to quench the red-hot fire that was raging inside
her…Gertrudis stopped running when she saw him riding toward her. Naked as she
was, with her loosened hair falling to her waist, luminous, glowing with energy,
she might have been an angel and devil in one woman…Without slowing his
gallop, so as not to waste a moment, he leaned over, put his arm around her
waist, and lifted her onto the horse in front of him, face to face, and carried
her away…The movement of the horse combined with the movement of their bodies
as they made love for the first time, at a gallop and with a great deal of
difficulty ” (Esquirel 55). This imagery is tremendous. Every sense that
Esquirel touches in this passage is illuminated in the movie with perfection.


It’s as though Arau took a picture from Esquirel’s mind as she wrote and
cultivated it to film. Later in Esquirel’s novel, Rosalio announces to Mama
Elena that a group of soldiers are approaching the ranch. Mama Elena picks up
her shotgun and hides it under her petticoat. She meets the revolutionaries,
along with two other women, at the entrance of the home. Mama Elena warns the
soldiers not to enter the house. The Captain of the bandits sees the grit and
determination in Mama Elena’s eyes and agrees not to enter. However, the
regiment does manage to round up some feed before leaving. In contrast, the
movie at this point agrees with the revolutionaries entering the ranch, but
disagrees with the rest of the events, possibly to add some action. First, Mama
Elena confronts the bandits but with only one other lady by her side. Secondly,
after a verbal confrontation, the rebels proceed to rape the lady friend, beat
Mama Elena unconscious, and throw her in the lake, killing her. According to the
novel, Mama Elena doesn’t die until later in the book, from a drug overdose.


“At first, Tita and John had no explanation for this strange death, since
clinically Mama Elena had no other malady than her paralysis. But going through
her bureau, they found the bottle of syrup of ipecac and they deduced that Mama
Elena must have taken it secretly. John informed Tita that it was a very strong
emetic that could cause death” (Esquirel 135). Soon after Mama Elena’s death
Gertrudis returns to the ranch. In Esquirel’s tale Gertrudis rides up on a
horse at the head of the revolutionary soldiers. Tita finds out that Gertrudis
is in charge of the troops. Unaware of her mother’s death, Gertrudis has come
back to show Mama Elena that she has triumphed in life. However, despite some
parallels, the movie shows Gertrudis returning to the ranch in a car.


Undoubtedly, giving the audience a greater sense of the prodigal sister’s
success. Believing her mother’s death would release her from the shackles of
tradition, Tita began reaching out to Pedro, her Romeo, whom Mama Elena had
forbid her to see. Nevertheless, Esquirel allows Mama Elena to continue nagging
Tita from beyond the grave. “See what you’ve done now? You and Pedro are
shameless. If you don’t want blood to flow in this house, go where you can’t
do any harm to anybody, before it’s to late”(Esquirel 199). Tita responds by
telling Mama Elena she hates her and to leave her alone. With these words Mama
Elena disappears forever. Esquirel’s description of the ghost is vague, “The
imposing figure of her mother began to shrink until it became no more than a
tiny light”(Esquirel 199). Unlike the novel, the movie does a great job of
adding a certain mystique around the ghost. The ghostly clone of Mama Elena,
created by the Arau, adds a thrilling touch by using the human element of fear.


Toward the end of the novel, Tita and Pedro are finally united in the throws of
passion. The descriptive nature that Esquirel uses leaves a perfect picture of
the surroundings, and inhales the reader into believing himself to be a peeping
tom. “The silk sheets and bedspread were white, like the floral rug that
covered the floor and the 250 candles that lit up the now inappropriately named
dark room…Pedro placed Tita on the bed and slowly removed her clothing, piece
by piece…The striking of the brass headboard against the wall and the guttural
sounds that escaped from both of them mixed with the sound of the thousand doves
flying free above them” (Esquirel 243). Arau’s interpretation incorporates
all of Esquirel’s eloquent artistry in perfect harmony. Arau’s vision brings
Like Water for Chocolate to the climax which Esquirel had intended, leaving the
audience in awe. Other differences, not discussed above, include Tita being
shown in the movie as an average looking woman. The impression that the novel
leaves is a woman that is breathtaking to the senses, a goddess. Of course, this
opinion is subject to personal taste. As someone once said, “Beauty is in the
eye of the beholder.” Another striking difference between the movie and the
book is that both are developed by different sexes. This obviously could effect
the compare and contrast views of this paper. For example, being male, I found
that the two images that left the greatest impression were of sexual nature,
Gertrudis making love with the soldier, and Tita being intimate with Pedro. The
different views of the sexes may also be the answer to some of the contrasts
between the movie and novel. For instance, the death of Mama Elena. Esquirel’s
version fits the emotional death, suicide, geared toward the female audience,
while Arau’s shows a more sexual and violent death, extinguishing the male
desire for action. In conclusion, I found the novel more entertaining than the
movie. The reason the movie fell short in expectations is because Esquirel does
a great job in allowing the reader to draw on their imaginations. However, Arau
is able to capture this imagery occasionally throughout the movie. Furthermore,
most of the changes added to the movie were grand, which added to the thrill and
plot of the story. Overall, both are memorable and deserve their legacyLaura
Esquirel’s, Like Water for Chocolate, is a modern day Romeo and Juliet filled
with mouthwatering recipes. It has become a valued part of American literature.


The novel became so popular that it was developed into a film, becoming a
success in both America and Mexico. Alfonso Arau directs the film. After reading
the novel and seeing the movie, I discovered several distinct differences
between the two as well as some riveting similarities. The novel begins with the
main character, Tita, being born on the kitchen table. “Tita had no need for
the usual slap on the bottom, because she was already crying as she emerged;
maybe that was because she knew that it would be her lot in life to be denied
marriage …Tita was literally washed into this world on a great tide of tears
that spilled over the edge of the table and flooded across the kitchen floor”
(Esquirel 6). Although this is included in the film with tremendous accuracy,
the movie begins with a different scene. The movie opens with Tita’s father
going to a bar to celebrate the birth of his daughter. On the way a friend
informs him of his wife’s, Mama Elena, affair with a man having Negro blood in
his veins. The terrible news brings on a heart attack killing him instantly. In
the book, this information is not given until the middle chapters. As the novel
continues, another character is introduced, Gertrudis. Gertrudis, the older
sister of Tita, is the first to rebel against her mother’s wishes. Wanting to
escape the securities of home, Gertrudis is overwhelmed by her lustful passions.


A soldier, not too far away, Juan, inhales the aroma of her desire and heads her
way. “The aroma from Gertrudis’ body guided him…The woman desperately
needed a man to quench the red-hot fire that was raging inside her…Gertrudis
stopped running when she saw him riding toward her. Naked as she was, with her
loosened hair falling to her waist, luminous, glowing with energy, she might
have been an angel and devil in one woman…Without slowing his gallop, so as
not to waste a moment, he leaned over, put his arm around her waist, and lifted
her onto the horse in front of him, face to face, and carried her away…The
movement of the horse combined with the movement of their bodies as they made
love for the first time, at a gallop and with a great deal of difficulty ” (Esquirel
55). This imagery is tremendous. Every sense that Esquirel touches in this
passage is illuminated in the movie with perfection. It’s as though Arau took
a picture from Esquirel’s mind as she wrote and cultivated it to film. Later
in Esquirel’s novel, Rosalio announces to Mama Elena that a group of soldiers
are approaching the ranch. Mama Elena picks up her shotgun and hides it under
her petticoat. She meets the revolutionaries, along with two other women, at the
entrance of the home. Mama Elena warns the soldiers not to enter the house. The
Captain of the bandits sees the grit and determination in Mama Elena’s eyes
and agrees not to enter. However, the regiment does manage to round up some feed
before leaving. In contrast, the movie at this point agrees with the
revolutionaries entering the ranch, but disagrees with the rest of the events,
possibly to add some action. First, Mama Elena confronts the bandits but with
only one other lady by her side. Secondly, after a verbal confrontation, the
rebels proceed to rape the lady friend, beat Mama Elena unconscious, and throw
her in the lake, killing her. According to the novel, Mama Elena doesn’t die
until later in the book, from a drug overdose. “At first, Tita and John had no
explanation for this strange death, since clinically Mama Elena had no other
malady than her paralysis. But going through her bureau, they found the bottle
of syrup of ipecac and they deduced that Mama Elena must have taken it secretly.


John informed Tita that it was a very strong emetic that could cause death” (Esquirel
135). Soon after Mama Elena’s death Gertrudis returns to the ranch. In
Esquirel’s tale Gertrudis rides up on a horse at the head of the revolutionary
soldiers. Tita finds out that Gertrudis is in charge of the troops. Unaware of
her mother’s death, Gertrudis has come back to show Mama Elena that she has
triumphed in life. However, despite some parallels, the movie shows Gertrudis
returning to the ranch in a car. Undoubtedly, giving the audience a greater
sense of the prodigal sister’s success. Believing her mother’s death would
release her from the shackles of tradition, Tita began reaching out to Pedro,
her Romeo, whom Mama Elena had forbid her to see. Nevertheless, Esquirel allows
Mama Elena to continue nagging Tita from beyond the grave. “See what you’ve
done now? You and Pedro are shameless. If you don’t want blood to flow in this
house, go where you can’t do any harm to anybody, before it’s to
late”(Esquirel 199). Tita responds by telling Mama Elena she hates her and to
leave her alone. With these words Mama Elena disappears forever. Esquirel’s
description of the ghost is vague, “The imposing figure of her mother began to
shrink until it became no more than a tiny light”(Esquirel 199). Unlike the
novel, the movie does a great job of adding a certain mystique around the ghost.


The ghostly clone of Mama Elena, created by the Arau, adds a thrilling touch by
using the human element of fear. Toward the end of the novel, Tita and Pedro are
finally united in the throws of passion. The descriptive nature that Esquirel
uses leaves a perfect picture of the surroundings, and inhales the reader into
believing himself to be a peeping tom. “The silk sheets and bedspread were
white, like the floral rug that covered the floor and the 250 candles that lit
up the now inappropriately named dark room…Pedro placed Tita on the bed and
slowly removed her clothing, piece by piece…The striking of the brass
headboard against the wall and the guttural sounds that escaped from both of
them mixed with the sound of the thousand doves flying free above them” (Esquirel
243). Arau’s interpretation incorporates all of Esquirel’s eloquent artistry
in perfect harmony. Arau’s vision brings Like Water for Chocolate to the
climax which Esquirel had intended, leaving the audience in awe. Other
differences, not discussed above, include Tita being shown in the movie as an
average looking woman. The impression that the novel leaves is a woman that is
breathtaking to the senses, a goddess. Of course, this opinion is subject to
personal taste. As someone once said, “Beauty is in the eye of the
beholder.” Another striking difference between the movie and the book is that
both are developed by different sexes. This obviously could effect the compare
and contrast views of this paper. For example, being male, I found that the two
images that left the greatest impression were of sexual nature, Gertrudis making
love with the soldier, and Tita being intimate with Pedro. The different views
of the sexes may also be the answer to some of the contrasts between the movie
and novel. For instance, the death of Mama Elena. Esquirel’s version fits the
emotional death, suicide, geared toward the female audience, while Arau’s
shows a more sexual and violent death, extinguishing the male desire for action.


In conclusion, I found the novel more entertaining than the movie. The reason
the movie fell short in expectations is because Esquirel does a great job in
allowing the reader to draw on their imaginations. However, Arau is able to
capture this imagery occasionally throughout the movie. Furthermore, most of the
changes added to the movie were grand, which added to the thrill and plot of the
story. Overall, both are memorable and deserve their legacy.

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