Laura Esquirel's, Like Water for Chocolate, is a modern day Romeo and Juliet filled with mouthwatering recipes. It has become a valued part of American literature. The novel became so popular that it was developed into a film, becoming a success in both America and Mexico. Alfonso Arau directs the film. After reading the novel and seeing the movie, I discovered several distinct differences between the two as well as some riveting similarities. The novel begins with the main character, Tita, being born on the kitchen table. "Tita had no need for the usual slap on the bottom, because she was already crying as she emerged; maybe that was because she knew that it would be her lot in life to be denied marriage Tita was literally washed into this world on a great tide of tears that spilled over the edge of the table and flooded across the kitchen floor" (Esquirel 6). Although this is included in the film with tremendous accuracy, the movie begins with a different scene. The movie opens with Tita's father going to a bar to celebrate the birth of his daughter. On the way a friend informs him of his wife's, Mama Elena, affair with a man having Negro blood in his veins. The terrible news brings on a heart attack killing him instantly. In the book, this information is not given until the middle chapters. As the novel continues, another character is introduced, Gertrudis. Gertrudis, the older sister of Tita, is the first to rebel against her mother's wishes. Wanting to escape the securities of home, Gertrudis is overwhelmed by her lustful passions. A soldier, not too far away, Juan, inhales the aroma of her desire and heads her way. "The aroma from Gertrudis' body guided himThe woman desperately needed a man to quench the red-hot fire that was raging inside herGertrudis stopped running when she saw him riding toward her. Naked as she was, with her loosened hair falling to her waist, luminous, glowing with energy, she might have been an angel and devil in one womanWithout slowing his gallop, so as not to waste a moment, he leaned over, put his arm around her waist, and lifted her onto the horse in front of him, face to face, and carried her awayThe movement of the horse combined with the movement of their bodies as they made love for the first time, at a gallop and with a great deal of difficulty " (Esquirel 55). This imagery is tremendous. Every sense that Esquirel touches in this passage is illuminated in the movie with perfection. It's as though Arau took a picture from Esquirel's mind as she wrote and cultivated it to film. Later in Esquirel's novel, Rosalio announces to Mama Elena that a group of soldiers are approaching the ranch. Mama Elena picks up her shotgun and hides it under her petticoat. She meets the revolutionaries, along with two other women, at the entrance of the home. Mama Elena warns the soldiers not to enter the house. The Captain of the bandits sees the grit and determination in Mama Elena's eyes and agrees not to enter. However, the regiment does manage to round up some feed before leaving. In contrast, the movie at this point agrees with the revolutionaries entering the ranch, but disagrees with the rest of the events, possibly to add some action. First, Mama Elena confronts the bandits but with only one other lady by her side. Secondly, after a verbal confrontation, the rebels proceed to rape the lady friend, beat Mama Elena unconscious, and throw her in the lake, killing her. According to the novel, Mama Elena doesn't die until later in the book, from a drug overdose. "At first, Tita and John had no explanation for this strange death, since clinically Mama Elena had no other malady than her paralysis. But going through her bureau, they found the bottle of syrup of ipecac and they deduced that Mama Elena must have taken it secretly. John informed Tita that it was a very strong emetic that could cause death" (Esquirel 135). Soon after Mama Elena's death Gertrudis returns to the ranch. In Esquirel's tale Gertrudis rides up on a horse at the head of the revolutionary soldiers. Tita finds out that Gertrudis is in charge of the troops. Unaware of her mother's death, Gertrudis has come back to show Mama Elena that she has triumphed in life. However, despite some parallels, the movie shows Gertrudis returning to the ranch in a car. Undoubtedly, giving the audience a greater sense of the prodigal sister's success. Believing her mother's death would release her from the shackles of tradition, Tita began reaching out to Pedro, her Romeo, whom Mama Elena had forbid her to see. Nevertheless, Esquirel allows Mama Elena to continue nagging Tita from beyond the grave. "See what you've done now? You and Pedro are shameless. If you don't want blood to flow in this house, go where you can't do any harm to anybody, before it's to late"(Esquirel 199). Tita responds by telling Mama Elena she hates her and to leave her alone. With these words Mama Elena disappears forever. Esquirel's description of the ghost is vague, "The imposing figure of her mother began to shrink until it became no more than a tiny light"(Esquirel 199). Unlike the novel, the movie does a great job of adding a certain mystique around the ghost. The ghostly clone of Mama Elena, created by the Arau, adds a thrilling touch by using the human element of fear. Toward the end of the novel, Tita and Pedro are finally united in the throws of passion. The descriptive nature that Esquirel uses leaves a perfect picture of the surroundings, and inhales the reader into believing himself to be a peeping tom. "The silk sheets and bedspread were white, like the floral rug that covered the floor and the 250 candles that lit up the now inappropriately named dark roomPedro placed Tita on the bed and slowly removed her clothing, piece by pieceThe striking of the brass headboard against the wall and the guttural sounds that escaped from both of them mixed with the sound of the thousand doves flying free above them" (Esquirel 243). Arau's interpretation incorporates all of Esquirel's eloquent artistry in perfect harmony. Arau's vision brings Like Water for Chocolate to the climax which Esquirel had intended, leaving the audience in awe. Other differences, not discussed above, include Tita being shown in the movie as an average looking woman. The impression that the novel leaves is a woman that is breathtaking to the senses, a goddess. Of course, this opinion is subject to personal taste. As someone once said, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Another striking difference between the movie and the book is that both are developed by different sexes. This obviously could effect the compare and contrast views of this paper. For example, being male, I found that the two images that left the greatest impression were of sexual nature, Gertrudis making love with the soldier, and Tita being intimate with Pedro. The different views of the sexes may also be the answer to some of the contrasts between the movie and novel. For instance, the death of Mama Elena. Esquirel's version fits the emotional death, suicide, geared toward the female audience, while Arau's shows a more sexual and violent death, extinguishing the male desire for action. In conclusion, I found the novel more entertaining than the movie. The reason the movie fell short in expectations is because Esquirel does a great job in allowing the reader to draw on their imaginations. However, Arau is able to capture this imagery occasionally throughout the movie. Furthermore, most of the changes added to the movie were grand, which added to the thrill and plot of the story. Overall, both are memorable and deserve their legacy.
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