Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Women of "Like Water for Chocolate"

October 17, 2007

I just want to post this because I'm quite proud of this paper when the rest of my classmates discussed about the romance in the novel. I had to retype this because I only have the original hard copy which I submitted to my professor. This post is slightly altered from the original paper to include my teacher's comments and corrections. Unfortunately, I forgot her name but Ma'am MZM(S?or L?) thank you for your interest in my paper and for the grade. ;)

By the way, 2 days ago was "International Rural Women's Day". This is also dedicated to the women in the countryside.

An Analysis of the Three Sisters in the novel "Like Water for Chocolate" as Representatives of Women from Different Social Classes
(Written for my Humanities I class in 2004)

The novel "Like Water for Chocolate" has been dubbed as a feminist novel since its first release. Set in the middle of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917 against Diaz and US imperialism) where workers, peasants and natives banded together under the leadership of Villa and Zapata to overthrow the dictator. The author used this setting to explore gender identity, more specifically the females by using the 3 sisters as protagonists, examining how the characters fall into their roles in the revolution, be it in the household (small scale) or in the battlefield (large scale) itself. In this paper, it is the three sisters, Rosaura, Tita and Gertrudis who will represent the women from social classes and how they participated in the small and large scale revolutions.

During the Mexican Revolution, the mode of production was mainly feudalism , thus the main source of income was land or ranches. The workforce was dominantly farmers. In a nutshell, social classes are divided thus: The Bourgeoisie (Compradors, Landlords and Petty), the working class and/or the peasantry. Historically, the Bourgeoisie has always oppressed the working and peasant classes.

A characteristic of landlords and the bourgeoisie is that own more than they consume, doing minimal work yet they have the largest income than the rest of the workforce. Rosaura is the representative of this class. When Mama Elena died, the ranch was left to her name. Nowhere in the book was it mentioned that Rosaura did any heavy work (aside from the preparation of spices for sausages which in fact, as my professor noted, Rosaura does for fun) compared to the other women in the house.

Another characteristic of the bourgeoisie is that they have an affinity for tradition. Tradition and culture is not really a constant object, but is dictated by the mode of production. The upper classes need to maintain the status quo in order to remain in power, thus, the use of tradition. Rosaura has these characteristics. She married his sister's lover because Mama Elena was adamant with the tradition. By allowing herself to be married to Pedro, she was in agreement with Mama Elena and the tradition. She took her sister's right to be with Pedro. She was supposed to apply this tradition even to her daughter Esperanza. The point of this tradition was to make life convenient to the mother at the expense of the daughter.

As a woman, Rosaura was exploiting herself (aside from Tita and Esperanza) subconsciously. Any reason fir marrying aside from love is a union bound to fail. Since Pedro loved Tita, the man she married will never see her as a partner in life. Pedro could never give Rosaura what she wants and deserves in a relationship.

Tita is the perfect example of the oppressed classes of society. Analyzing her situation in the household, she was more of a worker than a member of the family. She seems to do as much work as the servants in the ranch (i.e. Chancha and Nacha) yet not much appreciated (through income or otherwise).

Tradition Dictates that she should not marry because she was to take care of their mother until the day the latter dies. Her right to marry and to have a family is taken away by this tradition. She initially felt helpless against the status quo but she already shown resistance. Overtly, she questions the tradition. When objective and subjective conditions (treatment as a slave, separation from Pedro and the death of her nephew) were enough, she openly waged a revolution on her own by leaving Mama Elena.

The middle sister, Gertrudis, is the epitome of the liberated woman. Initially, she only found sexual liberation (through Tita's dish and being "kidnapped" by the revolutionary soldier). Afterwards she worked at a brothel and admitted that it was to "put out the overwhelming fire" and seems not to be ashamed of it. In the battlefield, true liberation. Women's liberation in the strict sense is the acquisition of equal political, social and economical rights as men.

In Mexican history, women played important roles in the revolution. Mexican women were directly involved and were known as Soldaderas, or the female soldiers and field supporters. It is also often that they engage in combat. There is no room for sexual discrimination in the revolution. The Mexican uprising was a cause of the contradictions between classes, and sexuality and gender cuts through classes. It was a fight of the ruling class and the oppressed. Gertrudis became a general in the revolution, working her way up the ranks as others do notwithstanding the female repression characteristic around the world and mode of production at that time. She may have been from any class but she left that former life to participate in the revolution with a specific goal. She became some source of inspiration and strength for Tita at one time or the other.

These women are not exclusive to Mexico to that era. More so, these kinds of women are more evident at this time when the crisis caused by imperialism affects so many countries. There are Roasauras who stand on a pedestal. There are many Titas who are exploited who are vacillating, often reluctant but still resist. And of course the number of Gertrudises is ever and exponentially rising because of repression, oppression and the chronic crisis imperialism upon us. They are made aware that the only way to free themselves from repression is to participate in the revolution of the classes. Now, the question left to the women of the modern world, are you Rosaura, Tita or Gertrudis?

I just want to say that attending the Bloggers' Kapihan 2.0 was one of the best decisions I've made. It's so nice to meet the authors of blogs I read. :) Thank you for such a warm welcome from the bloggers. I'm looking forward to another Bloggers' Kapihan and meet more bloggers.

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  1. I know I have that book stacked somewhere in the house. I seem to remember having read it, but memory escapes me (as always). Your paper is truly an interesting one. I'm sure not many people have presented it the way you did.

    And you were there nung BK2?! I didn't meet you!

  2. Yeah, I was kind of late. I was between mong and tonyo during the forum.



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