The novels 'Like Water For Chocolate'by Laura Esquivel and the novel, 'House Of Spirits' by Isabel Allende, injustices to characters is widely portrayed. Both authors have portrayed situations where the characters suffer traditional and customary pressures, class distinction, gender roles and expectations as well as double standards. The main sufferers in both novels are mostly women who suffer social injustices. They have little freedom as individuals; their opinions are often not valued. Their lives are often in emotional perplexity and void of passion.
The female protagonists in each novel, Tita, from Laura Esquivel's Like water for chocolate and Blanca, From Isabelle Allende's House of spirits are both being suffocated by a commanding and authoritative parent, Tita by Mama Elena and Blanca, by her father, Esteban Trueba. Both are tormented very badly. However, there is a motherly character in each novel that balances out this hostility and roughness; Nacha the cook in Like water for chocolate and Clara, Blanca's mother, in 'The house of spirits'. Nacha takes care of Tita since the time she is born till the time she dies. She consoles Tita whenever Mama Elena gets angry on her. While in Like Water for chocolate, Clara supports Blanca in every possible way she can. She even gets beaten up by her husband Esteban Trueba once because she took Blanca's side. Thus, for every pessimistic aspect resulting from a dangerous relationship or connection between characters of the novels, there is a mother-daughter bond that balances out the coldness and brings warmth and understanding to the character's life.
In Laura Esquivel's Like water for Chocolate, Tita's mother, Mama Elena, is the dominating figure who destroys Tita's hopes and dreams. Tita in Like Water for Chocolate is portrayed as an oppressed character, but who sometimes fights in trying to get her rights. This can be proved from the example where Mama Elena asked Tita to sew clothes again because she hadn't basted it and said, '.... Lazy man and the stingy man end up walking their road twice". Then Tita replies, "but that's if a person makes a mistake, and you yourself said a moment ago that my sewing was..." (pg 12). Tita was the youngest daughter of De La Garza family and was bound by the family, that being the youngest daughter, she had to take care of her mother till her death, which is why she couldn't marry Pedro, the love of her life. Above that, Mama Elena gets Rosaura, Tita's elder sister get married to Pedro. Tita is not even allowed anywhere near Pedro and Mama Elena is very strict and harsh with her. The news of Pedro and Rosaura's marriage hits Tita so badly that 'she could not sleep that night, nor many others, for as long as she lived, she could not free herself from that cold (pg 21). The word cold here is used as a metaphor and symbolizes her emptiness and loneliness that she always felt after this incident.'Mama Elena had been killing her a little at a time since she was a child, and still quite hadn't finished off' (pg 47).This also suggests how Tita had always faced tortures. The irony here that Mama Elena having gone through the same situation makes her daughter Tita also undergo the same pain she had felt. Being a mother, Mama Elena should have cared deeply about her daughter, she should have made sure that her daughter does not face what she herself faced, the loneliness and the pain she felt, but, unlike what a mother should have done, she herself, takes away her daughter's happiness and leaves her in a world full of pain and loneliness.
On the other hand, the dominating parental figure in Isabelle Allende's The House of Spirits is Esteban Trueba. He has a very tense relationship with his daughter Blanca. Just like Mama Elena does not let Tita and Pedro unite, Esteban also does not let Blanca and Pedro Tercero unite. He does not separate them directly as he does not know about their relationship initially, but Blanca and Pedro were forced to remain separated because Blanca knew that her father would never allow or approve their relationship because Pedro belonged to a lower class. Here, Isabelle Allende has used the factor of class distinction, which separates both the lovers. As a result, Blanca was forced to marry Jean De Satigny, because her family got to know that she was pregnant was Pedro's child and only to save the family's honor and reputation, Blanca is forced to marry Jean De Satigny. But the irony here is that even though Esteban himself slept with women not of his own class, taking every girl's virginity, not considering the fact that they were of a lower class, he does not approve of Blanca and Pedro's relationship. "Pedro Garcia hasn't done anything you haven't done yourself, you also slept with women of not your own class. The only difference that Blanca and Pedro did it out of love", Clara said (pg 233). When his wife Clara had said these words, Esteban had struck her badly. This proves that even though he did what he was stopping his daughter Blanca from doing, he just did not wanted to accept it and this clearly shows the double standards of Esteban.
Another character from The House of Spirits that can be compared to Tita is Ferula. Ferula is also bound to stay by her mother's side till her death. The only difference between them was that Tita was forced to take care of her mother, while Ferula had decided that herself, but she obviously regrets her decision when she says "It bothered her to stay locked...., to be awake at night by the moans of her sick mother......while her brother had no taste of such obligations, who go could out work and live his life the way he wanted to; without any pressures. Before him lay a destiny...... He could marry, have children and know what love was." (Pg 59). But if we look deeply into this, we can also say that Ferula was also forced to take care of her mother. Actually it was her duty to do so, how could she have left her sick mother unattended and ran away. And besides, even if she would have done that, the society would have killed her with their taunts. Ferula got used to this way of living. When her mother dies and her brother throws her out of the house, she dies in poverty. Ferula was among the many women who accepted everything the society imposed on them but never fought for their rights.
On the other hand if we look at the "dominating parental figure", which as mentioned above, filled the main characters life with miseries and sufferings, is also sympathized by the readers at SOME points. The reader sympathizes with Mama Elena, because she could not marry Jose, the man she loved. The traditions of the society did not let her marry Jose because he belonged to a different culture and community; because had Negro blood in his veins. Her marriage was then fixed with Tita's father. But she had decided to run with Jose, when she found out that she was pregnant with Gertrudis, who was the proof of her and Jose's love. But Jose was killed when he was on his way to get Mama Elena and after that incident, she was forced to marry Tita's father. After reading what happened with Mama Elena, the reader surely sympathizes with Mama Elena, thinking that this incident might have changed her to be a tortured soul but when she does exactly what she had been through, the reader does not sympathize her any more, and instead, their sympathy shifts towards Tita.
Even the minor women characters in 'The House of Spirits', including Pancha Garcia and all the women who were raped by Esteban Trueba are sympathized by the readers because of what they suffered. Every woman I the town was raped by Esteban Trueba. No woman was left unraped. Every girl's virginity was taken by Esteban Trueba. He just couldn't stop and because of it every girl, every woman suffered.
Thus, almost all female characters in both novels face injustices like social and traditional pressures and other injustices because of class distinction, expectations of other characters and double standards. Because of these unjust treatments of characters like Mama Elena and Esteban Trueba on the female characters, sympathy is evoked for these characters in the reader's minds.