Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel | Summary, Themes & Synopsis

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Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel | Summary,Themes & Analysis
TitleLike Water for Chocolate
AuthorLaura Esquivel
Publication Year1989
GenreMagical Realism, Romance & Historical Fiction
SettingMexico, early 20th century
ProtagonistTita De La Garza
Literary DevicesMagical realism, symbolism, foreshadowing, imagery
Reception“Like Water for Chocolate” has been widely popular and critically acclaimed, with translations into over 30 languages. It won the prestigious ABBY Award in 1994 and was adapted into a successful film in 1992.


  1. Tita – the youngest daughter of Mama Elena, who is forbidden to marry due to family traditions. She is a talented cook and her emotions often manifest in the dishes she prepares.
  2. Mama Elena – the strict and domineering mother of Tita, Gertrudis, and Rosaura. She upholds family traditions and does not allow Tita to marry.
  3. Pedro Muzquiz – the love interest of Tita, who marries Rosaura to be closer to Tita. He is kind and charming, but also selfish in his pursuit of Tita.
  4. Gertrudis – the middle daughter of Mama Elena, who runs away from home and becomes a revolutionary leader. She is beautiful and passionate, and has a strong connection to food and sensuality.
  5. Rosaura – the eldest daughter of Mama Elena, who marries Pedro but is unable to have children. She is jealous of Tita’s relationship with Pedro and often mistreats her.
  6. John Brown – an American doctor who falls in love with Gertrudis and helps her escape to America.
  7. Nacha – the family cook and Tita’s confidante, who teaches her how to cook and offers her guidance throughout the story.
  8. Roberto – the son of Pedro and Rosaura, who dies shortly after birth. His death deeply affects Tita and her relationship with Pedro.

Themes and Messages

The themes invloved in the novel are:

  • The power of food.
  • The roles of women in Mexican society.
  • The importance of tradition and family.
  • The conflict between individual desires and familial duty.


The book Like Water For Chocolate tells the tale of Tita De La Garza, the family’s youngest child who grew up in Mexico at the beginning of the 20th century. Pedro Muzquiz, Tita’s love, visits the family ranch and asks for Tita’s hand in marriage. Being the youngest daughter, Tita is not allowed from getting married by a family traditions upheld by her tyrannical mother, Mama Elena. However, Pedro decides to wed Rosaura, Tita’s oldest sister, telling his father that he only did so to stay close to Tita.

Pedro has a connection with Tita because Rosaura as well as Pedro live on the family ranch. Gertrudis, Mama Elena’s second daughter, is whipped into a lustful state along with flees the ranch in the grasp of a revolutionary soldier as Tita prepares an exclusive meal using the petals of a rose Pedro gave her. This special meal is made with the still-flaming force of their love (which is transmitted by the food). Tita delivers Rosaura’s son, who is born in the meanwhile. Tita is concerned for Roberto, her nephew, as if he were her own baby to the point that she can breastfeed him while her sister is dry.

Mama Elena makes plans for Rosaura’s family to relocate to San Antonio because she believes Roberto is bringing Pedro and Tita closer together. Tita is devastated by this breakup. A short while later, word comes that Roberto has passed away, probably as a result of being taken away from Tita’s care. Tita has a breakdown after her nephew dies, and Mama Elena sends her to an asylum. Tita is taken in by local American physician Dr. John Brown, who also adopts her into his family out of kindness. He patiently tends to Tita’s medical needs while also attempting to heal her broken spirit.

Tita declares she will never go back to the ranch after eventually getting close to being well. Shortly after she makes this decision, Mama Elena is hurt during an attack by rebel soldiers, causing Tita to go back. Mama Elena bitterly refuses Tita’s efforts to take care of her, despite Tita’s best intentions in mind. She says that Tita’s food is poisoned plus refuses to eat it. Soon after, Mama Elena turns out to be dead after taking too much of a strong emetic to overcome her fear of poisoning.

Tita is released from the birthright curse by Mama Elena’s passing, and she accepts John Brown’s engagement proposal after falling in love with him. Rosaura and Pedro have since moved back to the ranch, where Esperanza, their second child, was born. Pedro’s presence immediately calls into question Tita’s devotion to John. Pedro grabs Tita in a dark room, makes love to her, and takes her virginity the night John formally asks Pedro to bless his marriage.

After a short while, Tita is certain she is pregnant & realises she must call off her engagement to John. When Pedro & Tita start having an affair, Mama Elena reappears in spirit form and curses Tita and her unborn baby. Tita feels ashamed and unable to confide in anyone.

In the midst of Tita’s despair, the long-lost Gertrudis, commanding a regiment of fifty soldiers in the revolutionary army, returns to the ranch. Tita is overjoyed to see Gertrudis again because she is exactly the friend she needs. Tita is coerced by Gertrudis into telling Pedro about the pregnancy. He sings drunkenly to Tita from below her window because he is overjoyed by the news. Outraged, Mama Elena’s ghost reappears and forcibly warns Tita that she must leave the ranch. Tita confronts Mama Elena for the first time and firmly declares her independence, banishing her mother’s spirit, which transforms from a commanding presence into a tiny fiery light.

Tita feels all of her pregnancy-related symptoms disappear as she expels the ghost. Pedro is still seated on the patio when the light from Mama Elena’s ghost bursts through Tita’s window and catches fire all over him. After saving Pedro, Tita is devoted to taking care of him and promoting his healing. When John Brown gets back from his trip to the US, Tita tells him about her relationships with Pedro. John responds that he still wants to marry her but that she must make her own choices regarding her life partner.

After several years, the ranch concentrates its attention on the marriage of Esperanza & Alex, the son of John Brown. Since Rosaura passed away, Esperanza, her only child, is no longer liable to the restriction that had previously prevented her from getting married, just as it had Tita. Tita and Pedro can now publicly declare their love now as Esperanza is married and Rosaura has passed away. Tita and Pedro experience such a powerful love on their first night together that they are both directed to a tunnel that will lead them to the afterlife.

Tita turns around because she loves Pedro and wants to live life to the fullest. When she does, she discovers Pedro has already crossed the threshold. Tita eats the candles that had been lighting the room until they went out at the moment Pedro passed away in an effort to stoke her inner fire because she wants to be with him so badly. When she is able to recreate the atmosphere of true passion, she returns to the luminous tunnel & encounters Pedro in the afterlife. The recipe book where Tita recorded her knowledge is the only trace of their love left after their final union of their bodies and spirits, which additionally causes the entire ranch to catch fire.


What is “Like Water for Chocolate” about?

In the novel “Like Water for Chocolate”, a young Mexican lady called Tita tries to pursue her love for Pedro while juggling the customs and expectations of her family.

Who is the author of “Like Water for Chocolate”?

The author of “Like Water for Chocolate” is Laura Esquivel who is a Mexican novelist, screenwriter and politician.

What is the significance of the title?

The title “Like Water for Chocolate” is a phrase that means boiling with intense emotion. In the context of the book, it reflects the idea that Tita’s emotions affect the food she cooks and the people who eat it.

What is the setting of the story?

Early in the 20th century, a time of political instability and social transformation, the setting of in Mexico.

Who are the main characters?

The main characters are Tita, Pedro, Mama Elena, Rosaura and Gertrudis.

What is the genre of the book?

The genre of the book is magical realism.

What is the role of food in the story?

Food plays a central role in the story, as it reflects Tita’s emotions and affects the people who eat it. It also represents tradition and cultural identity.

How does the structure of the novel contribute to its meaning?

The novel is organized according to the months and the meals Tita makes, which adds to the narrative and emotional arc of the story. The structure highlights how food and tradition shape the lives of the characters.

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