The Narrative Technique in "Like Water for Chocolate"
Narrative technique includes the tricks and tools an author uses to tell a story and to enhance the theme or add depth to the story. Point of view is a central component of narrative technique but other aspects include tone, tense, story structure and symbolism. "Like Water for Chocolate" by Laura Esquivel uses unique narrative techniques, including a split point of view, unusual story structure and vivid symbolism to create a story with many layers of meaning.
Each chapter opens with a recipe and is followed by the narration. Home remedies are interspersed throughout the novel. The narrative structure helps put the focus on the food, which not only symbolizes the emotions the characters are feeling but also connects multiple aspects of the story. For example, food bonds the three generations of women who make it and highlights the similarities in their experiences. The food also creates a connection to the women's Mexican heritage, which links their experiences to the turbulent historical events happening around them.
Point of View
The point of view shifts throughout the book. In the story, Esperanza finds her aunt Tita de la Garza's cookbook and re-creates each of the recipes while adding family history. Her daughter then adds home remedies and other information to create a new book. The point of view shifts between the first person of Tita telling her story and the third person of the recipe instruction. The shifting point of view creates a layered narrative that bridges the experiences of all three women, linking their personal and cultural history.
The story takes place between the 1880s and the 1950s. However, the main story, Tita's story, takes place in the 1800s as rebels fight against a the government in Mexico. The setting mirrors what is happening in Tita's family: She has endured the strict rule of her family for years, but when her passions are ignited, she rebels against them. The setting also provides an understanding about the role that women played in the larger society and how limited their opportunities were, creating greater understanding of how radical Tita's actions were in pursuing her passion.
Symbolism is a powerful narrative technique used to create meaning in a story. Symbolism is created through magical realism in "Like Water for Chocolate." Magical realism shows fantastic or magical events happening in common settings. For example, Tita makes a quail with rose-petal sauce while thinking of her desire for Pedro, and Gertrudis eats it and runs out to be intimate with a soldier straight away. She goes on to work in a brothel. Used here, the technique shows how all-consuming Tita's feelings are and how potentially destructive they are. Instances of magical realism are used throughout the novel for similar effect, especially regarding the food Tita makes.
- InThinking: Language and Literature -- Narrative Technique
- A Glossary of Literary Terms; M.H. Abrams
- Salem Press: Master Plots: Like Water for Chocolate
- Like Water for Chocolate; Laura Esquivel
Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.