Study Guide

Like Water for Chocolate Quotes

  • Family

    "You know perfectly well that being the youngest daughter means you have to take care of me until the day I die." (1, 22)

    Wait, what? This is the first time we're made aware of this De la Garza rule, and we gotta say, it's pretty awful. From this moment on, we know Tita's road will not be paved with walnuts and chilies.

    "You don't have an opinion, and that's all I want to hear about it. For generations, not a single person in my family has ever questioned this tradition, and no daughter of mine is going to be the one to start." (1, 27)

    Ah, la familia. Much like Mexico at the time, Mama Elena's reign is most definitely a dictatorship. Basically, Tita and her sisters have to obey their mom or face her wrath.

    Mama Elena took comfort in the hope that she had finally managed to subdue her youngest daughter. (1, 38)

    The more we read, the more uncomfortable we get about these female relationships. While most of us may have problems with our mothers, our issues don't really compare to what's going on between Tita and Mama E.

    "Then Pedro, why aren't you taking the child to his mother? Children shouldn't be away from their mothers." (4, 262)

    True, but what about the fathers? Why don't they need to be around the children, huh? And while we're on the subject, didn't Mama E stay far away from Tita when she was a kid? Just sayin'…

    "He isn't even your own son. Imagine how pretty you will look with one of your own." (4,272)

    Here, Dr. Brown tells Tita she'll make a cute mama one day. Foot in mouth, doc. Poor guy didn't realize Tita will probably never have a son, or marry.

    For Tita [Mama Elena] had made an exception; she had been killing her a little at a time since she was a child, and she still hadn't quite finished her off. (3, 162)

    Is this supposed to be taken literally or figuratively? And what kind of mother tries to kill her own daughter? Is Mama E really that cruel?

    In her laboratory, John had passed most of his childhood and adolescence. (6, 388)

    This is in reference to Morning Light, John's Indigenous grandmother. Again, we see how the children spend most of their time with mothers or mother figures, and that the father is absent (in both Mexican and North American cultures).

    [Chencha'd] heard talk since she was a child about bad things that happen to women who disobey their parents and masters and leave the house. (7, 434)

    Family=fear. Is this true only for women? Only in Mexican culture? What bad things could happen to women if they leave the house?

    And so Esperanza would be the only child, the youngest child, and worst of all, a girl. (8, 494)

    Nooooo. The worst thing to be in the De la Garza family, especially when Rosaura decides to continue the dreaded tradition. So much for the name "Hope."

    Life would be much nicer if one could carry the smells and tastes of the maternal home wherever one pleased. (9, 591)

    Umm, maybe the smells and tastes, but we're not sure about the memories. In our humble opinion, the best part about living on the ranch is Tita's cooking, and not the warm fuzzy feelings Mama E provides (sarcasm anyone?).

  • Love

    "When you're told there's no way you can marry the woman you love and your only hope of being near her is to marry her sister, wouldn't you do the same?" (1, 54)

    To marry or not to marry…Pedro is pretty confident in his decision to marry Rosaura but his dad is just a teensy bit skeptical.

    "No, Papa, I am going to marry with a great love for Tita that will never die." (1, 57)

    Again, Pedro is defending his feelings for Tita and his plan to marry her sister. Is it a great sacrifice he's making, or just a really, really bad idea?

    "Lord, this is not lust or lewdness but to make a child to serve you." (2, 152)

    Mmm, sexy. Pedro thinks this right before he sleeps with Rosaura for the first time. From the way he acts toward her, and how little they touch throughout the novel, we're pretty sure there's nothing hot or steamy about their bedroom activities.

    Like silent spectators to a movie, Pedro and Tita began to cry watching the stars act out the love that was denied to them. (3, 196)

    Those "stars" are Gertrudis and the rebel soldier, who do everything Pedro and Tita can only fantasize about. Talk about needing an icy cold shower ASAP.

    "I've never needed a man for anything; all by myself, I've done all right with my ranch and my daughters. Men aren't that important in this life, Father […]." (4, 284)

    On the one hand, we love Mama E's feminist attitude here; on the other hand, she's not so liberal when it comes to her daughters. Can someone be both a feminist and machismo?

    "My grandmother had a very interesting theory; she said that each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can't strike them all by ourselves." (6, 396)

    A metaphor, a symbol, a way of helping Tita through her tough times, John shares this theory with her when she comes to live with him.

    Mama Elena, who hadn't shed a single tear over her husband's death, was sobbing silently. (2, 148)

    Even Mama E weeps. Here we see that the toughest, hardest of men and women can be affected by love. For better or worse, we're all just fluffy marshmallows on the inside.

    But the weeping was just the first symptom of a strange intoxication—an acute attack of pain and frustration—that seized the guests and scattered them across the patio and the grounds and in the bathrooms, all of them wiling over lost love. (2, 148)

    Is it really better to have loved and lost? In this scene at Rosaura and Pedro's wedding, people don't seem happy.

    […] Pedro went to [Tita], extinguished the lamp, pulled her to a brass bed […] and throwing himself upon her, caused her to lose her virginity and learn of true love. (8.537)

    This is the first time the pair gets it on. They keep doing it (and doing it well) in the dark room, which nobody enters for fear of Mama Elena's ghost. Score.

    "Are you more in love with him or with me?" (11.784)

    Oh, John. Nice guys (and gringos) do finish last, as Tita ends up picking Pedro. We kinda always knew it was coming, but still, we can't help feeling bad for the guy.

  • Sexuality

    With that meal it seemed they had discovered a new system of communication, in which Tita was the transmitter, Pedro the receiver, and poor Gertrudis the medium, the conducting body through which the singular sexual message was passed. (3, 179)

    Here we can see the power of the aphrodisiac. Unfortunately, the feeling is a three-way experience, and Gertrudis gets the combined heat of Pedro and Tita in her, um, delicate bits.

    [Gertrudis] desperately needed a man to quench the red-hot fire that was raging inside her. (3,190)

    Yowza. This is what Juan thinks when he sees Gertrudis running around naked, but, c'mon, the guy is pretty desperate himself—why else would he gallop like a mad man, driven only by the scent of roses?

    He wanted to study, examine, investigate every last inch of skin on [Tita's] lovely, monumental body. Surely, she'd look like Gertrudis; they weren't sisters for nothing. (3, 197)

    Yeah, Pedro, we bet you do. Unfortunately, he's going to wait a lot longer to get the chance to do any sort of studying.

    One last chile in walnut sauce left on the platter after a fancy dinner couldn't feel any worse than [Tita] did. (3, 200)

    After observing Gertrudis's sexual adventure and escape from the ranch, we can understand why Tita feels like a leftover chile—cold, untouched, forgotten.

    "[Juan] left because I had exhausted his strength, though he hadn't managed to quench the fire inside me now at least, after so many men have been with me, I feel a great relief." (7, 429)

    Gertrudis confides this to Tita, and it explains why she went to work in a brothel. The question is, can we judge her for becoming a prostitute, or is it a form of liberation?

    […] and throwing himself upon [Tita] caused her to lose her virginity and learn of true love. (8, 537)

    Okay, hold up; is this really the best way to consummate "true love"? We're not entirely convinced that having Pedro jump on Tita is sexy, or sweet, or necessary. Are we alone in our thoughts?

    "Not until you behave like a good woman, or a decent one at least." (10, 675)

    Ouch, Mama. Talk about the chile calling the pepper hot…Mama E criticizes Tita for not being a "decent" women, when we all know she's got a less than perfect past.

    […] and before departing gave [Tita] a recipe the prostitutes use so they don't get pregnant: after having intimate relations, use a douche of boiled water with a few drops of vinegar. (10, 696)

    Who else would share a contraceptive method with Tita but Gertrudis? Darn it if we don't love her spunky, liberated woman style.

    "While you were gone, I had relations with a man I've always loved, and I lost my virginity." (11, 782)

    Burn. Talk about two shots through the heart of Dr. Brown…Tita confesses all of this and the guy still wants to be with her. Now that's love. We think…

    [Tita] was experiencing a climax so intense that her closed eyes glowed and a brilliant tunnel appeared before her. (12, 859)

    Is it just us or did it get scorching hot in here? While we're glad Tita is enjoying herself, this climax sounds a little dangerous.

  • Freedom/Liberation

    Each year Tita prepared [quail in rose sauce] in tribute to her sister's liberation […]. (3, 205)

    The sister, Gertrudis, breaks free of their mother's tyranny in a spectacular act of lovemaking on a galloping stallion. Talk about an exit.

    "Here's what I do with your orders. I'm sick of them. I'm sick of obeying you." (5, 354)

    Oh, snap. Tita finally stands up to her mother, and gives her a piece of her mind. It doesn't end well, but we still admire her for speaking up.

    Now, seeing [Tita's] hands no longer at her mother's command, she didn't know what to ask them to do, she had never decided for herself before. (6, 373)

    With liberation comes mucho responsibility. What to do now? Will Tita come into her own, find true love, or fade away without any guidance?

    "Because I don't want to." (6, 412)

    This is what Tita writes on the wall when prompted by Dr. Brown to explain why she won't talk. It's both a declaration of free choice, and a "talk to the hand" sign.

    For the first time Tita firmly held her gaze, and Mama Elena lowered hers. (7, 440)

    Can you feel the power switch? We think this is HUGE and shows that Tita has finally become her own person.

    Surely Pedro had died at the moment of ecstasy when he entered the luminous tunnel. (12, 863)

    Hmm, this one's a toughie. Is death for Pedro freedom? Freedom from what, exactly? We were so sure he was about to live happily ever after with Tita.

    Tita did not hesitate. She let herself go to the encounter, and they wrapped each other in a long embrace. (12, 863)

    Double hmm. The two lovebirds are finally free to be together and then both die? What's up with that?

    In fact, Tita no longer gave a damn either about what people would say when their love affair was made public. (12.832)

    You go girl. And it's about time; at this point in the book, it seems like everyone and their mom know that Tita and Pedro are together.

    During the funeral, Tita wept for her mother. (7.483)

    Wow. We think this may be the first (and only time) Tita shows sympathy for her mother. All at once she's free of her deeply disturbed relationship, and her feelings of hate toward Mama Elena.

  • Violence/Abuse (Physical and Mental)

    Tita got a terrible spanking for that, and she was forbidden to play with her sisters in her own world. (1, 9)

    This is the first instance of corporal punishment in the novel. Unfortunately, most of the beatings are taken by Tita...

    "I won't stand for disobedience, nor am I going to allow you to ruin [Rosaura's] wedding with your acting like a victim." (1, 81)

    Mama E is giving Tita a not-so-loving talk after catching her being chummy with Pedro. A case of damned if she does and damned if she doesn't.

    "I have a very good aim and a very bad temper, Captain." (5, 308)

    Let's face it; Mama Elena is kind of a badass here. Not only does she protect her ranch from a gang of rebel soldiers, she threatens them.

    While [Tita] was in her hiding place, she had prayed that nothing bad would happen to mama Elena, but unconsciously she had hoped that when she got out she would find her mother dead. (5, 322)

    Woah. Not that we can blame her, but this is a pretty messed up desire to have. Then again, Tita's life has been a living hell up to this point.

    Unquestionably, when it came to diving, dismantling, dismembering, desolating, detaching, dispossessing, destroying, or dominating, Mama Elena was a pro. (5, 336)

    Scary much? In everything she does, it seems as if Mama Elena is more machine than human.

    Mama Elena went to her, picked up a wooden spoon, and smashed her across the face with it." (5, 355)

    Okay, if child services were around during the 1900's, this would have been a great time to call.

    "Fine, if [Tita's] acting crazy, then I'm going to put her in an asylum. There's no place in this house for maniacs." (5, 361)

    Mama Elena is a master of both physical and mental abuse—after beating her child and trapping her in a dovecote, we think she's the one who needs some time away.

    [A group of bandits] raped Chencha. Mama Elena, trying to defend her honor, suffered a strong blow to her spine and was left paraplegic, paralyzed from the waist down. (7, 439)

    Here we see an example of abuse by men on women, rather than the other way around. Rape is used to control Chencha, while violence is used to weaken Mama E.

    "You'd better, because if you don't I swear I'll have you shot." (10,664)

    Like Mama like daughter. Gertrudis uses some violent nudging to get Trevino to make the perfect cream fritters. Under pressure.

    Grabbing his jacket, [Pedro] got ready to go look for John so he could smash his face in. (12, 805)

    And here we almost have some man on man violence; luckily, when Pedro thinks of Tita, he doesn't go through with the brilliant face-smashing idea.

  • Cooking as a Remedy

    It wasn't easy for a person whose knowledge was based on the kitchen to comprehend the outside world. (1, 7)

    Luckily for Tita, the kitchen is the one place she can express herself and let out her emotions. If not, who knows if she would have survived?

    Soups can cure any illness, whether physical or mental. (7, 410)

    Ox-tail soup for the soul, indeed. Something about the hot liquid, or the love used to make it, seems to cure Tita in her darkest hour.

    With the first sip, Nacha appeared there at [Tita's] side, stroking her hair as she ate […]. (7, 421)

    Who knew soup could conjure up spirits, too? Food and memory are intertwined in the novel, and there's no way that a bowl of soup is just a bowl of soup.

    "John. Please don't leave." (7, 425)

    After Tita eats the soup, she is inspired to talk and these are her first words uttered in weeks.

    "Because it is nasty and bitter, and I don't want it. Take it away. Don't you hear?" (7, 447)

    Okay, so soups aren't the trick for everyone. Maybe Mama Elena doesn't want to be cured of anything?

    "Yes child, but why should I want to add any more bitterness to the mole I've got." (7,471)

    Here, Chencha speaks with Tita, using food as a metaphor for her life pains. Not all life can be a platter of cream fritters.

    "You know how men are. They all say they won't eat off a plate that isn't clean." (7, 473)

    Really? Cause we've seen plenty of men eat off dirty plates, floors, beds… Again, Chencha uses a metaphor to refer to men not wanting to be with her because she is no longer a virgin.

    "Only the pan knows how the boiling soup feels, but I know how [Tita] feel, so stop crying […]." (1, 124)

    Nacha comforts Tita, showing her that they're deeply connected. Tita's fortunately not alone.

    [Pedro] let Tita penetrate to the farthest corners of his being and all the while they couldn't take their eyes off each other. (3, 180)

    Is it hot in here, or is it just us? Somebody get these two a room, before they devour the quail in rose petal sauce and then each other.

    "There are many ways to dry out a box of damp matches, but you can be sure, there is a cure." (6, 113)

    While matches are not typically used as a snack, in Tita's case, they are used as a remedy to draw her out of her silence.

  • Men and Masculinity

    "If [Pedro] intends to ask for your hand, tell him not to bother." (1, 22)

    A: why do women have to have their hands asked for? B: why is Mama Elena, definitely a woman, trying to control Tita so much? In Like Water for Chocolate, it's not just a man's world, it's a Mama's world.

    "You don't have an opinion, and that's all I want to hear about it." (1, 27)

    This smarts of machismo, and Mama E telling Tita this lets her know who's boss.

    "I won't allow you to touch anything inside my house. Understand? Those things are for my cause." (5, 298)

    Laying down the law, Mama E confronts machismo and manly rebel men with her own brand of power.

    "Understood, my general." (5, 300)

    Juan, captain of the rebel forces, not only Gertrudis's lover but a smart enchilada; he knows not to cross a woman like Mama Elena.

    They fell prisoner to a childlike fear of maternal authority. (5, 309)

    That's what we like to call Mamachismo—she'll keep you down, control you, and stop you from looting her ranch.

    This woman desperately needed a man to quench the red-hot fire that was raging inside her. (3, 190)

    Well, of course, isn't that what all women need? A man to make them calmer, more docile, more controllable. Excuse us while we go snicker…

    "Children shouldn't be away from their mothers." (4, 262)

    What about the men, huh? Don't children need fathers? We think this pillar of Machismo not only is unfair, it's not wholly true.

    "The man who picked me up in the field in effect saved my life." (7, 429)

    Gertrudis, speaking of Juan to Tita. Sure, they made love, but how exactly did he save her life, we gotta wonder? Would she have exploded? Caught fire?

    "You know how men are. They all say they won't eat off a plate that isn't clean." (7, 473)

    Yeah, those hombres. A clever way of saying men only want to be with virgins.

    [Gertrudis] was a general in the revolutionary army. The commission had been earned by sheer hard work, she fought like mad on the field of battle. (9, 572)

    A great example of women surpassing men in terms of behavior, tradition, and work, Gertrudis is the modern Mexican woman, waaaaay ahead of her time.

  • Tradition/Society

    "You know perfectly well that being the youngest daughter means you have to take care of me until the day I die." (1, 22)

    This is tradition in the De la Garza family and for better or worse, Tita is the youngest daughter.

    "First work, then do as you please, except crying, do you hear?" (5, 352)

    Part of tradition in the household is that everyone works, no matter what. When Tita doesn't follow the rules, Mama E gets even more mean than usual.

    "Perhaps Nacha only heard what everyone else was afraid to say." (1, 58)

    In the society of 1900s Mexico, it was not cool to speak your mind, or cause a scene in any way. The Kardashians wouldn't last a second.

    The wedding guests were not just performing a social act, they wanted to observe [Tita's] suffering. (1, 128)

    Dang, that's cold. Getting joy out of other people's pain? Watching hungrily from the sidelines at other people's drama and then gossiping about it? It's like us watching Real World or reading People Magazine, or…yikes. Are we guilty of the same charge?

    "They say they're going to live in the same house. If I were Mama Elena, I wouldn't allow it." (1, 131)

    Umm, okay nosy nellies, who asked your opinion?

    "You have blackened the name of my entire family, from my ancestors down to this cursed baby you carry in your belly." (9, 565)

    Uh-oh. A curse is not a good thing, especially coming from Mama E. Tita is being blamed for everything, as usual.

    Smoking a cigarette, Gertrudis, perfectly at her ease, was regaling them with fantastic stories of the battles she'd been in." (9, 594)

    Tell us more, tell us more. We, like society, love a good story, and we just know all of the people are delighted by the scandal Gertrudis causes.

    "The truth. The truth. Look, Tita, the simple truth is that the truth does not exist it all depends on a person's point of view." (10,620)

    Tell it like it is, Gertrudis. This chica says what nobody else will, and highlights the fact that the whole love triangle thing between Tita, Pedro, and Rosaura has gone on way too long.

    "Not until you behave like a good woman, or a decent one at least." (10, 675)

    What is a good woman? A decent one? Are the views that much different in the setting of the book from the present day?

    "No, you're not going to say anything to him in the first place because I won't allow it, and in the second because I'm not pregnant." (11, 715)

    Tita stands up to Pedro, and, if you'll excuse the sexism, wears the pants.

  • Race

    Though [Nacha] didn't know how to read or write, when it came to cooking she knew everything there was to know. (1, 4)

    Nacha, mother-figure and chef extraordinaire, is the one who teaches Tita everything. And what she knows is both delicious and powerful.

    Her features were plainly Indian she was making tea in an earthenware pan. (6. 376)

    Here Tita encounters John's grandmother, Morning Light. In part, she helps Tita get over the trauma of her abusive mother.

    From the first, they had established a communication that went far beyond words. (6. 379)

    Morning Light is magical; she's mystical; and she's apparently a ghost.

    […] [John's grandmother], a Kikapu Indian who John's grandfather had captured and brought back to live with him, far from her tribe. (6. 382)

    Uh, robbed much? We think it's pretty crazy that Morning Light was captured. Talk about a forceful courting.

    "She was a quiet woman, just like you. Sitting in front of her stove, her heavy braid wrapped around her head, she was always able to read my thoughts." (6. 407)

    Traits of an Indigenous Mexican woman: quiet, lots of hair, and connected to magic in some shape or form. Tita's got it all, minus the Indian part.

    She hadn't been allowed to marry him because he had Negro blood in his veins. (7. 480)

    Probably the only time we feel sorry for Mama Elena, it turns out she was also forbidden to get with her dream man. And all because of some dark skin…

    […] not like "the Kikapu" and her herbs. (6.382).

    Here we see an example of how John's family was both racist and offensive. Morning Light's medicine and culture were seen as something to scorn and laugh at.

    "I don't know where Gertrudis gets her sense of rhythm. Mama didn't like to dance and papa was very bad at it." (9, 597)

    Cue awkward laugh. Rosaura whispers this to Tita, who knows very well why Gertrudis can dance well and it ain't because she took lessons.

    A year later, Gertrudis gave birth to a mulatto baby. (9, 598)

    Oh, the gossip; oh, the strife. This is the moment in which Tita must share her mother's sexy past in order to save Gertrudis and Juan's marriage.

    It was fortunate [Tita] had not dared to burn the letters, since now her mother's "black past" served to establish proof of Gertrudis's innocence. (9, 59)

    Yeah, so, Gertrudis, remember that time you thought your dad was really your dad? Turns out he wasn't. Um…Surprise?