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In both fiction and non-fiction written texts, it is very common for authors to use a character's environment to better characterize them. In the novels Like Water for Chocolate and Paradise of the Blind, both authors use the setting of the main characters' living environment to symbolize the protagonist's feelings and mood, as well as the general atmosphere of the scene. The usage of this technique is successive due to our capability to relate to the settings that have been described. In Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel uses the kitchen as a motif to reveal more about Tita, the female protagonist, where as Duong Thu Huong, the author of Paradise of the Blind uses the roof to have the same effect mentioned above. Thus, one can see a revelation of the characters through these recurring motifs, as this technique allows characterization to be enhanced.
Early on in Like Water for Chocolate, Esquivel portrayed the importance of the kitchen that affected Tita's challenging life. The kitchen exposed how Tita suffered from her mother's strict demands and orders, as she had to work alone in the kitchen. This is evident through this quote, "Everything on the kitchen side of the door, on through the door leading to the patio and the kitchen... was Tita's realm." (Esquivel 7). Moreover, the kitchen has been described as Tita's shelter from Mama Elena's harsh comments and protecting Tita from the awkward moments that she has spent with Pedro. It is shown that Tita was having an uneasy moment when Pedro offers his help to Tita. "Pedro happened to be walking by at that moment and he offered his help. Tita rushed off to the kitchen without a word. His presence made her extremely uncomfortable" (Esquivel 18). In this quote, the author chooses the diction of ''rushed'' as this depicts the kitchen as Tita's niche, where she is most comfortable.
Further in the novel, Tita uses the kitchen as a room that consists of her memories. After the deaths of Nacha and Mama Elena, the memories of these characters confront Tita in the kitchen whenever Tita faces difficulties or challenges in her life. Nacha's role in Tita's mind was to teach Tita how to cook and provide her an inspiration while she is cooking. "Eyes closed, she saw herself beside Nacha on the kitchen floor making corn tortillas." (Esquivel 110) Through this quote, one can see the irony in Tita's dependence on Nacha for confidence, as Nacha is not her maternal mother. In contrast, the memories that Tita remembers of Mama Elena are less helpful compared to Nacha's memories where it gives Tita an excuse to detest her own mother. "She turned around and was stunned to find herself face to face with Mama Elena, who was giving her a fierce look" (Esquivel 173) Tita faced up to Mama Elena while Tita was preparing the King's Day Bread in the kitchen. From this quote, once again, one can see the irony in the fact that even though her mother is deceased, she can still have such influence. This reveals Tita's fear in her own maternal mother. Hence, the author uses the kitchen as place to store Tita's memories throughout her life.
Tita's emotions in the kitchen also reflect the unyielding struggle between her and her mother. The kitchen provides Tita the motivation to resist Mama Elena's tough rules. "She couldn't resist the temptation to violate the oh-so-rigid rules her mother imposed in the kitchenâ€¦ and in life" (Esquivel 198). Again, the diction used in this quote seems to reveal that Tita does not care for her mother's rules anymore. This is seen through the words ''oh-so-rigid'', as it creates a very sarcastic tone, which allows readers to realize the unimportance of these rules in Tita's life by the end of the novel.
The kitchen has been described as a metaphor for Tita's emotions and recollections in "Like Water for Chocolate". This technique is also reflected in "Paradise of the Blind" written by Duong Thu Huong. The roof in "Paradise of the Blind" is used as a metaphor continuously in the book. Just as Tita experiences her memories in the kitchen, the roof too brings back memories to Hang, the female protagonist. "The old roof on our hovel still rotted in the same patchy state." (Huong 176) . In the quote stated below, it is shown that Hang's mom, Que, is not satisfied with herself and feels incompetent since she couldn't provide an affluent lifestyle for her child: "You don't know what it's like for me, that I can't even provide a decent roof for us."
The tone suggested through this quote allows readers to realize Que's self revelation of being incompetent. In addition, it provides Que with motivation to repair the roof, as she sees admiration in others' lifestyle. "She had already used all the profits to buy metal rods and several thousand bricks. After Tet, she planned to raise the houseâ€¦ and build a roof over the terrace." (Huong 103) Even though she never achieves this goal, it allows one to learn more about Que's determination and love she has for Hang. Moving on, in the book, it is mentioned that Hang saved a lot of money from Aunt Tam, and her main objective was to repair the roof. "So the money piled up. I had planned to use it to repare the roof." (Huong 133) Again, the roof could not be saved; however, it once again depicts Que's determination for providing Hang with a better life. In addition, this depiction was also used to represent the poverty and the dishonesty in Vietnam at that time. This can also reveal that no matter how hard Que tries to ''save the roof'', which is used as a symbol for Que's lifestyle, it will not be accomplished.
Hang and her mother faced poverty and hardship throughout their lives. It is shown that Hang and her mother belongs to the weak and helpless group of the society, regardless of the political system that is restricting them. This is evident as "She hides from the rain under a piece of nylon. She doesn't even have the energy to repair her own roof." (Huong 79) This comment is from Hang's neighbor, stating that Hang and Que are lacking money and food. As one can see, the author uses a hyperbole comparison as Que ''hides from the rain under a piece of nylon''. This is of course impossible; however this allows readers to once again witness Que's lifestyle being very impoverished. Even with this in mind, Hang and Que still experiences happiness while living under the pathetic roof. Hang also recalls the story of her parents loving each other when living under the roof "All this, here, under the leaky roof of this pathetic hovel." (Huong 67). Again from this, one can see that even though Hang's parents were living in this old and rotted roof, they still had a decent life and they loved each other. The word ''leaky'' suggests again a very impoverished lifestyle to the readers, allowing one to learn more about their lifestyle. Therefore one can see that the power of love can break any blocking obstacles and reach their final goal.
In the novels Like Water for Chocolate and Paradise of the Blind, both authors use the setting of the main characters' living environment to symbolize the characters', feelings and mood. Using the setting as a metaphor for depicting the characters' feelings and mood is evident in both novels, Like Water for Chocolate and Paradise of the Blind. The authors of the books, Laura Esquivel and Duong Thu Huong have successfully revealed more about the readers through this type of indirect characterization. Lastly, the readers are also capable to relate back to the characters' feelings in different situations. Hence, this is what that makes the novel diverse from other texts written.