Like Wonderland for Chocolate
Surrealist authors often use illogical ideas to develop deeper levels of meaning in their work. In Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquirel and Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll the protagonist takes the story in very unexpected places. The characters in both books create a surreally magical world as a coping mechanism for their sadness over the lack of control of their own lives.
In the book Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland Alice is frustrated because she feels out of control of her own life. She is either too small or too large for the adventures in the first chapter. After falling down the rabbit hole she is too large to fit through a door and she wonders if there is “a book of rules for shutting people up like telescopes “(13). Her exaggerated size is magical realism showcasing her true feelings of insignificance. Once Alice drinks the potion she exclaims that she is like the “largest telescope that ever was!” (16). The ruler of Wonderland is the Queen of Hearts and Alice feels powerless against the Queen. The Queen rules and dominates through fear of execution. Alice eventually figures out that the Queen never actually kills anyone that she sentences to death. All of the Queen’s power is in her ability to create fear. The Queen had no sooner met Alice when she began screaming “Off with her head!” (72). The King of Hearts rules Wonderland as well, but he is not as bloodthirsty as his wife. He lets people go that the Queen has sentenced to death. When the Queen pronounces poor Alice's death sentence, for at least the 10th time, he timidly says, “consider my dear she is only a child!” (72). At the end of the book the King tries to save Alice from death by saying “all persons more than a mile high to leave the court” (104). Alice regains control of her life and slowly discovers that Wonderland is a dream that she always had control of, if she could just wake up. When Alice finally starts to take control of her life she realizes that the Queen and her minions are “nothing but a pack of cards!” (108).
There are many similarities between Like Water for Chocolate and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In both books the characters feel like they are trapped in a world they do not want to be in and dream of a magical reality where they can do whatever they want. In the book Like Water for Chocolate Gertrudis does not know how to handle her unrealized passion for the world outside her small farm. She realizes “Her body was giving so much heat that the wooden wall began to split and burst into flames”(54). Gertrudis feels she has no control of her life. She believes she needs a man “to quench the red-hot fire that was raging inside her” (55). Gertrudis body was so hot she seems to lose her mind and goes “racing through the field “(55). Gertrudis is sad and frustrated with her life. In her fantasies a man saves her from her existence by making love to her on the back of a horse. Alice is frustrated by her life in a similar fashion so she jumps down a rabbit hole in an effort to get away from the boredom of sitting with her sister and “having nothing to do” (9). Later in Alice’s adventure she begins to control her own destiny by deciding how tall she will be by nibbling “on a mushroom growing sometimes taller, and sometimes shorter” (48). Both women experience something magical and seemingly impossible in an effort to take control of their lives.
Alice and the women in Like Water for Chocolate make up interesting magical worlds for themselves as a coping mechanism to escape their pre-determined lives. Tita takes a great deal longer to find her true happiness; in fact she literally has to die to be happy. Alice finds her happiness lies in her strength of will. Titas mother has decided how her life will unfold for her leaving her with literally no choices at all. Alice on the other hand is still a child and she feels like she does not really control her life because of her age and size. In Like Water for Chocolate Tita’s feelings control the world around her in a surrealistic way. Tita shivers from the coldness she feels in her heart, an “icy feeling of grief” (19). She literally is freezing because she cannot be with Pedro. As Tita starts to take control of her life she discovers that her mother has the “frigid breath” that John had warned her about and each time she had “managed to light a match” it was her mother that had “blown it out” (116). John had helped her gain control of her life that “creates a brightness that shines far beyond our normal vision” (244). At the end of the book Alice looks forward to telling “other little children” her incredible adventures and “the dream of Wonderland”(110). Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is all a dream in Alice’s mind. Alice simply needs to take control of her surroundings by waking up to leave the dream. Alice creates a world that is more interesting than her own a world. All the horrible things that happen to her in this world mimic how she feels about herself. She is too small, she is too large, she has no voice, and she never does anything right. The parts of her dream that are wonderful are the parts of her life she can control, namely waking up. Tita on the other hand is a true glutton for punishment. She never really feels like she deserves a better life, and so she never gets one. When Tita finally finds her true voice and figures out what she wants for herself, her young life has literally passed by her.
Both books have characters that make up wonderful adventures to have in their minds because the reality of their existence is just too dull to bear. In both books many of the characters are frustrated with their lack of control over their own lives so they make the world they live in surreally “magical” as a coping mechanism for their sorrow.
Carroll, Lewis. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland ; And, Through the Looking-glass, and What Alice Found There. London: Penguin, 1998. Print.
Esquivel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies. New York: Anchor, 1995. Print.