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Like Water for Chocolate | Chapter 2 : February | Summary

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Summary

The February installment begins with the ingredients for the Chabela wedding cake, which will be served at Pedro and Rosaura's wedding reception. Tita is beating the required 170 eggs into a batter. She has trouble with the task since the egg whites remind her of the testicles of 200 roosters she had been forced to castrate and fatten up to be the main course for the wedding feast. She thinks she should have been the one neutered since then there would be a real reason for her not to marry Pedro. At one point she also becomes convinced she hears a baby chicken peeping inside of one of the preserved eggs. Mama Elena impatiently breaks the egg to show Tita she is wrong.

Toward the end of the day Mama Elena leaves, and Nacha encourages Tita to cry and release her pain. Tita does, and her tears fall into the cake batter. She and Nacha go on to make the filling, which reminds Tita of the day when Pedro saw her as she was collecting fruit to make the preserves. He tried to tell her of his love, but she refused to listen and fled to where Chencha and Gertrudis were preparing the white sheet for Rosaura's wedding night, the material acquired at great expense from a Chinese smuggler who specialized in providing hard-to-find goods during the revolution. After seeing the sheet, Tita succumbs to an odd sudden blindness, where all she can see is the color white. She also gets lost in all-white images from her childhood, images tied to May-time, the Virgin Mary, and the Church, the place she had always dreamed she would someday marry.

She returns to the kitchen to make the icing, but her white blindness prevents her from being useful. Her tears now mix with the frosting. Nacha sends her to bed and tastes the icing to make sure it is still acceptable. She is immediately overcome by an intense longing for a man she loved but was not allowed to marry. She frosts the cake, goes to bed, and cries all night. In the morning she is too weak to leave her bed.

The day of the wedding arrives, and Tita, not Rosaura, is the focus of everyone's attention as the guests gossip about how she must be feeling. Tita resents the comments because "she was not meant for the loser's role." Even as a child she played with boys, winning races and even saving her sisters when they were once in terrible danger. She puts on a brave face, unflinchingly offering Pedro her congratulations after the ceremony. At that moment he whispers he has gained what he really wanted—to be near Tita, the woman he really loves.

Tita becomes almost giddy with joy and leaves the party to tell Nacha what she has heard. Not long afterward the family and guests begin eating the wedding cake. They immediately begin weeping, overcome by longing and memories of lost love. Even Mama Elena is sobbing. The weeping and sadness become so overwhelming the guests begin vomiting, and Rosaura tries to protect her dress from the mess but slips and falls. She is "swept away in a raging rotting river" of vomit and then becomes sick herself. Afterward the wedding night is spoiled, and Rosaura and Pedro do not consummate their marriage for months.

Tita, of course, is blamed for the disaster. Mama Elena beats her so severely she spends weeks in bed recovering. Everyone is convinced she added an emetic to the cake, and no one believes the only extra ingredient was her tears. Nacha, sadly, cannot support her story. When Tita went looking for her on the night of the wedding, she found the old woman dead, holding a picture of her lost fiancé.

Analysis

The surreal elements surrounding the wedding, along with a series of powerful symbols, images, and metaphors, add a particularly mystical mood to this chapter. The imagery begins with the breaking of eggs into the batter, which triggers vivid memories in Tita of being forced to castrate and fatten roosters for the wedding feast. It also causes her to hallucinate she hears a baby chicken inside one of the eggs. The images all suggest lost sexuality and perhaps the child Tita will never have.

The sexual imagery continues with the white blindness caused when Tita sees the sheet for the wedding night. It has a small embroidered slit in it designed to allow sexual intimacy while the sheet itself remains between the couple. Seeing the sheet forces Tita to imagine Pedro and Rosaura making love, and the image literally blinds her. For a time she can see only white, and her mind is filled with memories of May-time, when she was young. In Catholicism May is the month of the Virgin Mary, and pure young girls, all dressed in white, bring white flowers to a statue of the Virgin. Tita's white blindness may mean she can no longer see a time when she herself is not a virgin; instead she is doomed to eternal virginal purity.

At the wedding feast Tita finds, however, she has a different kind of power. Her tears, mixed into the wedding cake, have a magical influence over the guests. They suddenly are overcome by their own memories of loss, which make them literally sick with grief. The power of magic realism is on full display as the wedding guests create a river of vomit that sweeps the bride away, destroying both her white dress and her wedding night. It is as though the hypocrisy of the gossiping guests; the shallow, selfish nature of the bride; and the sham of the wedding are all shown to be as sickening as they really are in her life.

The chapter is notable for two other things as well. The mention of the Chinese smuggler provides the first hint of the revolution underway in Mexico. This revolution radically changed Mexican government and culture, and it will continue to serve as a backdrop for the story and a metaphor for many of the events. The chapter also continues to build understanding of Tita as a strong woman, "not meant for the loser's role." Readers learn she was able to compete with and win against boys when she was young and she also had the courage to stop a team of runaway horses. At the wedding her courage is more understated. She is able to stand up to the gossip of the wedding guests and unconsciously triumph over them with her power over the food. She will need this strength now that she has lost the love and wisdom of Nacha, who was always more of a mother to her than Elena but ironically is another victim of the power of Tita's tears.

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