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Like Water for Chocolate | Chapter 12 : December | Summary

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Summary

The December installment beings with a recipe for chiles in walnut sauce, which Tita is making for a very special wedding. The wedding is not for Tita and John, though, or even for Tita and Pedro. It is a wedding between Esperanza and John's son Alex, and it is taking place 20 years later, long after Tita made her decision about whom to marry or not.

Tita never accepted John's offer of marriage, choosing instead to remain at the ranch. She, Pedro, and Rosaura formed a pact. Pedro and Rosaura would remain married so that Esperanza could grow up within "that sacred institution, the family," and Rosaura could provide her with what she believed to be a firm moral foundation. Pedro and Tita could have their love affair as long as no one else knew about it and they never had a child together. In return Rosaura agreed to share Esperanza with Tita. In this way Tita had been able to make sure Esperanza was sent to school and educated, becoming an intelligent, capable, and happy young woman, not forced into subjugation as she was.

The only major conflict arose when Esperanza met Alex and they fell in love. When Esperanza told Tita Alex's gaze made her feel "like dough being plunged in boiling oil," Tita knew this was a love match—it was the same feeling she had had with Pedro. She and Pedro supported Esperanza's wish to marry, but Rosaura raged against them, still believing it was her daughter's duty to care for her mother until she died. After three days of violent fighting, however, Rosaura did die, a victim of the digestive problems—no doubt caused by Tita's food—that had returned to plague her.

On the day of the wedding, a year after Rosaura's death, friends and family gather to celebrate. Gertrudis and her husband arrive in a Model T Ford, along with their eldest child. John, of course, happily attends his son's wedding, and his presence once again incites Pedro's jealousy. But John only looks at Tita affectionately, presenting her with the gift of a box of matches.

As the wedding continues, Pedro tells Tita it is time they married, for there is no longer anything in their way. He even says he wants to have a child with her. Tita cries, and they are her first tears of joy. Neither of them care anymore about what society will say.

The chiles are served and have an immediate effect. Gertrudis is the first to feel an onslaught of sexual urges and leaves with her husband. The rest of the guests soon follow, seeking out creative places in their hurry to begin their lovemaking. This leaves Tita and Pedro alone to finally express their love fully. They go to the "dark room" where they always met, only to find it transformed. There is a brass bed with white sheets, and the room is lit by hundreds of candles. Each thinks the other has prepared the room, but the ghost of Nacha, unseen, is smiling in a corner.

As Tita and Pedro make love, their passion is so intense that all the animals know to leave the ranch. Tita realizes their lovemaking is so fierce it is opening the tunnel to the other side that John had once described. She draws back, wanting to live a long life with her lover, but it is too late for Pedro; he has died in ecstasy. Tita immediately knows she does not want to live without him and begins to eat candles, reigniting the flame of passion as John has told her. The tunnel reappears and she joins Pedro, never again to be separated.

Their fiery bodies set the ranch on fire, and it burns for a week. When neighbors finally come to investigate, they find a layer of ash several yards high. Only Esperanza finds something: a cookbook, which contains the recipes that tell of Tita and Pedro's love. Esperanza cherishes the book and eventually leaves it to her daughter, the narrator of the tale, who loves Christmas rolls as much as her great-aunt Tita did, and in whom the recipes will endure and survive.

Analysis

The final chapter of the novel jumps 20 years into the future and provides a resolution to all the storylines that have been building throughout the book. It also shows how the key characters chose to deal with the realities of the situations they were forced into decades before.

In flashbacks the reader learns that Tita made the choice to stay on the ranch with Pedro, Rosaura, and her niece. This choice, revealed gradually in the early pages of the chapter, is initially surprising since Pedro seems never to have evolved beyond the selfish, jealous, and hot-headed young man he once was, and John Brown would have provided Tita with both love and stability. But it is a testament to Tita's personal growth that she was willing to follow her heart and stay with the man who ignited passion within her rather than take the safe, traditional path society would have expected her to choose.

Rosaura, on the other hand, settled for a sham of a marriage and motherhood in name only, all to maintain the façade of respectability. But this meant she had to live in a house where her husband and her sister were lovers and where her own daughter was more Tita's child than her own. In fact the bright, independent Esperanza, who chooses her own future (with enthusiastic support from Pedro and Tita), is in many ways Tita's ultimate triumph over both Mama Elena and Rosaura. It also signals the end of oppressive family traditions.

Over the years Rosaura's unhappiness and frustration manifests itself in weight gain and the return of her "digestive problems." She dies creating a horrible stench, with a noise that sounded like "the rumble of cannons signaling the revolution had started up again." By not accepting the changes around her and by refusing to acknowledge that the traditions she was trying to hold on to no longer made sense, she had fooled only herself. Worse, it was Tita, Pedro, and Esperanza who were the true family in the house, and everyone realized it, even the neighbors. Rosaura's sad death and poorly attended funeral made her failure abundantly clear.

The marriage of Alex and Esperanza, however, is a triumph of their love and signals a new way of life that combines the best attributes of the De la Garza, Muzquiz, and Brown families. Esperanza is in a sense the woman Tita always wished she could be. She is educated, happy, and free to follow her heart. Yet Esperanza will still carry on the truly meaningful family traditions, instilled in her by her beloved Aunt Tita and captured in the cookbook that survives the fire. John's son, Alex, has all the intelligence and goodness of his father and will provide the stability John had always hoped to give Tita. And best of all, the two young people feel a passion for each other that was previously known only by Pedro and Tita.

The meaning of the wedding day is best symbolized by Pedro and Tita's ability to finally love each other openly. Pedro says they will have a white wedding, free from shame or the judgment of others. Their lovemaking that evening is blessed by the ghost of Nacha, and their joy leads them to experience passion such as they have never felt before. That passion, though, is literally all consuming, too great to be contained by the physical world, and it leads to the death of both lovers and the fiery destruction of the ranch. But the ending is not a sad one. The lovers are together for eternity, and the ashes left behind create a rich soil where "every kind of life flourished." The narrator of the story, Tita's niece, speaks in the first person to say that Esperanza and Alex remained in an apartment building on that land, and she herself was able to enjoy the delicious produce there. Tita's legacy will clearly live on in the generations that follow her.

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