Like Water for Chocolate
Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in tum-of-the-century Mexico became a best-selling phenomenon with its winning blend of poignant romance and bittersweet wit.
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Mexican Christmas rolls, or "tortas de navidad," are the first recipe you will encounter in this novel. Food and its preparation are both central to the style and plot of Like Water For Chocolate, and each chapter will begin with a traditional Mexican recipe. (This annotation contains an image)
Nacha's description of Tita's birth suggests that she is prone to
What does this scene suggest about Gertrudis and Rosaura's personalities? In what ways do Tita's sisters differ from her?
Wait a second, babies can't smell what's in the kitchen before they're born! Tita's possibly smelling Christmas rolls while still in the womb is one of many nods to magical realism in this novel. Magical realism is a literary genre in which supernatural or magical things happen in otherwise ordinary settings. Unborn babies savoring the smells of Christmas rolls, ghosts of dead relatives sitting at the dinner table, and flowers spontaneously blooming in a woman's presence are all examples of magical realism. Many have written novels and short stories in this genre, but one of the masters of magical realism is Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez, pictured below. Be on the lookout for more examples of the supernatural intertwined in everyday life in Like Water for Chocolate! (This annotation contains an image)
Which statement best describes Tita's attitude towards her family's tradition?
If you are not a sewer, the concept of basting may be new to you. Basting means making a series of large, loose, temporary stitches. The idea is that the basting stitches will serve as a guideline for where you will ultimately put your permanent stitches. Once you have made your real stitches, you tear the basting stitches out. This is kind of like sketching a drawing in pencil before you do it in permanent marker. Bear this in mind when you read what Mama Elena does next...
Marrying for love has not always been the norm. Water For Chocolate is set in the early 1900s, when it was still common for two families to decide that their children (who were often still teenagers) should get married. How is the process of finding a spouse different today? In your opinion, what are the benefits and drawbacks of how people choose their partners now, versus how the system is portrayed in this novel?
Pulque is a quintessentially Mexican alcoholic beverage made from the agave or maguey plant. People in Mexico have been drinking pulque since before the Spanish conquest in the early 1500s. Perhaps the family's dog is named Pulque to remind the reader of the story's setting in Mexico. To learn more about the discovery of pulque, please see the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
The author uses imagery of extreme cold and extreme heat to illustrate that Tita feels
This passage contains some much-needed information about the nature of Pedro and Tita's relationship. Until now, it has not been clear how well they know each other. The fact that they have talked about marriage and even made specific plans for a wedding suggests that they have been in love for some time.
It is an open secret that Tita is in love with Pedro. To that end, it seems pretty harsh that she has to undertake the huge responsibility of baking Pedro and Rosaura's wedding cake. What other event(s) demonstrate Mama Elena's lack of regard for Tita's feelings?
As the novel explains, capons are male chickens that have had their testicles removed. Castrating roosters is said to make their meat less gamey, and more fatty and moist. Though this is an ancient practice, caponization is still common today in many European and Asian countries. (This annotation contains an image)
Why do you think Laura Esquivel describes the egg beating scene in so much detail? What effect does this choice have on the reader's mindset and the tone of the scene?
Based on this scene, we can deduce that Nacha
Marmalades and jams are still made in copper saucepans today! (This annotation contains an image)
The "revolution" in question here is the Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910 and ended about a decade later.
What is the effect of Tita's trancelike state in which everything is white?
When baking with meringue, you know that your egg and sugar mixture is ready when it forms stiff peaks when you remove the mixer from the bowl. (This annotation contains an image)
This sentence incorporates a beautiful simile. Pedro's words are compared to a fresh breeze. To learn more about similes (and metaphors) please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
What does this detail reveal about Mama Elena?
It's no secret that Mama Elena is top-dog in the De la Garza family. The way her eyesight is described in this sentence is not unlike how you might describe the eyes of a hawk or a wolf. Keep your own eyes peeled for other instances in which Mama Elena is described in language befitting of predators.
Even though a year has passed since the wedding, this passage suggests that
This statement is not meant to be taken literally. Rather, Mama Elena has been killing Tita figuratively. Please see the video below for a description of literal versus figurative language. (This annotation contains a video)
An aphrodisiac is something that brings about or intensifies sexual desire. In this case, Tita's meal appears to be making Gertrudis feel some pretty intense lust. Different cultures throughout history have believed in the aphrodisiacal powers of certain substances, from oysters to powdered rhinoceros horns.
A theme emerges from this sensual dinner scene. What is it?
What elements from the book are NOT in this scene from the movie?
This scene is depicted in the movie version of Like Water for Chocolate. Watch the video below to view the scene. (This annotation contains a video)
Magical realism abounds in this scene. Out of otherwise ordinary circumstances come some pretty spectacular and unnatural phenomena. How many magical or supernatural details can you count in this scene?
What kind of language is used to describe Gertrudis physically in this scene? How are her actions described? What is the effect of these word choices on the tone of the scene?
In William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Romeo watches Juliet as she stands on her balcony, resting her chin on her palm. Such is his love for Juliet that he proclaims: "See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand! O, that I were a glove upon that hand, That I might touch that cheek!" (Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 24-25). How does Romeo's desire relate to Pedro's? In what ways are these two expressions of longing different?
Mama Elena's reaction to Gertrudis's liberation seems a bit coldhearted and extreme, doesn't it? Keep this information in mind for the next time someone tries to cross Mama Elena.
Tita's description of what happened to Gertrudis can best be described as
What does this detail say about Tita?
Mole, pronounced "MOLE-ay," is a traditional Mexican sauce made from chili peppers and chocolate, among other things. The dish below is chicken in mole sauce. (This annotation contains an image)
The word "asked" is in quotations here in order to signify that
Tita's coldness has established itself as a theme in this novel. As you read, be aware of references to her body temperature. What does her persistent coldness represent?
The words "red river," "erupting volcano," and "rending of paper" signify that Rosaura's labor is ______.
A rebozo is a Mexican garment that is similar to a shawl. However, it can be used to carry a baby, as well. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Tita lie about why the baby has been eating?
Note the irony of this statement. Mama Elena declares that she does not need a man for anything, implying that she is an independent woman. However, she insists on forcing Tita to live with and take care of her for the rest of her life. To learn more about irony, please view the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
This chapter ends on a tense note. The narrator builds that tension by doing which of the following:
Chapters 1-4 Quiz
A dovecote is a structure for housing birds, namely doves and pigeons. In the picture below, the dovecote is situated on top of the house. (This annotation contains an image)
The entire scene that takes place between Mama Elena and the army sheds new light on her character. What new sides of Mama Elena do we see in this scene? How does this affect the reader's attitude towards her? Use textual evidence to back up your claims.
A metate is a large, flat stone, used for grinding corn and other seeds or grains. The picture below is part of a mural by famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. In this picture, a woman is rolling dough for tortillas on a metate. (This annotation contains an image)
What can we infer is the cause of Tita's absentmindedness?
This question contains a great display of alliteration. Alliteration is when there are two or more words that start with the same letter or sound next to each other in the same sentence. Some examples of alliterative names are Jesse Jackson and Marilyn Monroe. In this sentence, of course, the alliteration refers to all of the words that start with "d". What effect does this alliteration have on the tone of the sentence?
The word "banished" is important in this sentence because it helps to
The fetal position refers to when someone's body is curled into a small ball, as it is in the womb. Why might Tita curl into the fetal position in this scene?
This detail is significant because it shows that Tita
The word "Indian" here refers to an indigenous person from Mexico, not a person from India. In Mexico there are many native peoples, including the Nahuatl, Maya, Zapotec and Mixtec. The woman and child below are Nahuatl. Note the rebozo! (This annotation contains an image)
What is the purpose of this flashback? How does it connect to Tita and her story? Use textual evidence to support your ideas.
Pay close attention to this warning from the doctor. What might cause all of someone's matches to light at once?
Compare and contrast how Dr. Brown treats Tita with how Mama Elena does. What is Dr. Brown's motivation to act the way he does around Tita? What is Mama Elena's?
Read Lord Alfred Tennyson's "The Princess: Idle Tears" here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174651. How does the poem's description of crying differ from how Tita's crying is recounted in this scene?
Chencha is actually crossing the US/Mexico border! Eagle Pass is in Texas, and Piedras Negras is in Coahuila, Mexico. Though the two towns are only a few miles apart, they are separated by the Rio Bravo, a river that runs between the two countries.
This tragic event highlights how precarious life was during the Mexican Revolution. Instability during the war made isolated families vulnerable to brutal attacks from soldiers and bandits alike. Why do you think this horrible event in the story is described in such matter-of-fact language?
This interaction is important because it illustrates that
This scene plays on the novel's theme of
Chencha is alluding to the fact that she is no longer a virgin, and therefore undesirable as a bride.
Until now, Tita has never wanted to cause Pedro any harm, even though his actions have brought her much pain. In this scene, we see that she has changed. How has Tita changed since Mama Elena sent her away? Since Mama Elena's death? Use textual evidence to support your claims.
Knowing what you do about Mama Elena's power and the presence of ghosts in this story, do you believe that you have seen that last of Mama Elena?
In Spanish, esperanza means hope. Why might Tita choose this name for her niece?
The fact that baby Esperanza feels most comfortable in the kitchen
This reference may seem obscure, but since it is the basis for this novel's title, it is worth explaining. "Like water for chocolate" is a phrase used in Spanish speaking countries to mean "really angry." The expression comes from the fact that hot chocolate is made by adding chocolate to boiling water. So if a person is like the water being used to make hot chocolate, she is boiling, or extremely mad.
What central theme does this detail reflect?Summarize other instances of this theme throughout the novel thus far.
The tone in the room at this point can best be described as
This is the first time that Rosaura is portrayed as being sympathetic to Tita. Does it change your view of her or not?
This is a mispronunciation of the word "purgatory." In catholicism, purgatory is a place between heaven and hell, where souls go if they are not bad enough to belong in hell but not good enough to belong in heaven. The fact that Chencha mispronounces the word suggests that she does not have the greatest vocabulary and is likely uneducated. Below is a depiction of purgatory by the artist Sergey Tyukanov. (This annotation contains an image)
Chapters 5-8 Quiz
How does this detail affect the tone of the paragraph?
Kings' Day bread, or rosca de reyes, is a round, sweet loaf prepared on January sixth in Spain and many Latin American countries. It is a bit odd that Tita is making this bread in September. A tiny figurine of Jesus is often baked into the bread, and whoever finds it is considered blessed. This is the "doll" that Tita refers to in this section. (This annotation contains an image)
There certainly is something mysterious about Rosaura's largeness. Read "The Handsomest Drowned Man In The World," by Gabriel García Márquez here: http://www.utdallas.edu/~aargyros/hansomest.htm. When you are done with this short story, compare and contrast the ways in which unnatural size are depicted in this novel and García Márquez's short story.
This sentence contains the literary device of
Notice the reference to how cold this gust of wind is. What is coldness associated with in this novel? Will this gust of wind bring something good or something bad?
What does this passage demonstrate about Tita?
Not only is it impressive that Gertrudis has joined and been accepted into the revolutionary army, it is also amazing that she has become a general, the army's highest rank. There were female soldiers during the Mexican Revolution, but few, if any, rose to the rank of general. Below are female soldiers or soldaderas in the Mexican Revolution. (This annotation contains an image)
What evidence is there that the family traditions and recipes will not die with Tita? How does the book's structure prove that Gertrudis's fear will not come true?
Unlike Chencha, Tita appears happy to have extra work to do with all of the soldiers staying at the ranch. This fact further illustrates the extent to which Tita feels most like herself when she's providing for others, particularly when she is cooking.
What does this statement reveal about Gertrudis's character?
Piloncillo is a term used in Mexico for raw brown sugar that is made from sugar cane. (This annotation contains an image)
How is Trevino's reaction to not being able to be with the woman he loves different from Pedro's?
To see what the "soft ball stage" of cooking syrup looks like, check out the video below! (This annotation contains a video)
The repression of all of Tita's feelings is an important theme throughout the novel. Once the repression of her hatred for Mama Elena is released, how do things change immediately for Tita? How do you think things will change long-term? Use textual evidence to support your claims.
The Mayans began using tepezcohuite bark to treat wounds and burns thousands of years ago. Compounds extracted from the bark of this plant are still used today in many scar-reducing creams. (This annotation contains an image)
The fact that John can tell that "something had changed inside of Tita" before she even says a word to him suggests that
How does the word "little" affect the tone of this comment?
If something is hermetically sealed, it means it is airtight. In this case, the phrase is being used figuratively, to describe how cut-off Rosaura is from everything outside her bedroom. Some things that you might literally hermetically seal are perishable foods and medicines. (This annotation contains an image)
Given what you know about how the cook's mood affects the taste of foods and the feelings of those who eat it, make a prediction about what will happen when Tita feeds the tortilla pieces to the chickens.
Both of these sentences use a literary device called personification. Personification means giving human traits to non-human things, like animals or even nonliving objects. In these particular sentences, Laura Esquivel personifies the tamales by giving them the human emotions of happiness and sadness. To learn more about personification, please watch the video below! (This annotation contains a video)
How does Jovita's favorite phrase relate to the bible quotation below?"We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies*." 2 Thessalonians, 3:11*For reference, a busybody is a nosy person
The phrase "doesn't know someone from Adam" means that a person has never met or really knows nothing about someone. This is an example of an idiom. Idioms are phrases that have a figurative meaning that is different from their literal meaning. Other examples of idioms are "you're pulling my leg" or "that was a piece of cake".
Tita is in a tough position. Evaluate both Pedro and John as potential husbands for her. For each man, create a pro/con list based on their actions and character traits. When you have finished, explain who you think would be a better husband for Tita and why.
A smoking jacket is a garment that is supposed to be worn while smoking a cigar. They are usually made of velvet or silk. Though rarely used today, smoking jackets were very popular in the 1940s and 1950s. (This annotation contains an image)
Listen to the song "Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles, and think about how the song relates to Rosaura and her death. (This annotation contains a video)
A charro is a Mexican cowboy. Traditional charro outfits are known for being colorful and elaborate. (This annotation contains an image)
The literary device used in this sentence is
"The Eyes of Youth," or "Ojos de Juventud" in Spanish, is an old bolero. Boleros are slow, ballad-like songs, which are usually associated with music from Spain and Cuba. (This annotation contains a video)
Compare and contrast Rosaura and Pedro’s wedding with Alex and Esperanza’s. Use textual evidence to summarize similarities and differences between the two celebrations.
Based on her actions, we can deduce that Tita
Chapters 9-12 quiz
This paragraph is the epilogue of the book. An epilogue usually serves to sum up or comment on the manner in which a story has ended.