The House of Bernarda Alba Compared to Like Water for Chocolate



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Vivek McCague, Kelvin Fan, Anna Tran, Nina Hang

ETS 4U7


Ms. Price

October 6th, 2009


The House of Bernarda Alba Compared to Like Water for Chocolate

Women have long been portrayed as an oppressed society who struggle to survive in the world of men, seeking for identity and liberty. In both stories, The House of Bernarda Alba and Like Water for Chocolate, female characters are trapped in their fertility in the prison of traditional homes. These two stories share similarities and differences through their images, characters, and themes.


Images

  1. Imprisonment

  • The House of Bernarda Albain the play, the image of the house as a prison is highlighted through numerous attempts to break free from the house like when the stallion “kicks against the wall of the house” (209) and when Bernarda’s mother tries to run away but is seized and locked up again.

    • Other instances that highlight this image are the “five chains” Bernarda has for her daughters (190) and Angustias’ anticipation to “Fortunately be out of this hell” (177).

  • Like Water for Chocolate – in the movie, the image of the house as a prison is emphasized as Mama Elena condemns Tita to a life of solitude and imprisonment, forcing her to tend to her mother until she dies.



  1. The window

  • The House of Bernarda Alba – in the play, the windows serves as a bridge and a barrier from freedom as well as romantic and sexual fulfillment.

    • A barrier from joining or being a part in the world outside, as it only allows them to watch the crowd leaving the funeral and the men working in the fields

    • Acts as a bridge since it connects Pepe to Adela at night, allowing them to be together. Thus reinforcing the image of imprisonment.

  • Like Water for Chocolate – in the film, the windows represent a bridge and barrier from freedom as well

    • It prohibits Tita to connect with the outside world, and as a result, strengthens the image of imprisonment again.

      • It links the paranormal with the natural world, allowing Mama Elena to taunt Tita and make her feel guilty for breaking tradition and the rules of society after Tita loses her decency.




  1. Cane vs. whip

  • The House of Bernarda Alba – in the play, the cane is a symbol of Bernarda’s authority in the household. Order in the house is lost (i.e., Bernarda’s use of the gun and Adela’s suicide) when “Adela snatches away her mother’s cane and breaks it in two” (209).

    • Because canes usually are associated with someone weak, tension is created because it contrasts to Bernarda’s power.

  • Like Water for Chocolate – in the movie, instead of a cane, there is the image of a whip. This too represents power as it causes Mama Elena’s daughters to fear her and thus obey her orders.

    • Because whips usually create fear, tension is created because it is juxtaposed with women whom are normally seen as weak and harmless.

  • Since Bernarda uses a cane and Mama Elena uses a whip for a weapon, it suggests how Bernarda may be more weak and vulnerable than Mama Elena.




  1. Heat vs. Fire

  • The House of Bernarda Alba – the heat in the house is a symbol of the daughter’s sexual frustration or desires as Bernarda explains “not a breath of air will get in this house… We’ll act as if we’d sealed up our doors and windows” (164).

    • To further strengthen this image, Adela is frequently thirsty or claims she wants water to drink. This is illustrated when Adela comes down and sees the servant and Poncia while trying to meet with Pepe, and tells them she “want[s] a drink of water” (204).

  • Like Water for Chocolate – the fire in the movie expresses intense and uncontrollable emotions as well as foreshadows destruction in the end.

    • It is shown that their love is so powerful that even the people around them feel it as it is transmitted from the food Tita cooked with the roses given to her from Pepe.

    • Destruction being Tita’s and Pedro’s fate that they could never be together even after the people who forbid them to be together die.

Tension – Created by Symbols/Images

Sexual Tension present in both The House of Bernarda Alba and Like Water for Chocolate



  • The House of Bernarda Alba – Tension shown more through symbols, not as obvious as in Like Water for Chocolate

    • Tension revealed through the absence of male presence, and well as symbols of heat, thirst, and the trapped stallion

      • Characters yearning for love and freedom live in a home without men, which leads to their sexual frustration.

    • This frustration leads to further tension between female characters, as conflict arises

      • Leads to betrayal, exemplified when Adela disregards her sister’s engagement with Pepe, and sleeps with him

  • Like Water For Chocolate – Tension much more apparent, with its images: representations of various aspects in the story

    • Tension created through nudity, sexual characters, sensual representation of food

    • Because both males and females are present together in film, the sexual desires/tensions are more noticeable

      • This is shown when Pedro watches Tita kneeling on the floor cleaning with her garments hanging off

      • Because he is in love with Tita, but is married to her sister, this sight of Tita mocks and tempts him, which creates tension



Adela

Tita

Similarities




Falls in love with a man named Pepe El Romano, but is not allowed to see him. Pepe El Romano marries Adela’s older sister, Angustias, so he can be closer to Adela.

Tita falls in love with a man named Pedro, but she is not allowed to see him. Pedro marries Tita’s older sister, Rosaura, so he can be closer to Tita.

Is forced to care for her mother until she dies.

Is forced to care for her mother until she dies.

She is not allowed to be in a relationship, or do anything. She must follow the family tradition.



Is the only daughter in the family who rebels against her mother’s orders. She is beaten by a cane when she disobeys orders.

Rebels and stands up to her mother. She gets slapped in the face and hit with a whip when she disobeys her orders.

Youngest daughter in the family, yet the bravest to go against her mother.

Youngest daughter in the family, yet the bravest to go against her mother.

Thought she was pregnant when she was only late for her period.

Thought she was pregnant when she was only late for her period.

Differences




She is bolder and is not afraid of standing up against Bernarda.

She is more timid and is afraid of Mama Elena.

Bernarda

Mama Elena

Similarites




Very demanding and controller of the house. She orders and commands everyone and they do as she says.

Very strict and demanding. She controls and orders everyone in the house and they do as she says.

Uses a cane to represent her power. She also uses it to physically abuse her daughters.

Has a whip that she uses to physically hit her daughters with when they disobey.

Tries to keep her family reputation “pure”. When Adela dies, she makes sure that everyone knows that she died a virgin.

Tries to keep her family reputation pure. When Gertrudis runs away from the family, she burns all evidence of Gertrudis’ life.

Differences




Her past remains unknown.

Past story is revealed. Portrayed as more sympathetic because she is looking out for her daughter.

Poncia

Nacha

Similarities




Servant to the entire family.

Servant to the entire family. She cooks and cleans for the house.

Differences




Tries to keep Adela down and tries her hardest to get her in trouble. She snoops around the house, gathering secret information that she shouldn’t know.

Is like a mother to Tita. She helps her when Tita is down and tries her best to comfort her.

Talks back to Bernarda.

Respects and obeys what Mama Elena tells her to do.

Pepe El Romano

Pedro

Similarities




Is in love with Bernarda’s youngest daughter, Adela.

Is in love with Mama Elena’s youngest daughter, Tita.

Has the plan of being able to stay close to Adela, he marries her older sister, Angustias.

Has the plan of being able to stay close to Tita, he marries her older sister, Rosaura.

Differences




Angustias

Rosaura

Similarities




Marries Pepe, thinking that he is truly in love with her, when in fact he truly loves Adela. She is being used so he can be closer to Adela.

Marries Pedro, thinking that he is truly in love with her, when in fact he truly loves Tita. She is being used so he can be closer to Tita.

Differences




Was not married to Pepe El Romano

Was married to Pedro

Did not have kids.

Had two children.

She was Angustias to Adela and Pepe having an affair behind her back

She knew about Pedro and Tita’s secret relationship.


Themes

Oppression of Women

  • Lorca and the director of Like Water for Chocolate deal with the theme of oppression of women in the same fashion.

  • They show that women may not express their opinions exemplified when mother Elena tells Tita in Like Water for Chocolate, “Don't think!” and then in The House of Bernarda Alba, when Bernarda tells Angustias, “You shouldn't ask him. And when you're married, even less. Speak if he speaks, and look at him when he looks at you. That way you'll get along.” (201)

    • Like Water for Chocolate and House of Bernarda Alba also present the oppression of women in these two statements by the Mother characters, “Disobedient women who leave home end up wallowing in the filthy water of sin” by Mother Elena in Like Water for Chocolate, and “A daughter who's disobedient stops being a daughter and becomes an enemy” by Bernarda in House of Bernarda Alba. These quotes portray the expectations of women to be obedient and maintain the honour of their home.


Imprisonment

    • In the House of Bernarda Alba there is a stallion kicking against the side of the house's wall illustrated through the quote, “The stallion. He's locked in the stall and he kicks against the wall of the house” (197).

      • This statement reveals the theme of imprisonment, as the horse wishes to be free. However he may not leave his stable.

      • This can be interpreted as a metaphor for how Bernarda does not allow her children any liberty in their decisions of who they wish to marry, or what they want to do with their lives.

  • Mother Elena in Like Water for Chocolate also confines her children to their home. Her opinion of how this needs to always be the case is illustrated in her statement, “Disobedient women who leave home end up wallowing in the filthy water of sin” (Like Water for Chocolate).

    • This reveals the prejudiced, superstitious views of Mother Elena. The director shows later that this statement is incorrect shown when Gertrudis run away with a soldier, and returns a general, it does not seem she wallowed in the filthy water of sin.

    • Elena also shows that she confines Tita by not allowing her to marry as the youngest child must take care of her mother. As well, after Tita's mom dies she still imprisons her daughter by appearing as a ghost and telling her daughter to stay away from Pedro.


The House of Bernarda Alba and Like Water for Chocolate are similar in the fact that they both have images of confinement that also create tension, have characters who share the same values, and also have relating themes of the oppression of women and imprisonment. However, the two stories also differentiate, by how the tension, images, and themes are created and presented. While women are presented as the weaker of genders, they rebel against traditions and fight for individuality.

House of Bernarda Alba vs. Like Water for Chocolate seminar essay outline
Intro: Women have long been portrayed as an oppressed society who struggle to survive in the world of men, seeking for identity and liberty. In both stories, The House of Bernarda Alba and Like Water for Chocolate, female characters are trapped in their fertility in the prison of traditional homes. These two stories share similarities and differences through their images, characters, and themes.
1st body paragraph: Images

  • House

  • Windows

  • Heat

2nd body paragraph-Character comparisons



  • Bernarda vs. Mama Elena

  • Gertrudis vs. Rosaura

  • Poncia vs. Nacha

  • Adela vs. Tita

3rd body paragraph-themes



  • Oppression of women

  • Imprisonment

Conclusion: The house of Bernarda Alba and Like Water for Chocolate, are similar in the fact that they both have images of confinement that also create tension, have characters who share the same values, and also have relating themes of the oppression of women and imprisonment. However, the two stories also differentiate, by how the tension, images, and themes are created and presented. While women are presented as the weaker of genders, they rebel against traditions and fight for individuality.




Works Cited

Lorca, Federico. The House of Bernarda Alba. New York: New Directors Publishing, 1955.


" House Of Bernarda Alba." Solid Papers 21 Sep 2009 .
"Como agua para chocol­­­ate." IMDb 1 Oct 2009 .


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