The Perfect Match: Love and Sexuality in Like Water for Chocolate
After lighting the fire, he had presented Tita with a box of matches, taking her hands in his — Like Water for Chocolate
In Like Water For Chocolate, Tita has two men vying for her attention. Doctor John Brown seeks to develop a relationship with a foundation in love and trust whereas Pedro is sexually attracted to her and has only lustful intentions, making Dr. Brown a more suitable love interest for Tita.
Tita De La Garza, the protagonist, runs the kitchen on her family’s ranch where she is responsible for taking care of her mother until the day she dies. Along with caring for her mother, Tita cooks and cares for her two sisters, Gertrudis and Rosaura, and Rosaura’s husband, Pedro, whom Tita loves but is forbidden to marry. Out of all the recipes that Tita learns and uses, the two most important recipes in the book are Dr. Brown’s recipe for matches and Tita’s recipe for quail and rose sauce made from Pedro’s roses. The recipe for matches is a symbolic comparison to a human soul whereas the rose sauce recipe is a symbolic comparison to human lust and sexuality.
When the meal of quail with rose sauce was eaten “it seemed [Pedro and Tita] had discovered a new system of communication, in which Tita was the transmitter, Pedro the receiver, and poor Gertrudis their medium, the conducting body through which the singular sexual message was passed. (179)” Tita’s emotions become part of her recipes and is important because the message communicated through the quail and rose sauce was of sexuality and was so strong that it caused Gertrudis to feel the effects and run away to a brothel where she ends up working for part of the novel. After Tita’s mother dies, the primary obstacle keeping Pedro and Tita apart is erased. Pedro throws himself on Tita and “caused her to lose her virginity and learn of true love” (137). Pedro’s first action is not to profess his love to Tita but to have sex with her. Even when Tita attempts to talk about her conflicting love life, Pedro offends her “with everything he said and did, not once considering her feelings. It was definitely true, Pedro had turned into a monster of selfishness and suspicion” (212). Due to his selfishness and pure lust, Pedro’s possession of Tita’s heart poses significant danger to her because a healthy relationship is not able to be sustained on sexuality alone but must have a base of commitment and uplifting support through emotional stability from both individuals in the relationship.
After saving her from temporary insanity brought on by her oppressive family, Dr. Brown speaks to Tita while making matches. Tita refuses to speak since being brought to live with Dr. Brown. While speaking to Tita he persuades her to write on the wall with phosphorus. Dr. Brown’s support is shown when he “entered the laboratory, he was pleased to see the writing on the wall, in firm phosphorescent letters: “Because I don’t want to.” With those words Tita had taken her first step toward freedom” (118). Rather than liberating her from the ranch, the doctor gives Tita the ability to liberate herself and find who she is as a woman and as an individual. In the pivotal scene where Tita writes on the wall, Dr. Brown’s true character and true intentions are shown. Before she is convinced to write on the wall, she listens to Dr. Brown’s recipe for matches and his theory that everyone has a box of matches within themselves. Dr. Brown explains that “Each of us was born with a box of matches inside us but we can’t strike them all by ourselves; just as in the experiment, we need oxygen and a candle to help” (115). Dr. Brown describes an aspect of human nature, joy, as the fiery warmth from matches. He also informs Tita that at times we cannot always rely on ourselves alone for happiness. Dr. Brown’s interest in making her happy goes beyond Pedro’s desire for sexual gratification or possession. After comparing human emotion and joy to matches, Dr. Brown takes Tita’s hands and adds, “There are many ways to dry out a box of damp matches, but you can be sure, there is a cure” (115). By telling her that she still has a chance to dry out her damp matches, Dr. Brown is instilling hope in Tita that she will be able to overcome her past trauma and move forward in life.
The next month, Tita is forced to return to the ranch so that she can help care for her mother after she is attacked by bandits. Upon returning to the ranch, Tita “felt the urge to run far, far away, to shield the tiny flame John had coaxed up inside her from her mother’s chilling presence” (131). Tita’s desire to protect the flame that Dr. Brown has helped her light shows that she values the personal progress he has helped her make. Dr. Brown visits the ranch to see Tita and to care for the family members and Pedro notices the newly formed connection between the doctor and Tita. Pedro watches them and decides that “Tita belonged to him, and he wasn’t going to let anyone take her away” (139). Pedro makes Tita out to be a possession or item that he has somehow won and will not allow others to have. When comparing Dr. Brown and Pedro’s views on Tita, it becomes clear that Dr. Brown is the only one who truly cares for Tita as an individual because he views her as a person who needs to break away from her family’s oppression while Pedro views her as an inanimate object, only useful to temporarily satiate his undying lust. Pedro “wanted to study, examine, investigate every last inch of skin on her lovely, monumental body” (197). The way Pedro looks at Tita and thinks of her proves that the forbidden relationship between them is not one of love but of sexual lust.
Dr. Brown’s support and investment in Tita never wavers even when she ultimately chooses Pedro over him. Dr. Brown is still willing to marry Tita despite the fact that she loses her virginity to Pedro during her engagement with the doctor. He is in support of Tita no matter whom she chooses to be with. Dr. Brown’s unwavering support proves himself as the better option for Tita because all he desires is her happiness, even if it costs him his own. When Pedro is told he cannot marry Tita, he is easily convinced to marry her sister rather than waiting for her or running away with her. Pedro expresses his desire for Tita with lust, not love. He acts upon his desire by watching Tita shower and staring at her chest when he sees her cooking. Pedro goes as far as to force himself upon Tita when they are alone and only offers himself to her when Tita believes she is pregnant with his child. Should Pedro truly love Tita and want the best for her, he would support her in her decision between himself and Dr. Brown. Instead, Pedro becomes angry and aggressive as he witnesses Tita and Dr. Brown’s newly formed connection and later their engagement.
Tita follows her heart and irrationally chooses Pedro over Dr. Brown. Dr. Brown is clearly the rational choice because he is always there to support her and bring out the best in her. Dr. Brown saves her from the life her family laid out for her and brings her out of insanity, yet Tita still chooses Pedro, the man who does not fight to be with her and only sexualizes her. When Pedro dies from overwhelming excitement, described earlier as all his matches being struck at once; it is while he is engaging in unrestricted sex. Up until Pedro’s dying moment he continues to view and treat Tita as a sexual object. Love, like a match, cannot survive without the fuel from the love and desire in ones soul. Sexuality and desire, while quick and passionate, burns out quickly whereas uplifting love and acceptance provides a slow, steady burn of happiness that can last a lifetime.
Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies. New York: Doubleday, 1992. Print.
Pictures, Miramax. Like Water For Chocolate. Burbank, CA: MIramax Home Entertainment, 2000. Film.