Supernatural Elements in Like Water for Chocolate and the House of the Spirits

September 28, 2017 Law

A supernatural event is an event which, according to the laws of nature, cannot happen. In the two works that I have studied “Like water for chocolate” by Laura esquivel and “The house of the spirits” by Isabel allende, magic realism has been used as a common literary device to give the book a fantasy-like twist, making it very interesting and engaging. Magic realism stretches the boundaries of realism in order to stretch or widen the definition of reality.

In Like Water for Chocolate, magic becomes ordinary, admitted, accepted and integrated into the rationality and materiality of literary realism. The first instance of magic realism in Like Water for Chocolate is Tita’s entry into the world, “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” and Laura further goes to describe that the salt from her tears was used up as salt in the kitchen and “lasted a long time. Magic realism is constantly used in order to express Tita’s emotions, which are revealed through food, her feelings of despair and hurt over her lost love which is transferred to the wedding guests by her tears that fell into the wedding cake prepared for Rosaura’s wedding which in reality is not possible. Another such incident is seen after Gertrudis eats the quail in rose petal sauce and goes for a shower, she feels that “her body was giving off so much heat that the wooden walls began to split and burst into flame. The dramatic imagery of the pink sweat, powerful aroma and evaporation of water exemplifies the novel’s magical realism. Although impossible to occur in real life, the details are written so descriptively that it projects a vivid picture in readers’ mind. Because the roses that Tita put into the quail were from Pedro and carried his passion for Tita in it along with the blood that had slipped into the quail. The sauce carried the desires of Tita’s intense love for Pedro and led to the liberation of Gertrudis as she escaped from the ranch making love on a horse.

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Esquivel uses her words expressively to further arouse the readers’ two senses—smell and taste. This, correspondingly, reinforces the readers’ image of the story as well as their interests in continuing the plot. Other examples of supernatural instances could be the arrival of the spirits of Mama Elena, Nacha, and Morning Light (John Brown’s dead grandmother). The significance of these characters was that they were all maternal figures.

Nacha was the ranch cook who was more to Tita than her biological mother, and Morning Light reminded Tita of Nacha after Nacha’s death, and was a motherly figure for John Brown. Mama Elena returns as a ghost when Tita was already very disturbed; even after her death Mama Elena has more power over Tita than in life, has over herself. Other example could include the incident when after a long period of muteness Tita cried and there was a “stream that was running down the stairs” when John Brown entered.

In the House of the Spirits, the approach is a little different, for instance the description of Rosa’s beauty “At birth Rosa was white and smooth, without a wrinkle, like a porcelain doll, with green hair and yellow eyes—the most beautiful creature to be born on earth. ”Clara Trueba’s ability to move the salt-cellar across the dinner table, accompanied by her predictions of deaths and natural disasters, reading cards, and playing the piano with the cover down and general clairvoyance. And we have her fantastic uncle Marcos whose failed serenade of his love throws him into a deep depression – but only for a melodramatic two to three days!

He then travels the world and upon his return constructs a flying machine; everyone turns out to see the spectacle of flight as Marcos elegantly takes to the sky and disappears. Allende’s world is populated with such wondrous characters, events and humor. On the flip side, deaths are gruesome; for example Nivea’s (Clara’s mother) death, foreseen in a dream by Clara, and the madcap search for her head. Only Clara the clairvoyant can track it down days later even though she is heavily pregnant. Ghosts abound in literature of Magical Realism, as in the old folk tales.

In Isabel Allende’s House of Spirits, the ghost of the Esteban’s sister, Ferula, came into the dining room, after having been thrown from the house six years before, kissed her beloved sister-in-law, Clara, and then disappeared. Clara declared that she knew she was dead that very instant. They found her, old and alone on her deathbed in a bare city apartment. At the end of the book, when her granddaughter Alba, was a political prisoner and was being tortured, and decided “end this torture once and for all”, Clara’s spirit returned to aid her.

Many of the characters possess eccentric characteristics. However, all of the eccentricities lie just on the border of what is believable. Furthermore, the characters in the novel are aware of the strange qualities of their actions and beliefs, yet they take them in stride. This in turn makes them more believable. All of the eccentric or magical elements of the story are described in simple sentences and vocabulary. The straightforward presentation adds to the believable quality of such outlandish attributes or events.

Whereas Laura Esquivel’s approach is slightly different, she integrates magic realism into simple, everyday routine of life, as if it is something normal however the readers tend to accept it more easily as most of her magic deals with food and in THOTS such supernatural events are circumstantial and fictional therefore it is not easy for the readers to accept a beauty like Rosa, adventures like Uncle Marcos, etc. In both the novels supernatural elements are present, without which the books would have not had the effect on readers that it has. .


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