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The conception of conformity and confinement in 'The sailor who fell from grace with the sea' and 'Like water for chocolate'

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The conception of conformity and confinement are salient in both Yukio Mishima?s ?The sailor who fell from grace with the sea? and Laura Esquivel?s ?Like water for chocolate?. Through these novels, we are testament to the passive and active powers of Ryuji and Tita alike. Ryuji on the one hand succumbs to conformity whilst Tita on the other hand experiences a gradual change from compliance to renouncing conformity all together. This essay serves to elucidate the diametrically opposite approaches taken by the two authors in portraying the way in which the two characters address conformity. It also accentuates the consequences and benefits of the course of action taken by the two characters. Initially, Ryuji is tethered by stoic traditional values that convinces him to stand firm at sea. He believes that the sea shall bequeath him with the sumptuous glory that he seeks. This is exemplified through ?Standing in the white pilothouse...Ryuji was more convinced than ever: There must be a special destiny in store for me? (Mishima 1999, p17). Here the lexical set ?white..special? communicate how this glory is transcendent as ?white? can be adjudged as an index of purity whilst ?special? hints at something unique. ...read more.


The sheer fact that it?s above the ?emergency exit? suggests how Ryuji can make an imminent gateway and break the shackles of conformity. Yet Ryuji?s obsession over Fusako ensures that he embraces her western ways. This decision to conform is rife with consequences and is succinctly depicted through ?The vermilion plum-branch cup...seemed to wither in the grasp of the huge, calloused hand? (p114). Here,?vermillion...writhing? subtly illustrates the death of Japanese tradition under the metaphorical ?hand? of western imperialism (Ryuji). The magnitude of western influence is made clear through ?huge? and the death of the Japanese tradition is exemplified through the ?vermilion...wither[ing]? In ?Like Water for Chocolate?, propriety is prevalent from the very beginning of the novel. Tita the protagonist is subservient to Mama Elena?s tyrannical commands. She is relegated to the domestic sphere of the kitchen and must engage in the tedious humdrum of female tradition. This tradition suppresses her sense of identity and confines her. The extent of propriety that permeates Tita is made clear through the accretion of negative adjectives and harsh lexical set ?rip it out...ordered...tremendous slap?. (Esquivel 1995, p12 & 27) These actions are all appropriated by Mama Elena and demonstrates her tyrannical dominance over Tita. ...read more.


. . all of them wailing over lost love." (p39) where her tear drop infused cake is able to stir up despair amongst a myriad of guests. Cooking also becomes an extension of herself and provides her with the impetus for freedom and self-expression. This is clarified through "for Tita, the joy of living was wrapped up in the delights of food". The semantic field ?joy...delights? entail positive connotations which suggest that food provides her with a means of escapism from the monotony of her daily existence. Thus gastronomic interior spaces enable her voice to be heard. It revitalizes her identity and enables her to break the shackles of confinement and conformity. In conclusion, both texts articulate the changing identity of the protagonists. Tita transforms from a submissive daughter to a defiant one whilst Ryuji transitions towards conformity and remains in this passive state until his death. In the end Tita is faced with positive results as she gradually gains her self-confidence and ultimately reunites with Pedro as opposed to Ryuji who is emasculated by the revelation that glory ceases to exist for him. In escaping the constraints of external anticipation and in pooling their strengths from their internal expectations, both protagonists achieve self-actualization and are able to concoct a new identity. Unfortunately their journey entails ambiguity and demise is the end result. Akhil Venkataraghavan ...read more.

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