Like Water for Chocolate | Study Guide

Laura Esquivel

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Course Hero. "Like Water for Chocolate Study Guide." Course Hero. 26 Sep. 2017. Web. 22 Sep. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Like-Water-for-Chocolate/>.

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Course Hero. "Like Water for Chocolate Study Guide." September 26, 2017. Accessed September 22, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Like-Water-for-Chocolate/.

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Course Hero, "Like Water for Chocolate Study Guide," September 26, 2017, accessed September 22, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Like-Water-for-Chocolate/.

Like Water for Chocolate | Chapter 7 : July | Summary

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Summary

The July chapter begins with the recipe for ox-tail soup, which has wonderful restorative powers. Tita is reminded of this when Chencha brings her the soup, six months after John Brown rescued her from the ranch. With Chencha comes the spirit of Nacha, the memory of Christmas rolls, and the whiff of onion. Tita feels great joy, but then begins weeping, her tears creating another torrent, this one rushing down the stairs and bringing John up to see what is happening. He realizes Tita has finally released her pain, and Tita speaks for the first time since arriving.

Chencha also brings a letter from Gertrudis, who explains she has been working in a brothel in an attempt to quench the sexual fire inside her after she had worn out the man who rescued her. She hopes to see him again one day. But for now Mama Elena will not allow the names of either Gertrudis or Tita to be spoken around the ranch. Disobedience and the questioning of parental authority cannot be forgiven. Tita asks Chencha to tell Mama Elena she will not be returning to the ranch. That same evening, after Chencha leaves, John proposes to Tita. She accepts, although she does not feel the same wildness as when Pedro kissed her. She hopes the fire within her will be rekindled by the wonderful man she cares for so deeply.

Chencha returns to the ranch, but before she can deliver the message the ranch is attacked, Chencha is raped, and Mama Elena is left a paraplegic. Tita returns home as soon as she hears the news, and Elena sees her "splendid beauty and radiant energy." Tita holds Mama Elena's gaze until the older woman lowers her eyes. With that action they sever "the strong tie of blood and obedience that had always bound them together." But Tita intends to care for her mother, and Elena, humiliated, must accept her help.

Tita prepares soup for her mother, but Elena spits it out, saying it is bitter and Tita is trying to poison her. Once again Tita feels her mother's chilling presence, but John arrives shortly afterward, and his embrace saves Tita from freezing. He reassures Mama Elena the soup is fine, but she does not believe him. She also realizes he intends to marry Tita and is now more convinced than ever Tita is trying to poison her. Even when Chencha brings the soup to her, pretending to have made it herself, Elena can detect bitterness. She orders Chencha from the house, and Chencha, still suffering from the attack and the belief she will never marry now since men "won't eat off a plate that isn't clean," gladly leaves Elena's cruelty behind.

A series of cooks are hired and quit, and Elena is forced to eat Tita's cooking. Still not trusting her daughter, she barely eats and takes emetics to purge the food she does swallow. Within a month she is dead. Tita, going through her belongings, finds a box of letters that finally reveal what made Elena the way she was. She had been in love with a mulatto named José Treviño, and her horrified parents had forced her into a marriage with Tita's father. The affair had continued, however, and Tita learns Gertrudis is actually the child of Elena and José. She had planned to run away with him, but José was murdered the night they were to leave. Elena stayed with her husband, who learned the truth about Gertrudis only after Tita was born, news that caused his immediate and fatal heart attack.

With that knowledge Tita finally sees Elena not as "the castrating mother who had repressed Tita her entire life," but as a woman who had lived a frustrated love. She vows she herself will never renounce love, and at that moment she believes John is her true love. But then Pedro and a pregnant Rosaura appear for the funeral. For a moment Tita feels stirrings for him but then decides he was a weak man who had left her, and she cannot forgive him. Pedro, meanwhile, sees the closeness between John and Tita and decides he is not going to allow the man to take Tita away from him.

Analysis

In Chapter 7 readers witness a shift in power between Tita and Mama Elena. Tita returns to the ranch, radiating beauty and health. Mama Elena, on the other hand, is now physically broken and unable to hold her daughter's gaze. The moment the two of them discover this, it ends the unhealthy bond that has always connected them. Despite this, though, Elena is still able to bring a chill to Tita, who requires the additional warmth of John Brown to keep from succumbing to her mother's icy resentment and attempt to control her.

Without realizing it, though, Tita is having an equally destructive effect on her mother. Food has always reflected Tita's moods, and the bitterness Elena tastes in the soup even when the others pretend Chencha prepared it may be very real. Or it may be that anything prepared by Tita, even when it is cooked with the best of intentions, transforms itself into something inedible when the resentful Elena is forced to try it. The latter may be the case, which means it is not the actual soup that kills Elena. It is her own refusal to eat the food, or to accept any acts of kindness from her daughter.

Only after Elena is dead does Tita learn the reason for her mother's bitterness. Elena had once been a passionate woman herself, tortured by her own lost love and her parents' refusal to let her marry him. Instead of making her compassionate, though, her loss appears to have made her want to deny that happiness to her own daughters. This is especially true of Tita, who with her strength, passion, and rebellious nature is ironically the one who probably most resembles the young Elena. Her bitterness even extends to Rosaura, whom she is content to place into a loveless marriage that reflects what Elena herself once experienced after losing her true love. Only Gertrudis has escaped her, but Elena now considers her dead.

Tita, hoping to learn from her mother's mistakes, swears she will never renounce love. But at this point she herself may not be certain exactly what that means: Is it the bond she feels with the selfish but passionate Pedro, or the deep affection she feels for the gentle John Brown?

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