Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe are two novels that revolve around the struggle of adapting to traditions.
Both novels take place in areas where tradition is fundamental. Therefore, the characters act different than those around them and are unable to adjust to their traditional lifestyles. . The two main characters in both books, Tita and Okonkwo, find it hard to live up to their own traditions, and fail to adapt to them as they go against their people. In the novel Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo the main character, refuses to accept the new traditions because he thinks they are not manly enough.He believes that the political and religious reforms are intolerable.
Okonkwo supposes that he will loose his social status if he accepts these reforms. In the quotes below Okonkwo questions himself for going against his traditions and what he thinks is immasculine: “‘When did you become a shivering old woman,’ Okonkwo asked himself, ‘you, who are known in all the nine villages for your valor in war? How can a man who has killed five men in battle fall to pieces because he has added a boy to their number? Okonkwo, you have become a woman indeed. ” Okonkwo’s self esteem depends thoroughly upon the standards that his society sets. On the other hand, the villagers are neither resisting nor accepting these reforms, however they are trying to adjust to the realty of change. Through out the novel, the author shows how the villagers, including Okonkwo, are extremely attached to their traditions and culture. The next quote shows how the people show politeness and sophistication as well as being knowledgeable in proverbs, which are an important aspect of their customs: “Having spoken plainly so far, Okoye said the next half a dozen sentences in proverbs.
Among the Ibo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten. Okoye was a great talker and he spoke for a long time, skirting round the subject and then hitting it finally. ” However by the end of the novel, the degree of cultural attachment differed and was not crucial for survival as it was in the past. On the other hand, the novel Like Water For Chocolate portrays the struggle of adapting to traditions in similar, but yet different way. Tita, the main character is forced to reject her lover Pedro due to family traditions, as he has to take care of her mother, being the youngest daughter. This was the beginning of Tita’s struggle not only with her family, but also with her own culture. As she lives in a society where a lot is demanded, Tita and her sisters are under a microscope by all the people around them. It didn’t take Tita long to realize that their traditions were unfair and unrealistic.
She thinks to herself that if she cannot marry and have children, who will take care of her? She also tells her sister, who is strictly following these traditions, that she will not follow them; “As long as this cursed tradition doesn’t take me into account. However, what triggered Tita the most with going against her traditions was her sister Gertrude. Although Gertrude was not the youngest, she acted in and ‘improper’ way according to their society and ran away with a man she hadn’t known. Traditions have been barriers for all of the characters at some point of the novel.
These barriers cause Tita to become lonely, as she is not close to her mother because of all the grief she’s put her through, nor her sister for taking her lover due to traditions.The barriers that traditions lay derive the character to become isolated and not having a close relationship to another character. However, this happens gradually. In the beginning of the novel, Tita never faces the fact that she cannot marry and still insists for Pedro to come and ask for her hand in marriage. However, when he does, her mother advises him to marry Rosaura so he does. Tita is then mad and depressed but little does she know that Pedro did that in order to become close to her. This when Tita starts becoming isolated and loathes her sister and mother for doing such a thing.
In addition, I believe that this tradition will be left behind or forgotten about by Tita because of her experiences. She will never put her daughters through what she has went through because she felt the misery and sorrow of that tradition. In Okonkwo’s case however, he is isolated from his own family because of his lack of emotion, which is also considered to be part of their traditions. Okonkwo never demonstrated his feeling towards anything because he considers this unmanly which is believed to be not part of their traditions.In contrast to Tita, Okonkwo started opening up to his family in the middle/end part of the novel. For example, when his daughter Ezinma is sick, Okonkwo worriedly makes medicine and does everything in his power to save his favorite child. Also, Okonkwo follows the priestess Chielo and Ekwefi when the priestess unexpectedly kidnaps Ezinma.
For the second time, Okonkwo publicly displays emotions and compassion towards Ezinma. In conclusion, both books are based on customs, traditions and beliefs. The epitome of all the conflicts in the novels is traditions. Okonkwo and Tita share the characteristic of strength.
They are both strong in different ways, Tita is strong because she broke out of the highly held on tradition, whereas Okonkwo held on to his own traditions and refused to accept new ones. Both novels work in reverse to one another, as one character (Tita) had a close and open relationship to her family she became more and more isolated by time. Whereas the other character (Okonkwo) was isolated and never showed emotions, by time he showed a little sentiment and compassion. As both characters lived in two different worlds, they were still emotionally unstable due to their customs and traditions.