As is characteristic for the genre of magical realism, Like Water For Chocolate blurs the line between reality and the supernatural. In the novel, when emotions are repressed or escalated, everyday actions and events transform into supernatural occurrences. The most central example is Tita’s magical ability to infuse her cooking with her current emotional state. Mama Elena punishes Tita for expressing emotion, so Tita’s supernatural power gives her feelings a space to exist and impact others. Key to the norms of the genre, the characters aren’t surprised by the supernatural occurrences and, in fact, may not even acknowledge them at all. The supernatural in the novel, in fact, often acts subversively yet without the characters’ intent. Tita’s magical ability occurs without any intention and it is unclear whether or not she is even aware of it. The supernatural also allows the mind and soul to impact the body in ways that are scientifically inexplicable. For example, Tita develops a phantom pregnancy while experiencing incredible shame and guilt about her affair with Pedro. Because of this, the supernatural in the novel comes to be intertwined with the character’s own subconscious, expressing that which the characters themselves not only cannot but cannot always even recognize.
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Supernatural/ Magic/ Strange Events appears in Like Water for Chocolate. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: January – “Christmas Rolls.”
...in her mother’s womb, Tita cried so fiercely when her mother chopped onion that she magically sent her mother into early labor. Born on the kitchen table, Tita’s tears continued, flooding... (full context)
Chapter 2: February – “Chabela Wedding Cake.”
...all over the floor. Tita, unaware that her tears from the night before are the supernatural cause of the mayhem, continues eating the cake without experiencing any of its effects. Vomit... (full context)
Chapter 3: March – “Quail in Rose Petal Sauce”
...Elena’s disapproval. Rosaura, stricken with morning sickness, barely eats. Gertrudis, however, feels very hot, affected supernaturally by Tita’s food. Feeling a rush of sexual desire, she begins to imagine herself naked... (full context)
...Pedro and Tita stand on the patio, speechlessly watching the scene. The rose-scented cloud then magically travels far away to a battleground where federal and rebel troops are fighting. Juan Alejandrez,... (full context)
Chapter 8: August – “Champandongo”
Chapter 10: October – “Cream Fritters”
...ghost dwindles into a tiny light and shoots out of Tita’s window. Tita’s belly then magically deflates, releasing her menstrual flow. Tita realizes that she wasn’t pregnant after all. Outside Tita’s... (full context)
Chapter 12: December: “Chiles in Walnut Sauce.”