Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Being a longer piece than a short story, Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate offers as many themes as any larger picture of interconnected slices of life can. Among these central concerns include the importance of family relationships, the mysterious power of love and the passionate effect of food. Of these insights into human life, I would like to point out the necessity to assert one’s identity, which can be readily seen in the character of Tita.
It is ultimately human to desire self-fulfillment. This is something that completes all beings. This is what gives fullness to a life, and Tita’s life is no exemption. Despite the various suppressions Tita has suffered under the hand of her own mother Mama Elena, she did not give up the desire to be the woman that loves Pedro and that is free to do as she wills without primary regard to unjust family tradition. Hers is an indestructible spirit that dared rebel by speaking up although many times, she was silenced. Hers is a strong soul that persevered although her only beloved got married to her very sister.
Tita’s struggle to assert her identity does not come easy, given the many grains she has to go against. First, she has to submit herself to an unfair family tradition of remaining single for the rest of her parent’s life in order to take care of Mama Elena. She voiced out that only society dictates that, and that would be injurious to her self-growth. Also, her beloved already got married—and to her sister, no less!—so the fulfillment of love seemed far and unlikely. Still, she patiently championed her cause, doing the very thing that keeps her alive: cooking. Through this expertise of hers, she has still endeared herself to Pedro and inevitably incurred a bitter, finally fatal relationship with her mother. With her sister’s and eventually mother’s deaths, she was freed from her emotional burdens and attained her destiny of self-fulfillment. She is not anymore the dutiful daughter or her beloved’s sister-in-law; Tita is already the very woman unbound by her mother’s death in her memory, as signified by the disappearance of Mama Elena’s ghost when Tita screamed at it. Ultimately, she was able to assert her own identity when she claims, “I know who I am! I am a person who has a perfect right to live her life as she pleases.”
With this turning point in Tita’s life, she had a renewed way of living her life because she finally attained freedom from becoming someone else that she did not like to begin with. She is now entitled to a fate with Pedro, however wasted their previous years are or however short they actually had time to spend with each other. What is important is that she is able to express herself without her former life’s prohibitions.
Assertion of one’s identity is noteworthy because this is tied up to one’s freedom. No matter what kind of identity it is, whether national, sexual or personal like Tita’s, it cannot be readily discounted because what one is free to act builds up the person that one becomes. One’s growth eventually creates a person not overshadowed by somebody else, enriched only by influences in speech, thoughts, feelings, ideologies but entirely one’s own person. We all desire to be our own selves because in being ourselves, we are truly free.