Like Water for Chocolate

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Emotion and Repression Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Tradition vs. Revolution Theme Icon
Femininity and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Emotion and Repression Theme Icon
Food and Cooking Theme Icon
Violence and Abuse Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Like Water for Chocolate, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Emotion and Repression Theme Icon

Within the novel, characters with intense emotions are portrayed as more fully alive. The possession of a wide range of emotions represents a healthy, liberated spirit—but social norms and family dynamics, if left unbalanced by values of individual freedom, can lead to repression of normal emotions. Abusive relationships, in particular, punish normal experiences of emotion and can lead to physical and emotional sickness. Repression is linked to self-sacrifice and duty, while emotion is linked to rebellion and freedom. The female experience, layered with expectations of self-sacrifice and duty to family, is notably rife with repression.

Repressed by her abusive mother, Tita is expected to suffer quietly. She must hide her desires and emotions as a sacrifice for the unity and harmony of her family. When fifteen-year-old Tita first falls in love with Pedro, she tries to approach her mother to ask her to reconsider the family tradition prohibiting the youngest daughter from marrying. Her mother responds by ending the conversation, and punishing Tita for daring to speak about her own desires. When Tita’s mother then offers to let Pedro marry Tita’s sister, Rosaura, Tita is expected to accept this arrangement without any tears or sad facial expressions. When she tries to excuse herself to feel her sadness privately, her mother reprimands and punishes her. Mama Elena leaves Tita no choice but to push through and deny her feelings entirely.

Tita’s repressed desire for Pedro and her inability to express herself drive her into depression after Pedro and Rosaura’s wedding. As Tita continues to obey and make sacrifices for her mother, she gradually loses every bit of autonomy and begins to feel dead inside. The final straw is when Mama Elena orders Tita to repress her sadness over the death of baby Roberto, and Tita suffers a nervous breakdown.

Tita isn’t the only character whose repressed emotions lead her to illness. By accepting a loveless marriage, Rosaura forces herself to live in a false reality. She pretends Pedro isn’t still in love with Tita and nurtures the belief that he will eventually love her. Rosaura’s unmet need for love drives her into physical sickness, which begins after the birth of her first child, and then worsens toward the end of her life. Rosaura’s immense need for outward perfection reflects her inability to acknowledge her own human needs.

Emotion, along with love, drives the forces which create magic and which give characters the strength to fight. Tita, forbidden from ever expressing her sadness, love, or anger with words or actions, develops the ability to convey her emotions through her cooking. Although she is forbidden from expressing her own feelings and desires, she unwittingly finds an outlet for rebelling against this repression. Tita’s longing and love for Nacha, who was like a mother to her, allows her to connect with the spirit world in order to hear or feel Nacha’s presence when she most needs it. Her desire to break through the reality she has been assigned to and her insistence on believing in impossible things later allow her to connect with Dr. Brown’s late grandmother, Morning Light.

Meeting desires and expressing emotions are essential to developing a sense of self, which leads to fulfillment and happiness. When Tita finally runs away from her mother to live with Dr. Brown, she begins to feel whole and independent, and develops a sense of wellbeing. Later, when her mother dies and she begins an affair with Pedro, she feels content with her life and in control, even though she is disobeying society by sleeping with her sister’s husband. Similarly, Gertrudis is happy to freely choose her path as a prostitute and later as a soldier, despite being disowned by her mother and shunned by the rest of polite society. The novel’s view of emotions is clear – expressing emotion is crucial to being true to one’s self, and opens the way to true love and happiness. In contrast, repressing emotion leads to sickness and darkness.

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Emotion and Repression ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Emotion and Repression appears in each Chapter of Like Water for Chocolate. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Emotion and Repression Quotes in Like Water for Chocolate

Below you will find the important quotes in Like Water for Chocolate related to the theme of Emotion and Repression.
Chapter 1: January Quotes

Sometimes she would cry for no reason at all, like when Nacha chopped onions, but since they both knew the cause of those tears, they didn’t pay them much mind. They made them a source of entertainment, so that during her childhood Tita didn’t distinguish between tears of laughter and tears of sorrow. For her laughter was a form of crying. Likewise for Tita the joy of living was wrapped up in the delights of food.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tita de la Garza, Nacha
Related Symbols: Crying/ Tears
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator emphasizes Tita’s wide range of emotions, which she naturally embraces before she learns to repress them. Tita is a sensitive and passionate person, who loves the different textures and experiences that human emotion brings. Within the novel, crying is a often symbol of the depth and power of female emotion.

The narrator immediately connects Tita’s emotional depth to her intense relationship with food, which provides Tita a means for rich sensory experiences, creativity and self-expression. The narrator makes this observation about Tita after describing Tita’s childhood. Born on the kitchen table and left to the care of Nacha, the cook, Tita developed a love of cooking as a child. She played in the kitchen, and loved trying new and strange foods.

By connecting Tita’s emotional depth to her relationship with food, the narrator foreshadows the magical ability Tita later develops of infusing her repressed emotions into her cooking.

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You don’t have an opinion, and that’s all I want to hear about it. For generations, not a single person in my family has ever questioned this tradition, and no daughter of mine is going to be the one to start.

Related Characters: Mama Elena (Elena de la Garza) (speaker), Tita de la Garza
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

Tita has come to Mama Elena to discuss the possibility of marrying Pedro. Mama Elena immediately shuts her daughter down, reminding her about the family tradition forbidding the youngest daughter from marrying and obliging her to devote her life to her mother. For the first time in her life, Tita tries to argue with her mother.

By denying Tita’s request, Mama Elena rejects the importance of true love and shows her unquestioning belief in tradition and authority. Mama Elena’s language highlights her need to control Tita. By telling Tita that she “doesn’t have an opinion,” she denies Tita not only the right to her own actions, but also the right to her own thoughts. Mama Elena’s insistence on controlling Tita’s thoughts and expressions shows the extent of her emotional abuse.

Not that night, nor many others, for as long as she lived, could she free herself from that cold.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tita de la Garza
Related Symbols: Coldness/ Chills, Tita’s Bedspread
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator describes Tita’s emotional state on the night Pedro accepts Mama Elena’s offer to marry Rosaura. Shocked and devastated, Tita stays awake in her bed, sadly remembering when she first met Pedro. Chilled, she covers herself with the bedspread that she began crocheting the night that Pedro first declared his intention of marrying her. As she works on her bedspread, she is unable to warm up. She also feels a painful hunger that no amount of Christmas rolls can fill.

Tita’s state of cold reoccurs throughout the novel, always when she feels alone and unloved. In contrast, she and other characters (such as Gertrudis) feel warm and hot during moments of lust and passion. Tita’s continued work on the bedspread represents her persistent hope that she will feel love again, even when her prospects seem bleak.

Chapter 2: February Quotes

She felt like screaming. Yes, she was having problems, when they had chosen something to be neutered, they’d made a mistake, they should have chosen her. At least then there would be some justification for not allowing her to marry and giving Rosaura her place beside the man she loved.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tita de la Garza, Mama Elena (Elena de la Garza) , Pedro Musquiz
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

Tita is castrating roosters, which are then called capons, to be served at Pedro and Rosaura’s wedding. Mama Elena has put Tita in charge of all of the food preparation as punishment after Tita tried to get out of going to Rosaura’s engagement party. She has threatened Tita not to cry or show any sadness, though Tita hates castrating and killing the roosters. When Mama Elena catches Tita trembling and sweating as she castrates the first chicken, she asks Tita whether or not they are “having problems,” by which she means to threaten Tita for showing distress.

Tita’s distress comes from her self-identification with the roosters. Like the roosters, Tita feels “castrated” by Mama Elena. She is perfectly able to fall in love, marry and have a family, but Mama Elena cuts off Tita’s future by severing her relationship with Pedro and making it clear that Tita isn’t allowed love or a family. The roosters are sacrificed to feed the wedding guests. Similarly, Tita must sacrifice herself and her normal human responses in order to focus on preparing the food for the wedding.

Chapter 3: March Quotes

Mama Elena’s eyes were as sharp as ever and she knew what would happen if Pedro and Tita ever got the chance to be alone […] She had let one little thing slip past her: With Nacha dead, Tita was the best qualified of all the women in the house to fill the vacant post in the kitchen, and in there flavors, smells, textures and the effects they could have were beyond Mama Elena’s iron command.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tita de la Garza, Mama Elena (Elena de la Garza) , Pedro Musquiz
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

Pedro and Rosaura have now been married for about a year, living on the ranch the whole time. Mama Elena is unable to stop Pedro and Tita’s love, so she does everything she can to prevent them from having the chance to act on or express their feelings. In this chapter, Pedro upsets Mama Elena and Rosaura by bringing Tita roses, which Tita promptly gets rid of by making quail in rose petal sauce. It is this same dish that, infused with Tita’s passion, communicates her feelings fully to Pedro and stimulates Gertrudis’ passionate frenzy.

Tita’s emotional relationship with food represents the depth and power of her feelings. No matter how hard Mama Elena tries to repress Tita’s passion and deny her autonomy, Tita always has the kitchen as her outlet for creativity, rebellion, and communication. Mama Elena, dispassionate about food and in denial about the power of emotion and love, fails to see how Tita continues to subtly assert her agency and express her love for Pedro.

It occurred to her that she could use her mother’s strength right now. Mama Elena was merciless, killing with single blow. But then again not always. For Tita she had made an exception; she had been killing her a little at a time since she was a child, and she still hadn’t quite finished her off. Pedro and Rosaura’s marriage had left Tita broken in both heart and in mind, like the quail.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tita de la Garza, Mama Elena (Elena de la Garza)
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

Tita is killing quail to prepare the quail in rose petal sauce. When she first tried to catch and kill one of the quail, she twists its neck too hesitantly, and the maimed quail runs around with its head hanging off. She has raised and fed the quail, and her affection for it makes it hard to kill. She discovers that it is better to kill quickly and without letting emotions interfere, so as not to make the animal suffer more.

Tita often thinks of Mama Elena as efficient or skilled at violent acts, such as slaughtering animals for food. Tita, abused physically and emotionally by Mama Elena, identifies with the suffering of the quail. This passage also builds the image of Mama Elena as a sadistic abuser, who enjoys the power she derives from making Tita suffer. She might be “merciful” in killing animals quickly, but Mama Elena is totally merciless in drawing out Tita’s pain.

It was as if a strange alchemical process had dissolved her 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.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tita de la Garza, Gertrudis, Pedro Musquiz
Related Symbols: Heat and Fire
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

The De la Garza family is at the dinner table eating Tita’s quail in rose petal sauce. This is the meal that awakens in Gertrudis such an insatiable physical lust that the heat from her body causes the shower to catch fire and provides the catalyst for her to run away with captain Juan Alejandrez.

Tita’s cooking, infused with her own lustful thoughts about Pedro, makes Pedro feel as if he were devouring Tita herself—or as if Tita were “entering” him, in a reversal of the archetypal masculine/feminine sexual roles. Tita’s passion and creativity creates texture and life in her food, speaking to the power of food as an intimate, sensory experience. Pedro and Tita’s repressed desire then creates such energy that it transforms eating into an act of sexual intimacy. The metaphor of devouring Tita’s flesh through her food alludes to the Catholic concept of the communion bread transforming into Christ’ body. Tita and Pedro’s love, however sinful by religious standards, holds such devotion and sacrifice that it evokes religious imagery. Their love, not their belief systems, is the thing most sacred to them.

Chapter 4: April Quotes

She stopped grinding, straightened up, and proudly lifted her chest so Pedro could see it better. His scrutiny changed their relationship forever. After that penetrating look that saw through clothes, nothing would ever be the same. Tita saw through her own flesh how fire transformed the elements, how a lump of corn flour is changed into a tortilla, how a soul that hasn’t been warmed by the fire of love is lifeless, like a useless ball of corn flour. In a few moment’s time, Pedro had transformed Tita’s breasts from chaste to experienced flesh, without even touching them.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tita de la Garza, Pedro Musquiz
Related Symbols: Heat and Fire
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

Rosaura has just given birth to her first child, Roberto, and Tita is preparing food for his baptism. Pedro walks into the kitchen to find Tita alone, kneeling on the floor over a bowl, rhythmically grinding the nuts for the turkey mole.

Since Pedro’s marriage to Rosaura, he and Tita have not yet kissed or been intimate in any physical way. Tita’s virginity still feels like a burden to her, a reminder of her lost love and her lack of control over her future. Her virginity is strongly connected to her hopelessness and loneliness. The sexual gaze of the man she loves, then, is enough to make Tita feel unchaste and “experienced,” making her feel alive again. The symbol of fire is especially significant, as fire represents the effect of love and passion on the human spirit. The fire of Pedro’s gaze “transforms” Tita in the way that fire transforms corn flour into tortillas. Tita often identifies with food, reflecting how she sees cooking as an ongoing point of reference for understanding the world.

The baby’s cries filled all the empty space in Tita’s heart. She realized that she was feeling a new love; for life, for this child, for Pedro, even for the sister she had despised for so long. She took the child in her hands, carried him to Rosaura, and they wept together for a long while, holding the child.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tita de la Garza, Rosaura , Roberto
Related Symbols: Crying/ Tears
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

Tita has just delivered Rosaura’s first child, Roberto. Before his birth, Tita had no interest in the child. Now, Tita’s emotions surprise her. Her instant affection for her nephew, whom she could easily have hated as the product of Rosaura and Pedro’s marriage, provides a testimony to Tita’s deeply loving and nurturing character.

It also reveals the novel’s emphasis on birth, babies, and fertility as symbols of new beginnings and hope. For a long time, Rosaura and Tita have both been insecure and miserable, each nurturing a sense of resentment. Now, even Rosaura, who is usually so focused on outward appearances, can’t help but feel genuine emotion and connection. Tita, whose emotions and desire for connection are always so powerful, allows Roberto to penetrate her heart and prevent her from drowning in her loneliness. Even if for just a moment, their shared love of Roberto washes the slate clean for them both and provides them hope for the future.

Chapter 6: June Quotes

Instead of eating, she would stare at her hands for hours on end. She would regard them like a baby, marveling that they belonged to her. She could move them however she pleased, yet she didn’t know what to do with them, other than knitting. She had never taken time to stop and think about these things.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tita de la Garza, Mama Elena (Elena de la Garza)
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

Tita is now staying at John’s house. For the first time in her life, she doesn’t have to wait for Mama Elena’s orders or fear what will happen if she deviates from her assigned tasks. Tita has no job at John’s house, other than to regain her strength. The time and space she finds there allow her to process and think about her life with little interference. Tita’s hands represent her sense of agency. By focusing on her hands, Tita allows herself to process the concept of her individuality. After years of abuse and control, the idea of belonging only to herself brings overwhelming possibilities. For Tita, this is a moment of total physical liberation. Yet, it is only the beginning of her emotional liberation—and for now glimpses of such freedom seem as paralyzing as they do exciting.

You must of course take care to light the matches one at a time. If a powerful emotion should ignite them all at once, they would produce a splendor so dazzling that it would illuminate far beyond what we can normally see; and then a brilliant tunnel would appear before our eyes, revealing the path we forgot the moment we were born, and summoning us to regain the divine origin we had lost. The soul ever longs to return to the place from which it came, leaving the body lifeless.

Related Characters: Dr. John Brown (speaker), Tita de la Garza, Morning Light/ “The Old Indian Woman”/ “The Kikapu”
Related Symbols: Heat and Fire
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

While sitting in his laboratory with Tita, John teaches her how to make matches from phosphorous. He also explains to her the philosophy of love he learned from his grandmother, Morning Light. According to her, each human carries a box matches inside them. A loved one’s breath is the oxygen, and any kind of music, food, or other sensory experience that moves human emotions is the candle. When a loved one’s breath is combined with such a sensory experience, one of the matches is lit.

Here, John explains what will happen if “all of the matches are lit at once.” This situation represents the consummation of the right love under perfect circumstances. According to Morning Light, the human need for love is associated with the human desire for the soul to “return to the place from which it came.” In her theory, love is a spiritual relationship that is essential to the journey of the soul through life. Experiences of love aren’t unique events, but regular occurrences that keep the soul warmed and drive humans forward. True love also isn’t peaceful in its nature, but thrives on fire – a volatile and dangerous element. If all of one’s inner flames are lit at once – if a person feels and expresses love at its fullest capacity – the soul reaches a state that resembles enlightenment or heaven, and leaves the body “lifeless.”

Chapter 7: July Quotes

He left because I had exhausted his strength, though he hadn’t managed to quench the fire inside me. Now at last, after so many men have been with me, I feel a great relief. Perhaps someday I will return home and explain it to you.

Related Characters: Gertrudis (speaker), Tita de la Garza, Juan Alejandrez
Related Symbols: Heat and Fire
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

While Tita is staying at Dr. John Brown’s house, Chencha brings her a letter from Gertrudis. Gertrudis describes her life since she ran away to make love with Juan Alejandrez. After some time with him, he left her and she began working at a brothel.

The tone of Gertrudis’ letter is shameless and triumphant. To Gertrudis, her lust and her sexual adventures are no cause for embarrassment or ridicule. She doesn’t see herself as the object of male lust, but rather as the instigator of sexual passion. Gertrudis’ character provides a foil to traditional sexual dynamics, which frame the male as more dominant/active and the female as more passive. She also contrasts with Tita herself, who is passionate but who often waits for Pedro’s advances. Gertrudis’ attitude allows her to characterize a new kind of modern and empowered female sexuality.

Tita was beginning to wonder if the feeling of peace and security that John gave her wasn’t true love, and not the agitation and anxiety she felt when she was with Pedro.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tita de la Garza, Pedro Musquiz , Dr. John Brown
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:

After the bandits leave Mama Elena paralyzed, Tita returns home to the ranch to care for her. While enduring her mother’s cruelty once again, Tita finds immense support and comfort in John’s companionship. John brings Tita a sense of balance and calm, which she needs during difficult times. In contrast, Pedro’s love always excites Tita, both sexually and emotionally. The excitement and anxiety she feels around Pedro is amplified even more by the consequences she faces if she acts on that forbidden love.

John represents a different kind of love and masculinity than Pedro. John offers security, whereas Pedro represents danger. John’s supportive nature makes him appear more as a friend/caregiver, like Chencha or Nacha, and thereby imbues him with more traditionally feminine characteristics. Pedro relates to Tita on a more deeply sexual level, and he is rarely depicted as soothing or supportive. In Pedro, Tita finds “agitation” – a feeling of stimulation so strong that it can be upsetting.

Now she finally understood the meaning of the expression “fresh as a head of lettuce” – that’s the odd, detached way a lettuce should feel at being separated abruptly from another lettuce with which it had grown up. It would be illogical to expect it to feel pain at this separation from another lettuce with which it had never spoken, nor established any type of communication, and which it only knew from its outer leaves, unaware that there were many others hidden inside it.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tita de la Garza, Mama Elena (Elena de la Garza)
Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:

When Mama Elena dies, Tita doesn’t feel the kind of grief a child might be expected to feel over the death of their mother. For Tita, true human connection develops through knowing and communication with others. Her deepest friendships are with Nacha, Chencha, and Gertrudis – women who share their own pain and their secrets, and who listen to Tita’s. The structure of family relationships means very little to Tita, who focuses on human connection over family roles.

Through this metaphor, Tita puts her relationship with her mother into purely biological and circumstantial terms. Like the lettuces, Tita is related to her mother and has grown up beside her. Yet, she only knows her “outer leaves” because Mama Elena has avoided sharing her inner self. Mama Elena never allowed Tita to know about her own past, secrets, dreams, or capacity for tenderness. Further, she refused to listen to Tita’s thoughts or feelings, thereby denying Tita’s humanity. Mama Elena ensured that on both sides of their relationship, they would not have the chance to truly know each other.

During the funeral Tita really wept for her mother. Not for the castrating mother who had repressed Tita her entire life, but for the person who had lived a frustrated love. And she swore in front of Mama Elena’s tomb that come what may, she would never renounce love.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tita de la Garza, Mama Elena (Elena de la Garza)
Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:

After dressing Mama Elena for her wake, Tita finds a box of love letters from a man named Jose Treviño. Tita discovers that Jose was Mama Elena’s childhood sweetheart, secret lover, and the biological father of Gertrudis. After learning of her mother’s forbidden love affair, Tita’s feelings toward her change from ambivalence to true sadness. Tita identifies and empathizes with Mama Elena’s secret, given her own heartbreak through her separation from Pedro. This motivates Tita to fortify her own commitment to holding onto love. At this time, however, she thinks her true love is John.

Further, knowing her mother had the capacity for such passionate love and tenderness humanizes Mama Elena. For all of Tita’s life, Mama Elena was cold, calculating, and focused entirely on rules and traditions. And yet, this same woman was once so in love that she broke the rules of decency to continue her love affair. Mama Elena’s secret makes her both more hypocritical in her treatment of Tita and more of a real person, with a fuller depth of emotions and contradictions—and thus a person capable of being mourned.

Chapter 8: August Quotes

Tita was literally “like water for chocolate” – she was on the verge of boiling over. How irritable she was!

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tita de la Garza, Rosaura , Pedro Musquiz
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point in the novel, Tita is living alone with Pedro, Rosaura, and Esperanza after the death of Mama Elena. Tita is preparing dinner for John, who is coming over to officially propose marriage. Rosaura has recently made it clear that with Esperanza, she plans to continue the family tradition of forcing the youngest daughter to stay at home forever with her mother. Filled with jealousy over John, Pedro has been annoying Tita with his pleas for her not to marry and his frequent fits of anger. Tita is angry with Pedro for his sense of entitlement and unwillingness to see how he could have prevented this by not marrying Rosaura. Further, she is furious with Rosaura for continuing the very same tradition that has been the source of so much of Tita’s suffering.

The expression “like water for chocolate” means to be at the height of anger. It refers to water when it reaches the boiling stage. In Mexican recipes for hot chocolate, sometimes water is used in place of milk to create a different flavor and texture. With this titular phrase, then, Tita’s emotions are once again linked to food and cooking, as well as to a sense of extreme heat or coldness.

Chapter 9: September Quotes

Life had taught her that it was not that easy; there are few prepared to fulfill their desires whatever the cost, and the right to determine the course of one’s own life would take more effort than she had imagined. That battle she had to fight alone, and it weighed on her.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tita de la Garza
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point in the novel, Tita believes that she is pregnant with Pedro’s baby. John is still away in the United States, and Tita hasn’t yet told anyone about the pregnancy. She is preparing the Three Kings’ Day bread and chocolate, remembering all of the times she and her household made that traditional meal throughout her childhood. An essential part of the holiday bread is the porcelain doll that is baked inside—and the person who finds it must then make a wish. Tita sadly reflects over how much simpler making wishes was when she was a child, when problems were small and the world seemed full of possibility. She wishes she still had the friendship of Nacha, Chencha, Gertrudis, and even Rosaura before their enmity over Pedro destroyed their relationship.

Tita realizes that happiness can’t just be wished for, that it comes with a “cost.” To be happy, one must fulfill one’s desires. Without Mama Elena controlling her, Tita now has the freedom to “determine the course” of her life. But she realizes that agency comes with its own struggles—she is now responsible for dealing with the consequences of her choices. Further, she is also responsible for making choices that will lead to her own happiness. With right and wrong no longer defined for her, she must also create and live by her own moral compass. She imagines this to be a lonely fight because she doesn’t yet know the role that others, such as Gertrudis and John, will have in shaping her views on morality and supporting her in her choices.

Chapter 10: October Quotes

I know who I am! A person who has a perfect right to live her life as she pleases. Once and for all, leave me alone; I won’t put up with you! I hate you, I’ve always hated you!
Tita had said the magic words that would make Mama Elena disappear forever.

Related Characters: Tita de la Garza (speaker), The Narrator (speaker), Mama Elena (Elena de la Garza)
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:

While Gertrudis and her troop are visiting, Tita is plagued by unwanted visits by the ghost of Mama Elena. The ghost taunts Tita, cursing her “unborn baby” and shaming her for having sex with Pedro. After Tita utters these words, however, the ghost leaves her, dwindling into a tiny, angry light. Tita’s menstrual period then releases below her, revealing that she wasn’t pregnant after all.

The “magic words” that can send Mama Elena away are the words that best describe Tita’s self-knowledge and agency: “I know who I am!” refers to Tita’s journey of self-discovery. She is a full person, and she is not the person Mama Elena wanted her to be. To know herself, Tita has had to accept her own emotions and desires. She has had to learn that she has a “right to live her life as she pleases.” Living her life as she pleases means determining for herself what moral standards she wants to live by and refusing to accept those imposed on her by others.

These words send Mama Elena away because the thing most threatening to her was Tita’s ability to fight back. As the abuser, Mama Elena needed to have control over Tita. For her to gain power, she had to make Tita buy into her judgments and care about her anger. If Tita rejects Mama Elena’s rules and traditions, then Mama Elena’s judgments mean nothing. If she knows herself and feels entitled to determine her own future, then Mama Elena has nothing she can take away from Tita. In this scene, Tita finally sheds the emotional grasp her mother’s abuse left on her.

Chapter 11: November Quotes

I, I have some self-respect left! Let him go to a loose woman like you for his filthy needs, but here’s the thing; in this house, I intend to go on being his wife. And in the eyes of everybody else too. Because the day someone sees you two, and I end up looking ridiculous again, I swear that you’re going to be very sorry.

Related Characters: Rosaura (speaker), Tita de la Garza, Pedro Musquiz
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:

Gertrudis is furious at Tita and Pedro for publically showing their affection when Tita ran to Pedro after he was caught on fire. Until this point, Gertrudis has been in denial about the continued relationship between Tita and Pedro. As long as she saw no clear signs, and as long as Tita was clearly going to marry John, Rosaura could choose to ignore subtle signs of romance between her husband and sister. Now, after they have revealed their true feelings in front of several party guests, Rosaura feels the shock of facing the truth. Even more, however, her anger stems from her deep desire to maintain the social appearances of a perfect marriage and perfect family.

Rosaura punishes Pedro by refusing to sleep with him any more, out of “self-respect.” By calling Tita a “loose woman,” she also emphasizes the social shame of Tita’s actions rather than the personal hurt they have caused her. Rosaura makes herself invulnerable, focusing on her anger about losing social status rather than her sense of emotional betrayal. Her words also reinforce the importance that outward appearances hold to her. She plans to stay Pedro’s wife, refusing to give up a title that she feels gives importance and therefore meaning to her life.

Chapter 12: December Quotes

Esperanza went to the best school, with the object of improving her mind. Tita, for her part, taught her something just as valuable: the secrets of love and life as revealed by the kitchen.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tita de la Garza, Esperanza
Page Number: 239
Explanation and Analysis:

While raising Esperanza together, Pedro and Tita convince Rosaura to let the child attend school to gain a more well-rounded education than she could at home. This is a struggle because Rosaura believes that, according to their agreement, she is the only one in charge of Esperanza’s “education.” Meanwhile, she agrees to let Tita teach Esperanza how to cook and take care of feeding her. Rosaura thus believes that she (Rosaura herself0 will be the only one influencing her daughter’s thinking. Tita subversively influences Esperanza, however, not only by convincing Rosaura that Esperanza should go to school, but by sneaking her own worldview into Esperanza’s culinary lessons.

The phrase “the secrets of love and life as revealed by the kitchen” captures one of the essential philosophies of the novel. Food and cooking offer a lens for understanding and experimenting with love, the self, and the world. Tita knows this, and it gives her power over other characters who try to oppress her, particularly Mama Elena and Rosaura.

Little by little her vision began to brighten until the tunnel again appeared before her eyes. There at its entrance was the luminous figure of Pedro waiting for her. Tita did not hesitate. She let herself go to the encounter, and they wrapped each other in a long embrace; again experiencing an amorous climax, they left together for the lost Eden. Never again would they be apart.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tita de la Garza, Rosaura , Pedro Musquiz , Esperanza
Related Symbols: Heat and Fire
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Tita and Pedro make love after Esperanza and Alex’s wedding. For years, they have continued their affair in secret, busy with managing Rosaura’s feelings and demands, as well as navigating the task of raising Esperanza. Until now, they have never been able to fully express their love without other anxieties or concerns. Now, they have the opportunity to pursue a life together without shame.

This scene validates the theory of Morning Light, which held that when love finds its perfect expression, all of one’s “inner flames” will be lit. Earlier in the passage, Tita resisted the tunnel’s first appearance, feeling she wasn’t ready to die yet. Now, however, she doesn’t “hesitate” when she sees Pedro waiting for her. They climax again together, meaning that they continue sexual intimacy even after death.

What awaits them is described as the “lost Eden,” which is a symbolic choice for numerous reasons. It is the Biblical first home of humankind, and therefore the place of creation. Pedro and Tita’s death is not the end, but the return to the beginning. Further, Eden was the home of Adam and Eve during a time of innocence before the fall of mankind. Through death, Pedro and Tita seem to achieve a clean slate. Even as they continue to have sex in the afterlife, they are without sin because they return to a state of being that predates the Christian concept of sin.