Mama Elena Character Analysis

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade May 2001

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LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE "“Character Commentary The character of Mama Elena presented in the novel Like Water for Chocolate, was not developed to its fullest potential. Mama Elena, while a central character, is surprisingly shallow. Because of the one-dimensional quality of the character Esquivel has created, Mama Elena is at times little more than a foil to Tita, playing the evil stepmother to Tita's Cinderella. Mama Elena is portrayed as an authoritarian, cold, harsh woman throughout the text. There is never any show of compassion on her part, and her ruthless treatment of Tita is difficult to understand and hard to accept at times. There is no motherly compassion demonstrated throughout the text whatsoever. She scolds Tita for embroidery mistakes, and seemingly takes equisite pleasure in ruining the stitches and forcing Tita to resew them. She is determined to break Tita's spirit and enforce the tradition of spinsterhood for the youngest daughter of the family.

Mama Elena demands complete submission. This coldness and utter lack of humanity and empathy is illustrated when Mama Elena disowns first Gertrudis and then Tita. Towards Rosaura she is impartial, and even then she does not show signs of affection. Her fierce, barbaric nature is enough to intimidate a commanding officer of a revolutionary army and stave off their raids. She suspects Tita, her loving, doting daughter of trying to poison her. This shows Mama Elena's coldness and lack of affection for Tita. She is bitter, suspicious, incapable of loving and of being loved. Her suspicion shows she has given Tita reason for hatred and shows that she too realizes this. In the author's attempt to portray Mama Elena as the antagonist in her tale, she has created a one-dimensional character that is so inhuman as to become caricatured at times. When Esquivel does venture to develop Mama Elena's past and reveal her capacity for love and reasons for her bitterness, it is too late. Background of this nature usually creates an interesting underlying story that adds richness and depth to a plot. However, Esquivel's attempt at flushing Mama Elena's character out through the discovery of her love letters is feeble and fails. She has already created a nefarius character incapable of love, and the paltry background information is forced and ineffective. If Esquivel had further developed Mama Elena's character by elaborating on her love affair and youth, perhaps even devoted an entire chapter to her character, Mama Elena would be a much more interesting and engaging character.