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Like Water for Chocolate | Study Guide

Laura Esquivel

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Like Water for Chocolate | Chapter 8 : August | Summary



The August recipe is champandongo, a complicated multilayered main dish Tita is preparing for the evening John will formally ask for her hand in marriage. The preparations are not going smoothly due to some unexpected problems with her adored niece Esperanza. The baby had been born prematurely three months earlier, after Mama Elena's death. The emergency birth had left Rosaura temporarily unable to care for the child, so Tita remained to help: little Esperanza therefore is raised in the kitchen, just as Tita herself had been. Unlike with Roberto, Tita refused to nurse the child, hoping to avoid another intense relationship with a child who is not her own.

Once Rosaura recovered, she insisted the child be with her. Away from Tita and the warmth of the kitchen, though, the baby cried constantly. Tita finally came up with the idea of carrying pots of food up the stairs to Rosaura's room, which fooled the child into thinking she was still in the kitchen. On the day of the engagement party, however, Tita makes one trip too many and spills the food, which means she will have to start over and rush the process. Pedro sees her and takes that moment to try to convince her not to marry John. He tells her he should have run away with her, and she responds he had been a coward and he should now leave her in peace.

Tita's anger at Pedro translates into heat, "escaping ... through her ears, nose, and all her pores." She is also furious because a few days before, John visited with little Alex, who took one look at Esperanza in her crib and announced he wanted to marry her. Rosaura then had laughed and told him as her only daughter, Esperanza must care for her until the day she dies. Tita was horrified by this announcement, and the anger had not left her. She is still boiling over, as water must boil when it is used to melt chocolate.

At that moment Tita feels a tap on her shoulder and is delighted to see Chencha standing there, smiling and happy, with a man finally by her side. It is Jesús Martinez, her first love, who had been unable to marry her because of the opposition of her parents. When Chencha had gone back to the village after Mama Elena's bad treatment, he had found her again and married her. They now hope to return to the ranch, which Tita is delighted to arrange.

Chencha immediately takes over the engagement feast, and Tita goes to cool herself off in the shower and prepare for the evening. As she stands under the water, she becomes hotter and hotter rather than cooler. She spots Pedro spying on her from between the wooden slats, lust in his eyes. He begins to approach her, and she slams the door to her room.

John arrives, and Tita hurriedly finishes setting the table for their dinner. The meal is good, but not as perfect as Tita would have liked. Still, it is fine, and John asks Pedro, the man of the house, for Tita's hand. Pedro sullenly agrees. They have a toast, and when they clink glasses Pedro's shatters into a thousand pieces.

John leaves that night for Pennsylvania to bring back his only living relative for the wedding. Later Tita attempts to put her thoughts in order by cleaning up and organizing her kitchen. She carries supplies to the storage room, formerly Mama Elena's bathing room. Pedro appears behind her, slams the door, and pulls her over to the bed. He throws himself upon her, and with that he causes her "to lose her virginity and learn of true love."

Upstairs in the house Rosaura and Chencha see plumes of light and color shooting up from the storage room. Chencha insists it is the ghost of Mama Elena, and neither she nor Rosaura will go near it. But, comments the narrator, if Mama Elena had known that fear of her ghost was allowing Pedro and Tita to profane her favorite place, she would have died again a hundred times over.


In Chapter 8 several motifs introduced throughout the book come together in one place. Esperanza is the third baby to be raised in the nurturing environment of the kitchen by a surrogate mother, and the second to be raised by Tita. Chencha reveals herself to be another woman, like Tita and Mama Elena, once forbidden by her parents to marry the man she truly loved. And Esperanza seems to be doomed to repeat Tita's struggles since Rosaura intends to continue the tradition of the youngest daughter caring for her mother.

But cycles are also being broken. Chencha has found the love of her life and married him, and he has ignored the expectations of a society that would have labeled Chencha as ruined because of the rape. Tita also vows to find a way to save Esperanza from the fate that Mama Elena had once planned for her. Even the girl's name, which Tita had advocated for, means "hope."

The expression of Tita's emotions through food and food preparation also is significant in this chapter. From the opening lines nothing about the preparation of the engagement dinner is going as it should. Tita is rushed, her movements are jerky, and she cuts her finger. The onions are making her cry, but the tears seem to be coming as much from frustration as anything else. Her agitation signals something is not right with her, possibly not even the upcoming engagement.

References to heat also appear throughout the chapter, primarily in descriptions of Tita's anger when the title of the book, "like water for chocolate," is used. The boiling water used to make chocolate is a metaphor for Tita's anger. Just as water must be brought to a boil several times to make chocolate, so too does Tita's anger have to build and cool before it finally explodes. But heat also shows her passion is reaching an uncontrollable level, heating the water in the shower just as Gertrudis's passionate nature once did, and eventually sending off blasts of light when she and Pedro make love.

This last development is the unexpected illustration of the metaphor of the matches that John Brown had shared with Tita. It was John who told Tita she must find a way to light her inner fire, and he had hoped to be the one who could help her do it. But despite Pedro's cowardice and selfishness, it is he whom Tita loves, and he who is finally able to ignite the passion within her and free her from doing what the world, or even she, expects. The fact that they make love on the bed of the wildly passionate and wholly liberated Gertrudis, herself the fruit of her mother's illicit affair, shows the extent to which Tita is now free. However, that she allows the hot-headed and violent Pedro to forcibly take her over the kind, loving, and patient John Brown may reveal she is still not entirely willing to decide her own fate.

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