The Roles Of Domineering Heads Of Households

In The House Of The Spirits And Like Water For Chocolate Essay, Research Paper

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 Blanca so that he can rid himself of his worthless daughter and thus make himself feel like a better father. Mama Elena disowns her daughter to try to get her out of her thoughts. She feels that she has somehow made a mistake in raising Gertrudis and by disowning her, she demonstrates that she is too proud to admit her mistake and that she would rather run from it.

In the Trueba family, Esteban’s violence and anger bring the rest of the family closer together, however, the under similar circumstances, the De la Garza family does not react in the same manner. The Trueba family gathers together when Esteban is angry and abusive. Together they make decisions on how to deal with him and they can face him better with the support of the rest of their family, including their mother. The family’s response to Esteban’s rage exhibits their bonds to each other and develops Clara to be a very strong character. She can not only stand up to her husband and his seething madness but also stand up for the rest of the family and inspire them to do the same. The De la Garza family does not come together under Mama Elena’s rule and grows apart. Gertrudis leaves and Tita and Rosaura compete for Pedro’s love. The family members are not close to each other and their despotic mother does not assist in their relationships as in The House of the Spirits. The only one who openly defies Mama Elena to her face is Tita, and she does not have any support as the Trueba family has in the aforementioned novel. Tita is thus illustrated to be the only strong member of the family for her ability to face her mother on her own.

Though he does not allow anyone to come too close to loving him through his life, Esteban Trueba eventually becomes very close to his granddaughter; Mama Elena never allows anyone to become close to her and even after her death continues to alienate her family. Alba and her grandfather become very close after the rebellion and he clings to her as all he has left. Esteban changes from his completely obstinate and temperamental character to being very needed and open. Esteban, who had previously shied away from opportunities to open his emotions, bears his soul to Transito Soto and his granddaughter, Alba. After pushing away the previous two generations of women in the family, Clara and Blanca, Esteban suddenly realizes he has no one left; even his political friends have abandoned him. Esteba changes to a needy man with an open soul from his former obstinacy. Mama Elena never shows in her life very much emotion toward anyone. She is not dynamic and even after her death continues to be cruel and overbearing. She haunts Tita after she dies until Tita confesses her hatred once and for all. Even then they are not rid of her; she does not leave until she has attacked Pedro and catches him on fire. Mama Elena’s cruelty never subsides and she is a completely static character.

The dominance and attitudes of the two despots in these novels assist in the character development of their own characters as well as that of the other characters. How the characters react to their parent s or spouse s attitude and anger reveals their character and their inner strength. Esteban assists in the development of his family to be very close and have members strong enough to remain in his house and either openly or discreetly disobey his orders. They also encourage each other and back each other in confrontations. Esteban finally changes to become caring and open because of the autocracy his family has lived under for so many years. The De La Garza family is not at all close when Mama Elena is alive. In fact, the sisters grow closer after their mother’s death. The girls also do not develop to be strong as they do not openly defy their mother. Gertrudis runs away and Tita cannot disobey her mother in front of her and always goes back to calling her mother Mami when she has annoyed her. Mama Elena never changes in her nature as does Esteban and she dies, and later disappears still mean and controlling as usual.

Works Cited

Allende, Isabel. The House of the Spirits. Trans. Magda Bogin. New York: Bantam Books, 1982.

Esquival, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate. Trans. Carol and Thomas Christensen. New York: DoubleDay Publishing, 1989.


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