Love Despite Dominance in Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel and The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico Garcia Lorca

Love Despite Dominance in Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel and The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico Garcia Lorca

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Literature often words complex phenomena, which otherwise possibly remain ignored. One example of such complex phenomena is the coexistence of two contradictory elements, dominance and love. Dominant personalities in Like Water for Chocolate and The House of Bernarda Alba, Mama Elena and Bernarda Alba respectively, do not explicitly display love towards their daughters, but it is revealed by their behaviour and uncharacteristic actions.
Some elements of characterization or narrative mode in both the works try to limit the reader’s perception of the dominant personalities to their static characteristics. In Like Water for Chocolate, we are told the story from a limited subjective third person point of view. Tita’s grandniece is a limited narrator, who knows absolutely everything about a single character of Tita and every piece of knowledge in that character's mind, but it is ‘limited’ to that character – that is, things unknown to the focal character (Tita) are not described. So, this point of view may be considered unreliable. The presence of Tita’s hatred towards Mama Elena almost throughout the book, and the portrayal of Mama Elena as a ‘haunting’ character as a ghost, also contribute to limited perspective of the work. We are presented with only one static feature of Mama Elena. In The House of Bernarda Alba, even though the use of dialogue broadens the range the perspectives, Bernarda’s dialogue compared to that of others is limited. The fact that there is no soliloquy with Bernarda can imply a limitation to the perspectives open to the reader. We are shown only the dominant side of Bernarda’s character. The hatred of Poncia, who is one of the few characters shown from different perspectives, towards Bernarda can also be considered as a limiting factor of the perspectives. Thus, the reader’s perception is narrowed down.
While Mama Elena and Bernarda Alba are seen as tyrants from a rather narrow perspective, they can otherwise be seen as traditionalist mothers. From this fresh perspective, it could be argued that Mama Elena is nothing more than an orthodox mother who assorted to cruel methods including corporal punishment to mould her children in her own best way. From Mama Elena’s perspective, she makes choices that are, as she “[thinks] best for [them]” (p. 167). This perspective is particularly relevant to the upbringing of Tita: “Magi never brought [Tita] what she asked for, but instead what Mama Elena thought best for her.” (p. 167) Mama Elena’s character as a traditionalist mother is further revealed from specific incidents: providing Tita something “better” than Three King’s Day Bread, forcing Tita to re-sew her stitches because she did not baste it (p.

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12), rejecting Pedro’s engagement with Tita for Tita has to “take care of [her] until the day [she dies],” (p. 10), “[providing] her children the food and education they deserved” (p. 7). Similar to Mama Elena, Bernarda Alba can be viewed as a conservative mother, but the character of Bernarda Alba as a fundamentalist mother is much clearer by the use of dialogue by the playwright. Even though Bernarda seems cruel as she hits Martirio with cane for hiding Pepe’s photo, her true intentions are revealed as a mother when she says “I must use a firm hand with them. Bernarda, remember: this is your duty” (p. 149). She even tries to “cover up for her daughter” (p. 150) Martirio when Poncia criticizes her daughter. She thinks that her “daughters respect [her] and have never gone against [her] will” (p.151). From this, it can be interpreted that she wants her daughters’ love in return for her love towards them. Therefore, it can be seen that the intentions of Mama Elena and Bernarda Alba are similar to that of a fundamentalist mother.
Mama Elena and Bernarda Alba are also protective. It could be argued that Mama Elena prevented her daughters from loving anyone until marriage because she wanted to protect her daughters from being hurt. Mama Elena herself lost her love, and she might be protecting her daughters from that kind of painful situation. In Bernarda’s case, it is much clearer as she says, “In this house, there is no question of ‘yes’ or ‘no. My vigilance takes care of that.” (p. 160) The word ‘vigilance’ strongly suggests that Bernarda is protective in nature. Though Mama Elena is portrayed as hard-hearted for disowning Gertrudis, it was not because she was really hard hearted, but because she was in a shock, and “was so sad it made her sick” (p. 58). Even though Bernerda is portrayed as selfish and hard-hearted after the death of Adela, her saying “Tears, when you are alone,” (p. 169) indicates that she is sad and will cry alone. Thus, Mama Elena and Bernarda Alba are protective in nature, and act a little harsh in a shock when her daughters do something unexpected even after strict upbringing.
In conclusion, Mama Elena and Bernarda Alba, the dominant figures in the two works by Laura Esquivel and Federico Garcia Lorca respectively, use dominance as a means to love their children, and therefore act as protective and fundamentalist mothers.
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