…. Essay, Research Paper
The Road Less Traveled
Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem are familiar names that epitomize the feminist movement. Although these women exist in flesh and bone, literary figures are also able to capture feministic personalities. In the novels Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel and The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, self-actualization is achieved through the female character s development of independence, nonconformity, and courage. Given these attributes, a number of noteworthy women in both novels are able to overcome their antagonist.
The stories begin during the characters youthful days, venture off as their development as adolescents surface, and further adjust, once their teenage skin sheds and their adulthood begins. Throughout these years, Allende s female characters Clara, Blanca, and Alba allow their lives to take its course with its share of ups and downs. Esquivel uses similar means in the introduction and maturity of her exemplary characters Tita and Gertrudis. The similarity between these influential women is simple and precise – their independence. Although conceived as an elegant, discreet, and charming lady, Clara is anything but. Throughout her marriage with Esteban, she diverges herself from a crowd of shallow politicians and focuses on her own aspirations. After running everything under his own agenda, Esteban s ruling hand backfires when he realizes that Clara is not like an ignorant peasant from Tres Marias, but a truly talented and intelligent woman. It is not until the day of her death that he acknowledges her strength and importance, but when I lay down next to her on the bed, I saw that we were almost the same
size (Allende 293). Blanca and Alba demonstrate their independence equally yet unlike Clara. Opposite to their upbringing, Blanca and Alba understand love for what it really is, something felt within love is blind. While Esteban learns the ways of the wealthy, placing a price on everything he encounters, his daughter and granddaughter stray from artificiality and although through deceitful means, find true love. Like Water for Chocolate displays two
remarkable women that do not tolerate their mothers authoritarian ways. With food as her weapon, Tita s independence is demonstrated through means of cooking. instead of obeying her order, she started to tear apart all the sausages she could reach, screaming wildly (Esquivel 99). In performing this defying act, Titas insurgent manner is revealed. Tradition plays as much an enemy as does Tita s mother. In order to uphold the marriage custom, Mama Elena refuses to allow Tita to marry; yet she intended to protest her mother s ruling (Esquivel 11). Similarly, Gertrudis challenges Mama Elena through means of her naked disappearing act. Mama Elena burned Gertrudis birth certificate and all of her pictures Drastic actions were further put into play when Gertrudis begins working in a brothel, thus adding wood to the fire.
Nine years of silence provided Clara with a life wrapped up in her fantasies, accompanied by the spirits of the earth (Allende 82). Clara s eccentricities allow her to become a spiritualist, a fortuneteller, and an earthed angel. With a clear understanding of the after-life, most of her actions and hobbies are far from normal, including placing her mothers decapitated head in a hatbox, which she stores in the basement. Nivea s head remained unburied for years–first to avoid scandal, and later we simply forgot about it (Allende 294). To demonstrate her non-conforming character, the three-legged table, the pendulum, and the magic books sanction Clara to go astray from the conventional ways of life, in which other women would abide, and create a universe of her own invention, protected (Allende 82). Likewise, Blanca involves herself in a love affair with peasant from Tres Marias, Pedro Tercero
Garcia. In doing so, she goes against her father s will and creates a state of turbulence for the family and her lover. Alba acquires Clara s spiritual beliefs and practices. Although she is not gifted with Clara s clairvoyance, she still enjoys hearing stories about her resilient Uncle Marcos, the magician. Once Clara passes away, Alba was the family s break with the past, and link to the future (Allende jacket). Destined for doom, Like Water for Chocolate s, Tita, does not succumb to her mother s cruel and selfish traditional scheme. And I m going to break it several more times as long as this cursed tradition doesn t take me into account (Esquivel 213). Although she cannot marry the man whom she loves, Tita learns to defend her principles, even if it means sacrificing her happiness to conform to Mama Elena s wishes. Another resistant act occurs in the darkroom, when Tita finally gives into temptation and ignites a love with Pedro that has long been denied. Fortunately, Gertrudis is not born to suffer the same fate as her youngest sister. Her sexual and seditious nature leads her into the arms of the rebel, Juan. Streaking naked through the ranch, Gertrudis passionately surrenders to her desires. With the events that follow, she transforms herself by becoming a general in the revolutionary army, yet maintains her femininity. Ironically, Gertrudis herself was a revolutionary.
Soon Clara was afraid of nothing (Allende 74). Although mentioned early in the novel, Allende allows Clara to maintain this characteristic. Her courage guides her in becoming an independent and nonconforming woman. Whether it is communicating with ghosts, seeking the head of her dead mother, or facing up to the man whom everyone fears, Clara dignifies herself as an angelic, influential feminist. Blanca s bravery relates to her long-lasting affaire d amour. Realizing that she and Pedro cannot wed, she continues to meet with him in sporadic rendezvous , knowing that severe consequences lie ahead if she were revealed. It is only until later that she and Pedro move to Canada together. Alba too involves herself in a love bind, yet it is not that which allows for her maturity. Like Tita, Alba places aside what she has been
taught, and does what she feels is right. Alba challenges society and the Marxists when she aids the victims of the persecution, helping them to freedom. She willingly sacrifices her own life to save those of others. She was absorbed in the task of tracking down the disappeared, comforting the victims of torture , and searching for food for the priests soup kitchens (Allende 389).
Furthermore, Alba survives a life threatening experience when she is captured by the political police and placed in a prisoner camp under the close eye of Esteban Garcia, a cruel and disturbed man whom she knows since her childhood. Luckily, Alba is released in just enough time to save her from death. When finally on the verge of combustion, Tita rebuttals an argument spoken by Pedro when she says Ah, and let me suggest, next time you fall in love, don t be such a coward! (Esquivel 149). These revealing words demonstrate the assertiveness she embodies. Finally, her heart burst into a seething passion (Esquivel 219). Tita indirectly faces up to Mama Elena, once and for all, in a fervent and magical exchange of love between she and Pedro, ultimately causing their death. Gertrudis is a pioneer of her time. she got everyone s attention. She drove up in a model T Ford coupe, one of the first (Esquivel 234). After leaving the ranch, Gertrudis openly defines a woman s sexuality. Her controversial appeal provides her with a fulfilling lifestyle.
Throughout the course of the novels The House of the Spirits and Like Water for Chocolate, self-actualization is achieved through the female character s development of independence, nonconformity, and courage. Once the antagonist is distinguished, these shrewd women are able to overcome many predicaments, thus establishing their feminism. At the close of the novels, due to their courage, these feminists prove that they are capable living undomesticated lives regardless of how painful or demanding their journey is. Without compromising their standards, Clara, Blanca, Alba, Tita, and Gertrudis, are exemplary figures that finally find true happiness, while demonstrating how unconventionality can lead to a path of self-discovery.