Comparing the Aberrant Relationships Between Mother and Daughters and the Imposed Traditional Gender Roles in Paradise of the Blind and Like Water for Chocolate
In Paradise of the Blind and Like Water for Chocolate, the protagonists Tita and Hang, were both teenage girls raised by women other than their own mothers. The aberrant relationships between mother and daughter described in both novels reflect the struggle of the new generation against the old. By detaching from their own mothers, whether it was by choice or by force, the protagonists are also breaking away from the traditional gender role imposed on them and regaining their free will to pursue their dreams.
The alienation deepened after Mama Elena arranged a marriage for Tita’s true love, Pedro to marry her sister Rosaura. Tita clearly expressed her hatred toward her own mother when the bandits raided their ranch one day, and Tita “wondered why they hadn’t done anything to hurt her mother.” (Esquivel 92).
Like Water for chocolate is set during the Mexican Revolution, a chaotic period during which people organized themselves to overthrow a suppressive dictatorship. The dictatorial government parallels with Mama Elena’s despotic tendencies to suppress Tita’s opinions and desires. Similarly, Tita’s struggle and rebellion against Mama’s Elena’s repression corresponds with the fight between the new and old generations during the Mexican Revolution.
Hang, the young Vietnamese girl in Paradise of the Blind was raised by Que, her own mother. Despite Que’s important role in Hang, Aunt Tam was the real provider for Hang as she constantly showered Hang with expensive foods, jewelries and money, and urged Hang to pursue her college education. When Hang was in college, Aunt Tam continued to “lavish advice and encouragement on [Hang], letter after letter” (Huong 101). It was also Aunt Tam who threw a party for Hang to celebrate her college admission. To Hang, Aunt Tam “was [her] blood, [her] source, [her] mooring in this world. No one was closer to [her].” (Huong 143). In contrast, Hang and her mother grew more distant as Aunt Tam and Hang got closer, “since Aunt Tam had come into [their] life, Mother had stopped doting on [Hang] and calling [her] her “dear child.”(Huong 102). The widening gap between Hang and her own mother was symbolized by the subtle metaphor of the leaking roof. Que had promised to fix the roof many times by saying that “after Tet, [they]’ll have a new roof. No more leaks, no more heat. And all without Aunt Tam’s earrings” (Huong 103). Despite these promises, Que never managed to repair the roof in her own house. Instead, she turned her attention on her someone else’s children. In the novel, Hang complained, “[mother] had a mission now, a new source of happiness: to serve the needs of [her] little cousins.” (Huong 115). In the meantime, “the old roof on [their] hovel still rotted in the same patchy state” (Huong 176) and “the rain drummed down relentlessly on the sheet metal, tiny rust holes started to appear” (Huong 176). The leaking roof represents the chasm between Hang and Que that was never mended.
In both novels, we see examples of the young generation traditional gender roles perpetuated by the older generation. In Like Water for Chocolate, Tita rarely left the kitchen and did all the cooking for the family. She was also prohibited by family tradition from marrying so that she would take care of her mother. There was nothing Tita could do, she “could never have even the slightest voice in the unknown forces that fated Tita to bow before her...