For as long as there are submissives, tyranny and greed will be the basis of many of the world’s regimes. The fine line between self-concern and being of detriment to those around you isn’t one recognized by all leaders, and even when distinct, is often disregarded for their self-interest. Both the short story The Elephant by Slawomir Mrozek and Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel feature the consequences of neglecting this boundary. With greed clouding the reason of the featured tyrants, decisions are made that harm others, sparking conflicts that ultimately lead to the protagonists’ demise.
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In both the novel and short story, it’s the antagonist’s selfish interest and greed that they base their decisions off. With Like Water For Chocolate, it’s Mama Elena’s desire to keep Tita her caregiver that holds Tita from ever leading a life of her own. Likewise, it’s the selfish desires of the director’s that come before anything else. With the quote “The zoo was notified that it had long last been allocated an elephant. All the staff, who were devoted to their work, rejoiced at this news” (Elephant, 1), it’s revealed the Director, completely aware of the excitement the addition of an elephant to his zoo would bring both the school children and his staff, denies it’s allocation and suggests replacing it with one of his own making for the sake of looking good to his superiors.
The De La Garza ranch is governed by the dictator that is Mama Elena and The Zoological Gardens by its director. These character’s and their autocratic approaches of rule are the two sources of conflict in the novel and short story. Elena and the zoo director make their decisions based only off what they have to gain and disregard all else. In Like water for Chocolate, Rosaura is never asked her opinion of Pedro and if she’d be interested in spending the rest of her life as his spouse. But Rosaura, having no will of her own, marries Pedro for the simple fact Elena decides it for her. Similarly to Mama Elena, the director pays no mind to the desires of others and makes all his decisions with nothing in mind besides his own personal gain. Without the consideration of his staff or any other third party, decides to deny the allocation of the elephant to his zoo, depriving the staff and children who often visit of their desires. Despite their choices not be in favour of anyone but themselves, the fact that they result in the fulfilling of their selfish desires is enough to convince them to go through with them.
In both works, the subjects of the tyrant’s need only follow regulation, not believe it. Tita, when attempting to protest her mothers ruling not allowing her to marry, is contested with “For generations, not a single person in my family has ever questioned this tradition, and no daughter of mine is going to be the one to start.” (LWFC, 11). Mama Elena rules expecting nothing less than absolute obedience and when their fiat is challenged, resorts to respect and tradition as reason. This lack of reasoning on Mama Elena’s part is what makes Tita feel the need to rebel and has her fall in love with Pedro. Well aware of her family’s traditions and that their love would be forbidden, she agrees to marry him. Her love for Pedro is what leads to her premature death, driving her to committing suicide to be with him in the afterlife.
This might not have been the case if Mama Elena hadn’t so selfishly decided not to allow Tita to marry. If she had rationalized with her daughter, giving legitimate reason to why it was Tita was forbidden to marry, Tita might not have felt the need to rebel and do what she did that ultimately lead to her death. The same can be said about the Director. The reason why he decides to renounce the allocation of the Elephant is never questioned by the staff and is accepted as fact. In neither work is there an attempt to have Tita or the staff believe their respective tyrant’s decrees, both follow the motto of “Do this and how I tell you to because I said so”.
Tita and the schoolchildren are also party to blame for their demise as they so passively and greatly invest themselves emotionally into things they either know they can’t have or have no control over. Tita falls in love with Pedro knowing that their relationship is destined to fail. The children make the same mistake by emotionally investing themselves and setting such high expectations at the news of an elephant being introduced to the zoo. In doing this, they put themselves in a position susceptible to being let down and is exactly what happens. “The school children…started neglecting their studies. They turned into hooligans [who]…drink liquor and break windows”. (Elephant 4).
With The Elephant and Like Water for Chocolate, the downfalls of the protagonists were the result of their submissiveness, the greed of their autocratic leaders and their refusal to be defied. In the end, both works were examples of how when making decisions without reason and their repercussions in mind, conflicts may come about.
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