The Use and Symbolism of Heat Imagery in Like Water for Chocolate

Imagery is one of the strongest devices in literature, as words and phrases are used to create mental images for the reader. However, imagery can be difficult to distinguish from symbolism if there is not enough detail provided. The difference between imagery and symbolism is that the latter uses a concrete image that represents an abstract concept while the former uses language that appeals to senses besides sight. Laura Esquivel applies this device well in her novel, Like Water for Chocolate, by using images of heat and fire. Images of heat are used to represent the main character, Tita’s passion for her lover as she is denied from being with him. Additionally, the intense sexual desire expressed by the characters is symbolized by heat and fire imagery. Moreover, the power of love is represented by fire imagery. Ultimately, love is symbolized by images of heat because they convey intense feelings of passion to the reader.

First, heat is used as a symbol for intense passion brought about through love denied. Since Tita and Pedro are not allowed to interact directly, she unknowingly uses her food as an outlet for her desire. Through her mother's cruelty and control over her life, Tita has been denied love. However, her cooking allows her to express her feelings: “It was as if a strange alchemical process had dissolved her entire being in the rose petal sauce, in the tender flesh of the quails, in the wine, in every one of the meal’s aromas. That was the way she entered Pedro’s body, hot, voluptuous, perfumed, totally sensuous”. Consequently, Gertrudis acts as a conduit for the heat to spread between Tita and Pedro. In chapter three, Tita infuses the rose petals Pedro gives her with blood and cooks them with quail, thus imparting to Gertrudis her feelings of desire. These feelings are physically manifest in the form of heat: “On her the food seemed to act as an aphrodisiac; she began to feel an intense heat pulsing through her limbs”. This passage demonstrates that Tita’s love and sexual desire are so powerful, they erupt in Gertrudis. Therefore, heat represents a repressed love and intense passion that needs release.

Second, heat and fire imagery are also used to represent the potency of sexual passion. During Tita’s shower in chapter eight, Pedro’s lust imposes an intense wave of heat upon her. This heat is a manifestation of Pedro’s sexual desire for Tita through magic realism, which is a recurring theme in the novel. In the following passage, Tita is seen in the shower:

Suddenly the water started to feel warmer and it kept getting warmer and warmer until it began to burn her skin. […] Alarmed, she opened her eyes, afraid that the bathroom was on fire again, and what did she see on the other side of the planks but Pedro, watching her intently. 

Since there is a possibility of Tita marrying John Brown, Pedro becomes angry and jealous. His lust for Tita is heightened by this jealousy and takes the form of heat. Another instance of heat imagery is when Pedro’s consummation of his love for Tita in the dark room produces heat and fire. The potency of the repressed sexual desire they feel for each other is expressed in light. This light is seen by Rosaura from her own room: “As she walked past the window, she saw a strange glow coming from the dark room. Plumes of phosphorescent colors were ascending to the sky like delicate Bengal lights”. The fire conveys the heat of Tita and Pedro’s sexual encounter. Thus, the intensity of their sexual passion is symbolized by fire. In the novel, heat and fire represent the sheer intensity of the passion Tita and Pedro have repressed.

Lastly, fire is used to represent the effects of passion and love on the soul. According to John Brown’s grandmother, Morning Light’s philosophy, the fire of love keeps the soul alive. When a loved one’s nearness is combined with their love language, the soul is awakened. John Brown explains this theory in the following passage: “Each person has to discover what will set off those explosions in order to live, since the combustion that occurs when one of them is ignited is what nourishes the soul”. Further, when a loved one’s nearness is combined with their love language, the soul is awakened. The experiences one shares with their loved ones is the key to feeling alive. The love a person feels during this union is symbolized by the fire of a candle. On the other hand, if one is consumed by love and passion, the condition is fatal. As a matter of fact, Pedro suffers this consequence in the final chapter. The aftermath of Tita and Pedro’s final act of passion is seen in the following passage:

It took her but a moment to realize that Pedro was dead. With Pedro died the possibility of ever again lighting her inner fire, with him went all the candles. […] She would have to find some way, even if it was an artificial one, of striking a fire that would light the way back to her origin and to Pedro.

As a result of overwhelming passion and love, Pedro passes away peacefully. This pushes Tita to eat matches as she cannot bear to live without Pedro’s love to light her. The heat of the memory of her lover sparks the matches and the resulting fire engulfs the couple and the ranch. Thus, this ending emphasizes the fire imagery central to the story. Therefore, fire symbolizes the effect of love on one’s well-being as well as sexual ecstasy.

In sum, heat and fire imagery are used in Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate to represent love as a way to express strong passion. In the beginning of the novel, Tita’s passion as a result of denied love is symbolized by images of heat. Furthermore, heat and fire are symbols for repressed sexual passion. At last, the novel concludes with fire as a representation of the effects of love on the spirit and the sexual ecstasy that ensues. Images such as fire can also be used to represent rebellion and destruction due to their powerful connotation.

Works Cited

  • Esquivel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate. 1989. Translated by Carol Christensen and Thomas Christensen, Anchor, 1995.
16 December 2021
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now