Essay on The Use of Magical Realism in Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate

Essay on The Use of Magical Realism in Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate

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Latin American literature is perhaps best known for its use of magical realism, a literary mode where the fantastical is seamlessly blended with the ordinary, creating a sort of enhanced reality. Though magical realism is practiced by authors from other cultures, the works of authors Salman Rushdie and Toni Morrison, for example, are notable examples of non-Latin works in which magical realism has been used to both great effect and great celebration, it is in the works of Latin American authors where the style has flourished and made its mark on the literary world. Yet even in Latin American works we can find many different kinds of magical realism, all used to achieve a different end. In the works of the Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas, for example, magical realism is often used to add poetic flourishes to biographical details of his own life; in Guatemalan author Miguel Angel Asturias political novel El Senor Presidente magical realism is used sparingly, just enough to enhance the horrors of life under a dictatorship, exaggerating it slightly while reminding us that the world he presents is not that far removed from the actual political climate during which he wrote his novel. As magical realism has been utilized prominently for almost a century and can be found in mediums as varied as novels, plays, paintings, and films, there is little doubt that, over the years, it has been used countless ways. Laura Esquivel's 1989 novel Like Water for Chocolate and Jorge Luis Borges' short stories found in the collection Labyrinths are two works that, on their surface, can be grouped under the heading of magical realism. Yet seperated by both time and medium they use magical realism in completely different ways and, upon futhe...


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..., however, is the food, and Tita's attachment to it. While in some cultures the ritualistic preparation of food definitely holds some importance, the importance it is given in Esquivel's novel is unheard of. As Esquivel seperates her novel into monthly
Fitzgerald 4
installments we are treated twelve times to a new a recipe and find that the preperation of this recipe will not only have a direct influence on the character's themselves but will dictate the direction the story takes. Taken on its own this almost god-like presence of food and the power it holds over Esquivel's characters would seem unnatural, out of place and, frankly, far-fetched. Yet in a world populated by pre-natal sobbers, miraculous lactations, and ever-present ghosts, the stranglehold of food, the true essence of what makes Esquivel's novel her own, seems like just another wonder to behold.

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