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The both books, the house of spirits and Like water for chocolate, we see two extremely domineering and oppressive household heads, whom are quite similar in character. In the house of spirits we see Mama Elena, a strong authoritarian matriarch and Esteban Trueba an oppressive patriarch. In both books, we see the protagonists being suppressed by the heads of households and how it affects the formation of the character being directly influenced by them and the response each one has to living in that autocrat's household.
The authors, Isabel Allende and Laura Esquivel, first differ in the treatment of the rebellion against the heads of household, where in the House of spirits, the protagonist, Blanca, is a more rebellious character who defies her father whilst still living in the household. She ignores her father's demands and still does as she pleases behind his back and this is seen throughout the book including her budding relationship with Pedro Tercero. Blanca is therefore developed in the reaction to the rule of her father, she is shown as a brave and stubborn woman who although acts against her father, stays around to face the consequences. This is therefore how Blanca's character is developed due to her father's oppression. Gertrudis however runs away from home just in order to evade her mother oppression and in order to obtain her sexual freedom. This gives the reader a better idea of her character, she is one, unlike Blanca, who would rather escape her mother's wrath rather face it. It is even better to notice that she doesn't ever get to face her mother as she dies before Gertrudis returns home.
Although different, Esteban Trueba and Mama Elena, seem to share somewhat similar character traits. Each of them disown their daughter without giving them a second chance only due to slight defiance. This firstly, displays the characters stubbornness and unwillingness to tackle a problem rather just evade it. After their children's rebellion, they only hope they disappear rather than gauging the cause of it. Also developed through their autocracy is the pride Mama Elena and Esteban Trueba each have whilst dealing with their family. Mama Elena disowns her daughter just in order to get rid of her thoughts and Esteban disowns Blanca only in order to make him feel like a better father. Mama Elena demonstrates that she is too proud to admit her mistake and that she would rather run from it by disowning Gertrudis.
The autocracy of each of the characters also has varied effects on each of their families. In the house of spirits, Esteban Trueba's seething anger and madness somewhat brings the family closer together, although it only drifts himself farther apart. It is seen that the rest of the family come together to make decisions on how to deal with him and how they can face him better with the support of everyone including Clara. The family's response to Esteban's rage exhibits their bonds to each other and develops Clara, his wife, to become a very strong character. Clara, Esteban's wife, gives inspiration to the rest of the family as she stands up against him and his seething madness. This is shown positively amongst each of the family members, including their daughter Blanca. Although, Esteban's rage seemed to have a positive effect on his family, the De la Garza family only drifts further apart due to Mama Elena. Gertrudis leaves home because of her mother oppression and Tita and Rosaura compete against each other just for Pedro's love. This shows that none of the sisters are close to each other and their authoritarian mother isn't helping the chaotic family recover. Although each of the members of the De la Garza family are too afraid to defy their oppressive matriarch, Tita, is seen a stronger character due to her ability to defy her mother openly. Although this is so, she receives no support from the other members of her family, unlike the aforementioned novel. Tita is thus illustrated to be the only strong member of the family for her ability to face her mother on her own.
Towards the end of the novel, it is seen as though Esteban is finally changing his character as he develops a very strong, emotional relationship with his granddaughter, Alba. Mama Elena, instead never changes her character and remains oppressive and an authoritarian until she dies. Alba and her grandfather, Esteban, become extremely attached to each other especially after the rebellion. Esteban has a massive character shift and he changes from a completely obstinate and temperamental character to a being a very open and needy one. After pushing away the previous two generations of women in the family, Clara and Blanca, Esteban suddenly realizes he has no one left; even his political friends have abandoned him and this his seen as he literally bears his soul to Transito Soto and his granddaughter Alba. The domineering head of the Trueba family finally learns his lesson and changes himself for the better. On the other hand, Mama Elena remains a closed person who is rather emotionless until the end of the book. Even after her death, she continues to haunt Tita until she confesses her hatred of her once and for all. Her oppressive nature has made her quite the antagonist of the novel. Unlike Esteban, Mama Elenas cruelty never subsides.
The dominance of these two autocrats and despots of the two novels have a massive impact on themselves as well as the other members of each family. How the characters react to their parent s or spouse s attitude and anger reveals their character and their inner strength. Esteban, without knowing, assists in the closeness of his family and fortunately the trueba family does have members who are strong enough to discreetly or openly disobey his orders. Esteban finally changes his character for the better form n oppressive autocrat to a caring and open member of his family. He finally learns from his mistakes and this only benefits the family. The De la Garza family is not at all close whilst Mama Elena is alive and it only drifts farther apart after her death. The girls never develop to be strong as they never openly defy their mother unlike the aforementioned novel. Gertrudis runs away and although somewhat stronger than her sisters, even Tita cannot disobey her mother at most times and goes back to calling her 'Mami' after she does so. Mama Elena never changes in her nature as does Esteban and she dies, and later disappears still mean and controlling as usual.