How Does Oppression Within “Like Water for Chocolate” and “The House of Bernarda Alba” Lead To Unnatural Consequences? In both ‘Like Water for Chocolate’ and ‘The House of Bernarda Alba’ rebellion against oppression is a strong theme, with both Tita and Adela struggling to break free of their mother’s authoritarianism. However, it is important to realise that with both characters, the authors are using them to symbolise their own journeys. Federico Garcia Lorca uses Adela’s strong willed fight against Bernarda Alba to represent the costs of repressing the freedom of others.
Likewise, in Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel uses Tita’s constant battle against Mama Elena to show how women struggle to be heard and how both men and tradition can be strong oppressors. Laura Esquivel employs magic realism throughout ‘Like Water For Chocolate’ to show how Tita’s emotions are transmitted and exaggerated through food. Laura Esquivel presents the supernatural as an everyday event, however not all the characters accept it in the same way as reality, for example Mama Elena remains convinced that Tita is somehow doctoring the food to her own liking, instead of it being ‘magical tears’.
Tita lives in a traditional female role, she enjoys cooking and is a selfless nurturer but she lives under a matriarchal rule. A woman who has “never needed a man for anything”, which leaves the reader questioning why Tita seems to require a man in her life in order to “alight her matches”. Adela, although fighting for her right for freedom again Bernarda Alba, still believes that she must take orders from Pepe. The traditional roles the mothers have created for their daughters continue even in their rebellion.
The men in both books are not particularly strong characters. All leaving the women to suffer for the mess they have created themselves. When Librada’s daughter kills her newborn baby in order to avoid the shame of having sex with someone out of wedlock, “a big crowd” gather in order to kill her. It is completely unnatural that the woman is being prosecuted for being a “woman who tramples on decency” as opposed to a murderer. This is an ironic recasting of the Mary Magdalene narrative, which exposes the hypocrisy of Bernarda Alba’s society.
This shows however, that within both texts, men are far less restricted than the women. The man is of no fault for having sex out of wedlock, it is her shame. Similarly, in ‘Like Water For Chocolate’ Mama Elena is far more annoyed at the idea of Tita shaming her family than of Pedro cheating on her eldest daughter. Mama Elena is obsessed with tradition and all her actions reflect this. Tita, being the youngest daughter of the family, is forced to remain at home until the day her mother dies.
Mama Elena immediately disregards Tita’s questioning of the tradition, saying, “for generations not a single person in my family has questioned this tradition”, expressing that Tita should simply accept these traditions as fact and that she does not have the right to question her mother’s authority. Rosaura informs Tita that her only daughter will care for her and never marry, according to family tradition. Rosaura tries to mirror her relationship with Esperanza to the relationship her mother and Tita shared.
Tita is horrified to discover that Rosaura plans to ‘perpetuate such an inhumane tradition”. Rosaura does not seem to have any powerful emotions and persists to carry on the family traditions as a poor imitation of her mother. It is class and not tradition that keeps Bernarda Alba from concealing her daughters from the world of marriage and men within ‘The House of Bernarda Alba’. Her mind is focused on how the world views her and her family. When Angustias is seen looking at Pepe El Romano, her mother asks “is it proper for a woman of your class to go chasing after a man?
She is instantly noticing that her daughter is stepping outside her class and reining her back in. When Matirio is set to marry Enrique Humanas, Bernarda won’t allow it because her ‘blood will never mix with that of the Humanas family’ proving that her only real interest is in class rather than the welfare of her daughters. Mama Elena and Bernarda Alba have different reasons for oppressing their daughters but both women are equally as keen to enforce their rules. It is ironic how un-natural the ends of oppression are shown to be.
When Tita is brought into the world prematurely after her father’s sudden death, Mama Elena is the opposite of a nurturer, never forging any bond with Tita. Tita develops a relationship with food that gives her the power to nurture and give outlet to her emotions. Tita rebels against her mother’s authority first through her consorting with Pedro. When Tita receives the news that Pedro is to be married to Rosaura, her life begins to crumble around her and throughout the novel there are many times when they meet without Mama Elena’s knowledge.
Roberto, Rosaura and Pedro’s son is a strong, if not surprising influence in Tita’s actions. Roberto forges the bond with Tita that her and her mother never had and ‘contary to what she had expected’ she feels “an immense tenderness towards the boy”. It is when Roberto dies that Tita’s desire to please her mother and her own desires clash and she outwardly defies her mother and steps out of the shadow of oppression for the first time. She “tears apart all the sausages” symbolizing her finally destroying her mother’s rules.
When Tita is found in the dovecote, it is ironic that Mama Elena states that “there’s no place in this house for maniacs! ” when her oppressive nature is what caused Tita to break down. When John arrives and removes her from the oppressive atmosphere her mother has created, and she is offered comfort and love, Tita’s failing sanity returns leaving the reader questioning Mama Elena’s own sanity as she confines her daughters to a life of unnatural solitude. Adela is quietly rebelling continuously through the three act play; her real emotion doesn’t arise until the end.
From the first act, after the funeral Adela wears a ‘green dress’ making her stand out from her more conservative siblings. The colour green symbolises fertility which Bernarda objects to. This immediately separates her from her family. Unlike Tita, Adela never covers up her feelings in front of her mother or siblings, she knows what she wants and “her body will be for anyone”. Bernarda’s cane is her symbol of authority, one bang on the floor and all is silenced. In her fury Adela breaks ‘the tyrant’s rod’, the ultimate rebellion, breaking Bernarda’s status symbol.
With her object of authority broken, Bernarda can no longer oppress her youngest daughter. Lorca structures the conflict between the characters, short sentences forces the audience to feel the panic of the women and the strength of Adela as Bernarda’s matricachal world crashes down around her. In the last act Adela’s repression from being with the man she loves causes her to commit suicide, an ironic tragedy. Lorca makes the audience judge public morality by showing how women are oppressed throughout the scenes and how people react in the most unnatural fashion, women are convicted of adultery before murder.
When Adela hangs herself, Bernarda is strong on the knowledge that her daughter “died a virgin”, she is much more interested in how the town see her as oppesed to the fact her daughter murdered herself due to Bernarda’s rules. Gertrudis and Paca Le Roseta seem very similar characters; they both follow their carnal desire and run away. Paca La Roseta was “carried off to the top of the olive grove” by the men, when Bernarda finds out ‘she agreed to it’ she is eager to announce her distaste, claiming Roseta is a ‘loose woman’ and therefore to be shunned.
Because she breaks the rules of what is deemed acceptable she is immediately rejected In chapter three, Tita’s lustful emotions find themselves in the quail in rose petal sauce. When served, the family’s hidden lust rise to the surface, all of them experiencing Tita’s desire. Gertrudis is the ‘conducting body’ for Tita’s rebellion giving her the opportunity to enter Pedro’s ‘hot, voluptuous, totally sensuous’ body. Esquivel uses magic realism to describe Gertrudis setting aflame and running away with a man. Totally defying the rules of tradition set down by her own mother.
Bernarda’s mother rebels against her daughter constantly and loudly. Constantly shouting that she wants to ‘get married at the edge of the sea’. She questions ’why isn’t there any foam here? Nothing but black mourning shawls’, she wants to go somewhere bright and full of hope instead of being locked up surrounded by the darkness of oppression. Maria Josepha is persistent in trying to escape her oppressor, trying to be a mother, outstepping her boundaries. She wishes a lamb to ‘be a child’ as she has a strong maternal instinct that represents all the girls’ wish to be a mother.
How they all must have a maternal instinct Bernarda is not allowing them to have. The family is unnatural, a denial of nature. Maria Josepha represents rebelling against oppression much like Gertrudis in ‘Like Water For Chocolate’. Throughout both books, the matriarchal oppression forces both women to come to an unnatural end. The strict ideas of tradition, class and how a woman should act condemn everyone to a life of tragedy. Lorca and Esquivel are both fighting for the voices that were not allowed to speak in their own society.
Courtney from Study Moose
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