Like Water for Chocolate

by KE Monahan Huntley

Akin to the ingredients for her "recipes, romances, and home remedies," Laura Esquivel's 1993 screen adaptation of her "novel in monthly installments," Like Water for Chocolate, contains all the dynamics and elements essential for a Dramatica storyform. As the following passages illustrate, the storyencoding and storyweaving dish up a piquant grand argument story that is a filmic, literary, and Epicurean delight for both critics and audiences.

To her mother's dismay, Tita De la Garza (main character) ". . . 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 (mc critical flaw-approach)."

"One afternoon . . . Tita, who was then fifteen, announced in a trembling voice that Pedro Muzquiz (influence character) would like to come and speak with her. Mama Elena (antagonist) threw her a look that seemed to Tita to contain all the years of repression that had flowed over the family (objective story domain-psychology), and said: 'If he intends to ask for your hand (relationship story concern-obtaining), tell him not to bother. He'll be wasting his time and mine too (ic thematic issue-denial). You know perfectly well that being (os benchmark) the youngest daughter (mc domain-universe) means you have to take care of me (os thematic issue-obligation) until the day I die."

Tita knew that discussion was not one of the forms of communication permitted in Mama Elena's household, but even so . . . she intended to protest (mc approach-do-er) her mother's ruling (story driver-decision).

'But it is my opinion . . .'

'You don't have an opinion (mc problem-control).'"

Tita's future (mc concern) is thus determined. At this point the story goal is set forth-that she not become part of an ancient custom that has, in her opinion, no logic (os problem)-or at the very least, that it ends with her:

"She wanted to know who started this family tradition. It would be nice if she could let that genius know about one little flaw in this perfect plan for taking care of women in their old age. If Tita couldn't marry and have children, who would take care of her when she got old? . . . And what about women who marry and can't have children, who will take care of them? And besides, she'd like to know what kind of studies had established that the youngest daughter and not the eldest is best suited to care for their mother."

Pedro, with his "esteemed father at his side" asks Mama Elena for Tita's hand in marriage. "She was extremely polite and explained why it was impossible for Tita to marry (mc thematic issue-preconception). 'But if you really want Pedro to get married, allow me to suggest my daughter Rosaura (os symptom-hinder) . . .'" To his father's consternation, Pedro decides to support (rs problem) the De la Garza family tradition:

'Why did you do that, Pedro? It will look ridiculous, your agreeing to marry Rosaura (os catalyst-commitment). What happened to the eternal love (ic concern-subconscious) you swore to Tita? Aren't you going to keep (rs problem-obtaining) that vow?'

'Of course I'll keep it. When you're told there's no way you can marry the woman you love and your only hope (ic unique ability) of being near her is to marry her sister, wouldn't you do the same?' (ic problem-logic)

'So you intend to marry without love?'

'No Papa, I am going to marry with a great love for Tita that will never die.'" (ic domain-mind)

Tita does not yet appreciate the meaning (rs signpost 1-understanding) behind Pedro making Rosaura his wife (os concern-becoming). "Tita could not get to sleep that night . . . . How unfortunate that black holes in space had not yet been discovered, for then she might have understood the black hole in the center of her chest (mc growth-start), infinite coldness flowing through it."

At the wedding reception, Pedro secretly confesses to Tita: "' . . . through this marriage I have gained (rs concern-obtaining) what I really wanted: the chance to be near you, the woman I really love.' For Tita, these words were like a fresh breeze fanning embers that had been about to die (rs catalyst-self-interest)."

The essence of Tita's feelings (os solution) is poured into her cooking--it is here where she creates balance (female mental sex) as well as exquisite repast. This is illustrated particularly well in the reaction Pedro and Rosaura's wedding guests have to the cake she had baked-"But the weeping was just the first symptom of a strange intoxication-an acute attack of pain and frustration­ that seized the guests and scattered them across the patio and the grounds . . . all of them wailing over lost love." Later, Tita prepares quail with the rose petals Pedro has given her: "But something strange was happening to Gertrudis. On her the food seemed to act as an aphrodisiac . . . . She turned to Tita for help (os response), but . . . there wasn't a sign of life in her eyes. It was as if a strange alchemical process had dissolved her [Tita's] entire being in the rose petal sauce, in the tender flesh of the quails, in the wine, in every one of the meal's aromas. That was the way she entered Pedro's body, hot, voluptuous, perfumed, totally sensuous. With that meal it seemed they had discovered a new system of communication . . . (rs journey 1-understanding to doing)"

Tita is steadfast (mc resolve) in her course, remaining faithful in her love for Pedro, despite the heartaches and hindrances (mc symptom). By virtue of her unique ability (delay), Tita is able to indefinitely defer her happiness. She helps (mc response) Pedro and Rosaura raise their daughter, Esperanza. When Tita's niece falls in love: "Rosaura was furious when she saw that Pedro and Tita were staunchly behind Esperanza (rs domain-physics). She fought with everything she had, she fought like a lioness to defend what according to tradition was her right-a daughter who would stay with her until she died. . . . Fortunately this did not go on for long, because after three days she died . . ."

Dancing a waltz at Alex and Esperanza's wedding (story limit-optionlock; outcome-success), Pedro once again asks Tita for her hand in marriage:

"Tita couldn't answer Pedro. A lump in her throat prevented it. The tears slowly rolled down her cheeks. Her first tears of joy (judgment-good).

'And I want you to know that you can't convince me not to do it. I don't care what my daughter or anybody else thinks (rs solution-oppose). We've spent too many years worrying about what people will say; from now on nothing is going to keep me away from you (ic resolve-change).''' Consummating their love is mortally fatal for Pedro-Tita must concoct one last remedy to unite with her love at death's tunnel: "There at its entrance was the luminous figure of Pedro waiting for her. Tita did not hesitate . . . they left together for the lost Eden. Never again would they be apart."

Sources other than the released film:

Esquivel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate. New York: Doubleday, 1989.

About the Author

KE Monahan Huntley is an editor and publisher based in Southern California. As one of the original contributors to Dramatica, she helped edit and analyze many of the examples. In addition, her numerous articles provided an insightful "conversational" approach to the theory. Today she can be found at Write Between the Lines or follow her on Twitter @kemhuntley.

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