They are both domineering. They are both oppressive. They are both despotic. Esteban Trueba, in Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits, and Mama Elena, in Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate, are two very similar authoritarian characters in their nature and function in much the same manner. Allende's patriarch and Esquivel's matriarch assist in the development of other characters through their interactions with these characters and the response each character has to living in that autocrat's household.
Allende and Esquivel first differ in their treatment of rebellion against the authoritarian heads of the families. In The House of the Spirits, Blanca rebels while still living in her father's household. She ignores her father's demands and does as she pleases behind his back. Blanca is thus developed in her reaction to the rule of her father; she acts against his will and stays around to suffer the consequences.
She is strong and stubborn, unwilling to allow a situation to worry her. Gertrudis, in Like Water for Chocolate, runs away from home rather than rebel in Mama Elena's house and face her wrath and to obtain sexual freedom. She runs from the adversity and does not ever get to face her mother for she dies before Gertrudis returns home.
Esteban Trueba and Mama Elena are also developed in in the reader's view to have similar character traits in much different manners. Each of the family leaders disowns their daughter for their rebellion and neither gives her a second chance. This first demonstrates the characters' stubbornness and unwillingness to deal with a problem. They both seem to want only to ignore their children and hope they just disappear. Also developed through the their autocracy is the pride Mama Elena and Esteban have when dealing with their families. Esteban disowns...