Part I: General Information
The Research Essay (Updated)
Instructor:

Please print this handout and keep it handy. It is the first of two files about the semester
research essay, which is required for course completion and counts 25% of your semester grade.
Please take the assignment seriously, as it cannot be rewritten. Let me know if you have any
questions – I’m glad to help!
DUE DATES:
1. Title of Story and Narrowed Topic – February 23 (Week 5)
2. ESSAY 2: Working Thesis Statement and Annotated Bibliography – March 8 (Week 7)
3. ESSAY 3: Research Essay – April 13 (Week 12)
An important purpose of English 1302 is to help you in conducting research (represented by
assignments – 4 essays and several reader responses and peer reviews). The various skills needed
for researching, assimilating material, and writing a formal research-based paper will be valuable
to you in future courses. Since the first paper, you’ve been using sources and learning how to
acknowledge them correctly. As we begin the research process, you’ll learn even more about
documenting a paper – using in-text citations (also called parenthetical citations), quoting,
paraphrasing, avoiding plagiarism, and creating a Works Cited page.
You’ll use MLA style (Modern Language Association) to document the research paper, though
learning one citation system well will make you more able to cite papers in other courses (such
as those requiring APA style). Please review the files and other links posted in Canvas; they
provide excellent help for the research process in general.
1. WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
For the research essay, you should
• Choose one short story (to be approved) from the Scribner Anthology of Contemporary
Short Fiction (referred to as SACSF). Actually, choose 2 – 3 and rank them in priority.
• Go to “Narrowed Topics for the Research Essay” in Canvas and choose one topic
from the recommended list to write your research essay.
• Submit your (1) choice of short stories and (2) narrowed topic in Reader Response 4. No
two students may work with the same short story and topic. If two students submit the
same, then I’ll draw straws. Please wait for approval before you begin the paper.
Students who begin the paper without formal approval will receive a grade of zero on the
assignment.
• Before you make a decision on a short story / narrowed topic, review files in Canvas
about writing about literature.
Ø “Checklists: The Elements of Literature”
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Ø “The Elements of Fiction: The Beginning of Analysis”
Ø Writing Essays about Literature is a handbook that will help you; the link to the
entire book is posted in Canvas.
Ø The goal here is to develop an “argument” that you can prove from the
ideas and evidence you discover. The assignments from now on will help lead to
this argument. Each one prepares for the next.
2. BEGINNING RESEARCH
a. Part of what you’ll certainly want to do with this assignment is investigate “non-formal”
sources. To do this, you must read the files in Canvas. You were not required to
purchase textbooks for the class – but you are expected to use the resources in Canvas.
b. Feel free to ask questions and take notes.
c. You should use the HCCS library system at
http://library.hccs.edu/articles/subject/multi_sub.php.
Ø HCCS subscribes to several on-line data base sources. For some of these
databases, you’ll need to use an on-campus (or in-library) computer to access full
resources; others you can access freely and on your own computer.
Ø Browse the HCC Library site. You’ll find it a useful overview of HCCS resources,
suggestions for research, and links to area libraries. I encourage you to use this site as
an entry into the research process. Note: if you’re also a student at some other college
and have access to its library system, you should consider using it. The crucial point
is to use a college/university library. Public (and high school libraries are arranged
differently (the Dewey Decimal system), not as college libraries are arranged (the
Library of Congress system), and part of what you need to do for this assignment is
learn more about research in the college setting.
d. Other than databases, you also may use professional, credible online articles and
books. If you have a question about their authority or appropriateness, please contact me.
3. ABOUT SOURCES
As I suggest above, a good research-based essay contains a range of sources. Different kinds
of information and different kinds of authors make for an objective, interesting project. Note
these requirements:
a. Do not rely on encyclopedias or dictionaries for your sources. By their very nature,
they provide too much general information for a college research project. You can use
them to get started, as preliminary reading, but an encyclopedia should not be a main
source for these papers — and will NOT count as one of your sources.
b. Please do use Wikipedia as a source (it’s an encyclopedia). This is not a reputable source
for a formal research project. I think of it as an interesting project – and you may want to
post information you discover to Wikipedia, but it will not be accepted as one of the five
sources for the research essay.
c. You need to use at least four articles from a printed magazine, newspaper, book, or
journal,
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available through
1. The library’s databases: https://monkessays.com/write-my-essay/hccs.cc.tx.us/system/library/library.html or
approved professional / scholarly online sites.
2. If you have access to other college libraries, you can substitute that/those for HCCS.
3. The following databases are some of the several to help you:
JSTOR
ProQuest
Academic Search Complete
Humanities Index
Essay and General Literature Index
PMLA (Publication of the Modern Language Association)
GaleNet
Academic Search Complete
NOTE: Because you access these “printed” materials electronically, they may
not seem “printed” to you – but they are. Journal, newspaper, and magazine
articles found in online databases are considered “print.”
4. Some recommended online journal, newspapers, and magazines:
The New York Times
The Guardian
The Wall Street Journal
The Houston Chronicle
The Washington Post
Chicago Tribune
LA Times (and other large city newspapers)
Time
Newsweek
The Atlantic
The New Yorker
d. Think about conducting some original research, such as an interview with someone
who is a scholar in the story you are researching. This can actually make the paper a
powerful product – and make the process interesting.
e. Overall, by the end of this project, you will need to find 5 sources.
4. A NOTE ABOUT PLAGIARISM
• As detailed in Part I of the course syllabus (Course Policies and Policies), there are
substantial penalties for using sources inappropriately. A research essay (or any
assignment) that contains quoted passages that are actually the work / words / ideas of
another person or source is a plagiarized paper, with substantial penalties. A plagiarized
paper will receive a grade of zero / F. The grade stands, and the paper cannot be rewritten –
no exceptions.
• When you use the work / words / ideas of a source in your paper, you must cite them
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(MLA documentation style provides a way to cite them), and when you use the words of
a source, you must quote them (“like this” for short quotations) and cite them, as well.
When you’re working on a research project, keep records and notes. Don’t let yourself
forget that one writer’s words are not your words – they should be treated with respect –
through proper quoting and citing. Follow guidelines in the handouts and refer to the
websites posted; they provide further explanation of academic honesty and plagiarism.
5. OVERVIEW: THE RESEARCH ESSAY AND EVALUATING SOURCES
• You’re going to find several sources for your paper. At the outset, I encourage you to begin
thinking of how you’ll use them, what you’ll do with them. You’re also probably going to
be using the Internet for research — A LOT. One comment about search engines to find
sources: I think these are great resources – or at least they can lead to them. Quality of
sources is a key issue. Just because something has been published and purchased does not
mean that it is good information or can even be used by you in your paper to great effect.
This is even more true with the Internet – because all of us can potentially publish almost
anything that way.
• With all the sources you run in to, ask yourself:
Ø How will I use the information?
Ø Is it accurate?
Ø How do I know if the information is appropriate?
• NOTE: In the research process, you should research the authors of the sources to
determine their credibility and prejudices. Try to find out if the associations or societies
that are notable in their fields have been involved in the publication. Don’t just assume that
if something is in print or is on the Internet that it’s true — Just because the National
XXXXXXX says that space aliens are the parents of Hollywood actors DOES NOT mean
that that’s true.
• As I’m talking about how to determine the credibility of sources (how to evaluate
them), you first need to find your sources. I realize that life is busy, but you need to
schedule some time to go to a library (and I say this even though you have access to the
Internet). Print resources are still a good source of information. Look for articles and
books that give overviews to your subject. Look for articles that give more latebreaking
news. At first, use your common sense but notice whether you find or don’t find
much. Often, talking to a professional librarian (who is often at a reference desk) can
help you decide.
• Keep notes about what kind of information you find. This may help you decide where
to go next or what to ask for help with. Finding credible, reliable information is hard
work. At first, when you’re just beginning a paper, you’re likely to be confused and
frustrated. I encourage you to allow yourself to be confused but try to work through that
confusion. You may discover that ideas you start with are not the ideas you end up with,
or that the evidence works in ways that surprise you.
6. RECOMMENDATIONS
• Please read this file more than once and then begin gathering information about
the short story (the topic) you’re interested in. After you submit your request, make sure
it’s approved. Then, look for ways to develop an argument.
• Six to eight pages and five sources is not much space, so you’ll have to focus closely on
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your topic to discuss adequately and in-depth for this length.
For now, I encourage you to push forward with the research project. Go to the
library. Search online. READ what you find. WRITE about it.
• Though you may do research online, I encourage you to go to a library and ask for
help from a librarian. Librarians are trained in helping users find precise information,
using a range of online and paper tools. This is their job, and they should be good at it.
Ask for their help.
7. THE STAGES OF WRITING A RESEARCH PROJECT
• First, you need to narrow the topic from the list. As you’re working, you will gradually
narrow the topic until you’re able to formulate a thesis and an outline. As you’re working,
you’ll gradually assemble a list of sources – what you might consider a “working”
bibliography. The working bibliography sounds worse than it is: it’s simply a list of
sources that you’ve found so far.
• A bibliography entry is a source: a book, article, letter, or other material that you’re
planning to use in the paper. Many of you will be using sources found on the Internet, and
you’re also encouraged to use PRINT sources. One reason both are important is that you
need a range of opinions.
• You’ve probably noticed the terms “primary” and “secondary” sources. The “primary”
source is the novel itself. For an argumentative paper, you’ll need analyses, and these are
“secondary” sources that may be in print, on paper, online as journal articles in databases.
Notice the kinds of information a bibliographic entry contains. This information is
designed to provide enough information so that readers can find the particular source.
• This information is called “bibliographic data.” For books, you would look at author,
title, publisher, city, and date (and translators, editors, and editions if relevant). For
articles, look at the author and title of the article, title of the magazine or journal,
volume, issue, date, and pages. For Internet sources, include some of the above, plus the
Internet URL address. See handouts in Canvas for guidelines about how to cite the
bibliographic data, such as “How to Cite the Annotated Bibliography” and “How to
Cite the Works Cited.”
• When you cite the bibliographic data of a source, do not be tempted to copy and paste
the format in the sites you use. Instead, you should use the rules for correct MLA format
found in “How to Prepare the Works Cited” in Canvas.
8. ABOUT TAKING NOTES
• Let me give you my main appeal for using notes – for taking them and investing the time
they take. I want to emphasize just a few points. There are two tendencies in writing
research projects: taking notes and NOT taking notes. Not taking notes is VERY popular
– and I do it myself. Usually, this method is accompanied by stacks of xeroxed articles or
printed files from the Internet. The larger the stack, the more and more confident and
comfortable the writer becomes – because he/she is measuring “progress” in terms of
pages and inches of documents. This method is a procrastinator’s dream.
• One key problem with merely making copies and marking on them – or using a
highlighter – is that the writer is not necessarily putting the information into his/her
head. Taking notes does this. It is difficult to take notes, because you have to think – and
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consider what a writer is saying and how you will use it. You have to evaluate the data, to
determine if you believe it, or if you believe it’s worth believing; is it reasonable? In the
old days, people were advised to take notes on index cards, with one key idea per card.
That way, a writer could use the evidence in any order desired — by just sorting the
cards.
• Today, most of us choose to take notes on the computer. There are even software
packages designed for this purpose. This is great, especially if you feel comfortable
enough to sort all the material in the file. Even the file itself can become the beginning of
the paper. (The effort of taking precise notes will make writing the paper much easier.) If
you are comfortable with database or spreadsheet software, you can create a file for
entering your notes – and then shift the information to your paper itself.
9. Whenever you jot down a note (on paper or computer), consider that each note has three
parts – each is important when you write the paper:
a. THE TOPIC OF THE NOTE – what the note is designed to show or prove . . . leading
to where the data will appear in your paper.
b. THE PAGE NUMBER AND SOURCE NAME – For in-text citations, you need the
author’s last name and page number. If you indicate this when you write the note, you’ll
be able to provide it when you write the paper.
c. THE NOTE ITSELF – This is either a quotation (the exact words of the source
indicated by quotation marks) or a paraphrase (a re-phrasing of the source’s idea but
using your own words). (See handouts in Canvas about paraphrasing and summarizing.)
If you do set up a computer file such as a spreadsheet for your notes or some other way to
keep notes, make sure you have the above three fields at least – the topic, the
page/source reference, and the note/information.
10. ABOUT QUOTATIONS, PARAPHRASES, BRACKETS, AND THE ELLIPSIS
Quotations must be exact, but there are ways to make changes. If you need to explain,
clarify, or correct the words of a source you’re quoting, you should place this information in
a pair of brackets. For example, if you add information, (turning “he” into a proper name
for clarity) you use brackets: [like this].
Example: The young woman in our class [Susan Jones] is one of three women who
finished the marathon, beating the record.
When you want to omit part of a quotation, you should use an ellipsis, which consists of
typing three periods with a space between each one. . . .
Note that one space must be typed between each period. And don’t forget about the end
punctuation – It is not part of the ellipsis but, of course, is needed to complete the sentence.
Example: “Earth is . . . our home” (Jackson 2).
Please do not paraphrase this semester. It is too great a risk. Paraphrases must contain
the author’s ideas, but there are two crucial changes: the paraphrase must not use the author’s
words or sentence structure. In other words, you need to use your own words and re-arrange
the order of the ideas. This is really difficult to do, and if you incorrectly paraphrase, you’ll
end up veering into a technical example of plagiarism: using the words of another
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inappropriately. Again, please do not paraphrase this semester.
11. DOCUMENTING AND USING SOURCES
• The basic idea of documenting your sources is to let readers see where you’ve found your
information. This is an important issue in a research project. Whenever you quote,
summarize, or paraphrase a source (using the author’s words or rewriting it to suit your
paragraph), you must include an in-text citation (also called a parenthetical reference).
We use MLA format (Modern Language Association) in our class.
• THERE ARE TWO PARTS TO A DOCUMENTATION SYSTEM: In-Text
Citations and Works Cited.
The in-text citation tells a reader where you found the information. It has two parts. A
sample in-text citation is (Jones 3). Jones refers to the author of the author, and “3” is the
page number. Notice, there is no “p” for page.
NOTE: You should type the in-text citation after every quotation. If, then, an entire
paragraph of a paper is from one source, you should type one in-text citation at the end of
the paragraph. If a series of paragraphs come from one source, then you should type the
citation at the end of each paragraph (But you should probably be aware that the flow of
your paper and its objectivity are in trouble.) Since an in-text citation is considered part of
the sentence it appears in, it must be followed by a period, such as in this sentence
(Rosenkranz 7).
However, for block quotations (more than 4 typed lines), you should type the in-text
citation after the period like this. (Jones 3)
• THESE FILES WILL HELP YOU:
Ø “How to Punctuate Long Quotes, Short Quotes, and In-Text Citations”
Ø “Basic Rules for MLA In-Text Citations”
12. The Works Cited is an alphabetical listing of every source you quoted and paraphrased
and summarized — that you actually use in writing your paper. The files posted explain
the format. The basic idea is to give the reader a way of finding the sources. Later, we’ll look
at one or more sample research papers. A key thing to notice in a sample research paper is
how the writer uses evidence:
Ø How signal phrases introduce examples,
Ø How colons plus verbs introduce block quotations (5 or more typed lines),
Ø How the evidence is explained.
One of the most basic techniques to use is
comment
evidence
comment
You should tell readers what is about to happen, give them the example that makes the point,
and then explain what it means.
Don’t just give a quotation without setting it up – you have to help a reader see how he/she is
supposed to read the example. Although it may be crystal clear to you, not every person will
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read the example the same way.
13. FINALLY
Many find writing a research project is a lot of work. You may be feeling this, too. I
encourage you to consider this: the research process is an interesting time; allow yourself to
explore, looking for something that is new to you, something you can learn. If you approach
this as a process (not as something that can be written overnight or even in a couple of
weeks), you’ll be more successful – and the process will turn, however strangely, enjoyable.
14. ABOUT GRADING RESEARCH-BASED ASSIGNMENTS
You’ll find a “Research Essay Grading Profile” in Canvas, which will be used for this
research-based essay. Look it over early – it will let you know up front the criteria – how
your paper will be graded.
15. LATE PAPER POLICY
Work that is submitted 1 – 3 calendar days late will be penalized 10 points. Assignments that
are 4 – 7 days late will lose 20 points. No work is accepted after 7 days.
Let me know if you have any questions – I’m glad to help!

SAMPLE STUDENT RESEARCH ESSAY
Assignment Topic:
In an organized and substantiated essay, discuss the three elements of literature that help shape the novel.

English 1302: CRN 42661
18 April 2018
Tita’s Quest for Independence in Like Water for Chocolate
Rarely does society ever exalt the ordinary. In Like Water for Chocolate, a novel written by Laura Esquivel in 1992, a young Mexican girl, Tita de la Garza, is caught in a struggle against the family tradition that requires her to forgo marriage in order to devote herself to taking care of her aging mother; Mama Elena cruelly enforces the tradition through control and manipulation of her daughter. Special attention is not given to those who live within the cultural traditions and guidelines but instead, the novel focuses on people who find the courage to challenge the status quo. Matters worsen when Tita’s lover, Pedro, decides to marry Tita’s younger sister Rosaura simply to be near Tita. Over the course of the story, Tita, who is responsible for cooking all of the meals for the family, endeavors to find her own inner courage, which eventually leads to a union with Pedro. To do so, author Laura Esquivel uses Tita and a combination of traditional symbols, such as food and cooking, to establish deeper themes, such as traditionalism and sexuality, which are woven throughout the course of the book. Literary elements of setting, symbolism, and conflict help shape the main theme of the novel, demonstrating how Tita eventually learns independence and finds the inner strength to stand on her own and to do what she wants.
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Initially, Mama Elena uses the kitchen setting to create a restrictive, controlling environment for Tita. At the start of the story, it is made clear that the kitchen is Tita’s natural place, as Tita already feels at home learning to cook with Nacha, their old, beloved family cook. However, the kitchen soon evolves into a means to keep her busy so that she cannot deviate from Mama Elena’s plans. One critic, Rosa Fernández-Levin, writing for Confluencia, explains, “Mama Elena locks Tita away with the sole intention of thwarting her budding nonconformity. What better punishment than condemning her to perform repetitive tasks in the ranch’s kitchen?” (109). Tita’s disobedient streak is detected early in the course of the story, and Mama Elena is determined to crush it before much more can happen. She recognizes that if Tita will not follow her instructions, she will easily lose power over her. As a result, Mama Elena tries to use Tita’s affection for cooking as a means of control. This is most clearly evident when Tita rebels at the possibility of Pedro marrying her younger sister Rosaura. Unable to allow such a flagrant display of insurrection in her own house, Mama Elena attempts to crush Tita’s mutiny by show of force. Esquivel writes, “‘I won’t stand for disobedience,’ Mama Elena told her, [ . . . ] ‘You’re in charge of all the preparations starting now, and don’t ever let me catch you with a single tear or even a long face, do you hear?'” (27). It can be seen that Mama Elena is most unforgiving of anyone contradicting her will. Her response is heartless and cruel. Ignoring the fact that Tita will be forced to watch her true love marry her sister, Mama Elena makes it worse by making Tita responsible for preparing the entire wedding banquet. At this point, the relationship between Mama Elena and Tita is quite clear. Tita must do what she is required to, or she will be punished. The kitchen that she is so fond of has become a means to control her spirit.
The kitchen, traditionally perceived as a feminine domain, serves as a proving ground for Tita to find her inner strengths and to break free from the restrictive family traditions. While Mama Elena had used the kitchen to keep Tita busy and confined, Tita instead starts to gain a sense of self-confidence and pride from working in the kitchen. Dr. Tony Spanos,
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a foreign literature professor at Weber State University, describes this phenomenon, “Esquivel reclaims the kitchen as a very serious domestic sphere which is the most sacred place in the house, and from which the protagonist controls her destiny through her recipes” (30). The kitchen plays a critical role in every home. It is not intentioned to be a place to confine someone but instead is a place of life and fellowship. While Mama Elena may have intentioned the kitchen to serve as means to control Tita, Esquivel shows instead how it expands Tita’s knowledge and fortitude. This is noticeable when the function of the kitchen changes to become a place for Tita to be in control of herself and to take refuge from Mama Elena. In her article in the journal World Literature Today, literary critic Maria Elena de Valdéz points out: “The kitchen now becomes transformed from a place of domination and confinement, limiting Tita’s vision of the world, to one that becomes highly functional and therapeutic” (33). Later in the book, the kitchen becomes a place where Tita goes to escape Pedro and to figure things out, such as when she and Gertrudis, her older sister who escaped the ranch after reacting mysteriously to one of Tita’s recipes, discuss her possible pregnancy. As a result, the setting changes from a place of confinement to a place where Tita can leverage her powers and change her destiny.
Conflict between Tita and Mama Elena is used as the main driving mechanism behind growing the characters and advancing the story. The entirety of the plot for Like Water for Chocolate is built on one single point of conflict, which is Mama Elena forbidding Tita to marry. This dispute is at the heart of the division that runs deep between the two. Dr. Spanos reminds the reader that “Tita’s mother, Mama Elena, limits, represses, and controls her youngest daughter’s life by forbidding her to marry and requiring her to take care of her every need” (32). Had Tita and Pedro been allowed to marry, there would be no story. The pair would be together, and Tita would not have rebelled against Mama Elena. However, because Tita cannot be satisfied with Mama Elena giving the right to marry Pedro to her sister Rosaura, she is launched on a course of disobedience that provides the foundation for the story. Each chapter of
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Like Water for Chocolate illustrates some form of Tita’s dissension recorded against Mama Elena until the conflict between the two comes to a head, and Tita is forced to leave her home to escape Mama Elena. Literary critic N[uala] Finnegan points out in Bulletin of Latin American Research that “Tita becomes increasingly brutalised by the sadistic behavior of her mother, and after a nervous breakdown, is taken by family friend, Dr. John Brown, to be treated in Texas” (313). Clearly, it can be understood that, despite the strength of Tita’s character, even she has limitations. The domineering nature of Mama Elena finally overwhelms her, and she is forced to find refuge away from home. This event, while traumatic, is a good example of the conflict between the characters leading to the progression of the story. Tita learns many new things during her time away from home with Dr. Brown, and he will later return to the ranch to ask for permission to marry her, much to the chagrin of Pedro. Conflict plays an essential role in advancing the story.
The conflict between Tita and Mama Elena represents the struggle of women against restrictive social traditions and stereotypes. Tita is tasked from the beginning with navigating not only her mother’s restrictions but also the social mores of her time. Fernández-Levin argues that “Mama Elena, the representative of society, exiled Tita into the ranch’s kitchen. The result is totally unexpected. Instead of enduring her imposed seclusion stoically, Tita challenges it by dispelling common stereotypes who portray Mexican women as passive and unimaginative creatures” (106). Throughout the story, Tita represents a woman trying to earn the freedom to marry who she loves, and Mama Elena symbolizes the restrictions that society places on women and whom they can marry. Tita cannot simply cast off the rules of society any more than she can dispose of Mama Elena, and as a result she is forced to find creative ways to endure and to overcome her persecution. This powerful exposure of social conflict reveals Esquivel’s writing skill. She creates a figure that does not and cannot conform to the requirements of society, who must find a way to satisfy her desires and to be with her true love. Professor Valdes
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of the University of Texas writes, “The women’s fiction of this woman’s world concentrated on one overwhelming fact of life: how to transcend the conditions of existence and express oneself in love and in creativity” (68). In her attack on Tita, Mama Elena cruelly forces her to watch Pedro marry her sister, and the couple continues to live on the ranch in close proximity to Tita. As a result, Tita must find a way to reckon with the emotions of being around Pedro without actually being able to be with him. She overcomes these difficulties by pouring her emotions into her cooking, and in the end she is united with Pedro. However, the struggles she endures to reach that goal are representative of the struggle against social restrictions constantly imposed on women.
Esquivel enriches the quality of her story by incorporating numerous symbols throughout the novel, one of which is the use of fire and heat to represent passion. Esquivel points out, “Tita knew through her own flesh how fire transforms the elements, how a lump of corn flour is changed into a tortilla, how a soul that hasn’t been warmed by the fire of love is lifeless, like a useless ball of corn flour” (67). In this example, Tita has just encountered Pedro, and she is overwhelmed emotionally by the intensity of the encounter. Naturally, she uses cooking, where the nature of an object is altered by the application of heat and pressure, to make sense of her emotions. This is common style used in Like Water for Chocolate. Metaphor and food are often used in conjunction to create a new kind of imagery for the reader. Liberally employed throughout the story, this mechanism culminates at the end when Pedro and Tita are finally free to be together. The consummation of love between the couple is no small event:
At that moment the fiery bodies of Pedro and Tita began to throw off glowing
sparks. They set on fire the bedspread, which ignited the whole ranch. The animals had fled just in time to save themselves from the inferno! The dark room
was transformed into an erupting volcano. It casts stone and ash in every direction. When the stones reached high enough, they exploded into multicolored
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lights. From miles away, people in neighboring towns watched the spectacle, thinking it was fireworks. . . . (Fernández-Levin 245)
The explosiveness of the scene depicted is the conclusion of the story. After the wedding, Tita’s last recipe causes the guests to depart the ranch in lustful frenzy, and she and Pedro are allowed to finally, freely consummate their love for each other. As the entire book has been leading up to this moment, Esquivel spares no expense. The passion is so powerful that the resulting explosions destroy the entire ranch. The wording employed is not itself symbolic; it is entirely literal. The ranch really does burn to the ground. The symbolism exists more subtly in the writing, which is intended to represent the intensity of the love and desire in Like Water for Chocolate.
Magical realism is also employed to serve as a symbolic interpretation of the more powerful elements of the story, such as sorrow, passion, and loss. Esquivel gives Tita the unique ability to change the course of the story through her cooking. Fernández-Levin again explains, “The kitchen becomes a mystical abode in which the protagonist is empowered and permitted to recreate reality in order to avoid social and spiritual annihilation” (106). This is because of the influential role that Tita as the main food-provider for the entire household. Her cooking has profound effects on her subjects, showing how Esquivel uses magical realism to illustrate this distinct ability. During Pedro and Rosaura’s wedding, Tita makes her suffering known to all when the guests eat the wedding cake. The narrator describes the attack: “But the weeping was just the first symptom of a strange intoxication-an acute attack of pain and frustration-that seized the guests and scattered them across the patio, [. . .] all of them wailing over lost love” (Esquivel 39). Partaking of the wedding cakes causes the guests to feel Tita’s pain, the intense pain of losing her lover. No one is spared, save for Tita herself. This utilization of magical realism serves to represent both the intensity of Tita’s pain and the influence of her
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position. Magical realism is one of the strongest supporting symbolic elements of Like Water for Chocolate.
Like Water for Chocolate comes together as a result of Laura Esquivel masterfully combining the use of setting, conflict, and symbolism to empower the protagonist, Tita de la Garza. The setting of the kitchen is initially employed first to restrict and then to grow Tita as a woman, while instilling in her a sense of confidence in her own abilities. Conflict is used to advance the story, as without it Tita would have no reason to challenge Mama Elena and to fight for her true love, Pedro. Last, symbolism becomes a way to instill deeper meaning into the story and a method for Esquivel to more fully realize the intensity of Tita’s love. Together, the three elements create a powerful story of many different meanings.
Works Cited
de Valdés, María Elena. “Verbal and Visual Representation of Women: Como agua para
chocolate/Like Water for Chocolate.” World Literature Today. Winter 1997. JSTOR.
3 March 2015 http://0-www.jstor.org.librus.hccs.edu/stable/40150861.
Esquivel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate. New York: Doubleday, 1992. Print.
Fernández-Levin, Rosa. “Ritual And ‘Sacred Space’ In Laura Esquivel’s Like Water For Chocolate.” Confluencia. 1996. JSTOR. 10 March 2015 http://0-www.jstor.org.librus.hccs.edu/stable/27922410.
Finnegan, N[uala]. “At Boiling Point: Like Water for Chocolate and the Boundaries of Mexican
Identity.” Bulletin of Latin American Research. 1999. JSTOR. 5 March 2015 http://0-www.jstor.org.librus.hccs.edu/stable/3339168.
Spanos, Tony. “The Paradoxical Metaphors of the Kitchen in Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for
Chocolate.” Letras Femeninas. 1995. JSTOR. 5 March 2015
http://0-www.jstor.org.librus.hccs.edu/stable/23021716.

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