Bless Me Ultima
Antonio In The Bless Me Ultima
Life has many twists and turns and some are meant to be a learning experience and help shift our perspective on daily life. When one allows events to shape their life it can be beneficial or detrimental. Betrayal, respect, negligence, and defiance can all have a significant role on the development of one’s life, whether someone chooses to believe or be in disbelief truth will always prosper.
Narciso, Ultima, and Florence all perish, facing defeat. Antonio young and naive to the world deals with so much misfortune. Death has significance to Antonio and to the afterlife that awaits and the loss of a soul as Narcisos death was not in vain. Narciso chooses to be valiant, courageously facing Tenorio all at once. His actions show him to be an honest man running to protect Ultima from Tenorio when she was defenseless. When confronting Antonio’s older brother he shows concern for Ultima’s safety,and gets declined due to his drunk nature leading to his demise. After Antonio notices that his brother had betrayed Narciso’s word, he goes to seek help holding his head down. Now with facing and seeing death through his own eyes he begins to believe there is no good in this world. All the above shows that death of a close friend has affected Antonio’s value of life. Someone’s company can come in a great amount of ways, friends, enemies, alies, animals and all can influence oneself in a good and bad way, they can do as much as pursue one to believe in themselves. Antonio had a couple of friends when he went to communion, all but one of his many friends seemed abnormal to him, Florence was a boy who usually stayed quiet and was hardly noticed.
Florence did not believe in religion therefore did not believe someone would save his soul after he died, not believing in a God while Antonio had been raised in a devout catholic home worried and lead to the distaste in his friends behavior. Florence did believe in something and that was himself ,despite his non belief in practicing religion. When Antonio saw Florence define all others opinions on him, he sought for to acquire that quality for himself. After going one day with friends and witnessing his friend drown and come afloat a river changed Antonio and made him realize that his friend had died without confession and that he would burn in hell. As well made him question himself, why if there is an all knowing god there was still so much evil in the world. He now recognized that one does not need to believe in anything to believe in oneself. Though this event changed Antonio in a detrimental manner he still believes that life is not always good but there is a balance in the universe. Death is inevitable in life and at times leaves messages for others to follow, life flourishes across the world and as one grows one learns from it. The elderly live among us and are wise with knowledge and some seek for that knowledge that is shared from old to young. Ultima gives young Antonio a necklace filled with protective herbs as he continues to grow more and more attached to her she begins to look after him more then his mother. Through the time he first welcomed her to his home she took to immediately go and help his uncle Lucas who had been cursed by the trementina sisters saving his life and showed that she has a good heart. The compassion shared between Ultima and Antonio is strong as she teaches him after Tenorios daughter dies that good outweighs evil.
Through all the time Ultima spent with Antonio she watched over him through the owl and her spirit embedded inside of it. When Ultima’s spirit is killed she begins to slowly die and tells Antonio that she has lived her life and that he needs to destroy all her belongings and does so obediently as he respects her in her final minutes, In the end he never quite understood why everything had to happen the way it did and affected him in a beneficial way. The majority of things that happen to Antonio are during the summer and have seemed to mature him and shape his view on the world. He began to learn that change is sad and inevitable to escape, that it must happen to progress. Antonio’s father cannot seem to cope with the changes in his own life and still neglects the fact that it is his actions to pursue freedom and inspired his children to make a life of their own and not pursue his dream. Through evil shines Light, and hardships, tribulations, and death are obstacles one must overcome in life to do good.
Characters In The Bless Me Ultima
Luckily, Rudolfo has not died and was born on October 30, 1937, which makes him eighty-one years old at the moment. Married to Patricia, who had sadly passed away, helped with scholarships for students with the need for financial support. He was born and raised in New Mexico, US, and attended school in this area.
After graduating from the University of New Mexico, he became a public school teacher for seven years which was between 1963-1970. Not only that but he became director of counseling at the University of Albuquerque. After this, he started teaching at the University. It is quite noticeable that Rudolfo Anaya was a busy man. He has written many books and most involve Mexican American traditions.( Britannica)One of which being Bless Me, Ultima which was actually the first novel he ever wrote but continued writing new books which also became very successful. Later on, Bless Me, Ultima became a national best-seller because it describes another form of religion and Mexican traditions. This book was published in 1972. Rudolfo has received many awards due to all the well-written books he has made.
These awards being, NEA National of Arts Lifetime Honor, Kellogg Foundation fellowship, the American Book Award, two Governor’s Public Service awards from New Mexico, and last, two National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) literature fellowships.(Formalities) Just because of all the awards he received, he did not take all the credit. As said by Rudolfo Anaya, ?I’ve been thinking a lot about what this recognition means, and I’ve decided it’s not just about methis award is about the people of New Mexico.’ This clearly shows how his confidence did not increase and remained humble. Instead, he actually gave some credit to the individuals from New Mexico for his writing. After reading a biography about Rudolfo Anaya, it was understood that a lot of the inspiration for Bless Me, Ultima came from his own family. While his mother, Rafaelita Mares, was Catholic and enjoyed of a stable house, his father, Martin Anaya, would rather move on from area to area as a nomadic herder. Just as in the book, Antonio’s parents would have discussions due to having different opinions on lifestyle and where to live. Also, the book includes many religious themes and spiritual healing. Because of the great writing structures he had, it was really clear for the reader to understand the main point of the novel and acknowledge different forms if religion.(Rudolfo)
- 1 Form, structure, and plot:
- 2 Point of view:
- 3 Character:
Form, structure, and plot:
The text, Bless Me Ultima, is not to lengthy and is 262 pages (without counting the Reading Group Guide, Q and A with Rudolfo Anaya). Also, it consists of veintiuno chapters, as said in the book, which when translated to english, means twenty-one. The chapter’s numbers in this book are written in Spanish rather than English due to the Mexican traditions throughout the text. Overall, this is significant because it gives an additional way to represent the latin background behind the chapters. Like most other books, Bless Me, Ultima, is written in a chronological order of events from when Ultima was introduced in the book until after all of the problems were solved. Flashbacks of other events are also presents in some areas in the text here and there. In the book, the main character/narrator, Antonio, has dreams in which important characters that have passed away show up when he is sleeping. Rudolfo Anaya also switches between different ideas such as questions, thoughts, and stuff that has happened in the past. These ideas usually come from the characters in the book, one of which being Antonio, the boy narrating the story. From the reader’s point of view, it is inferred that the plot of the book is complex because many risky events are present. Throughout the whole novel, the main characters, Antonio and Ultima, struggle to conquer many issues with society due to the fact that individuals believe Ultima is a witch when in reality she is a curandera, a person who cures with magic and herbs. This is the main reason that makes the plot complex because this characteristics causes a lot of problems in the book that later get solved. Even though the book is said to be fictional, it can pass as real because of all the vivid details present page after page and all the clear details about religion and Mexican heritage. A noticeable change was present from the beginning of the book to the end of it. Towards the beginning, Ultima is introduced and moves in with Antonio’s family but as the book continues, she causes a lot of issues due to her magic.
Point of view:
In this case, the book is written in first person. Antonio Marez is narrating the story about his family and himself. Also, it is referring to events that occurred throughout the youth of Antonio which is mainly about magic. Bless Me, Ultima is written about events that happened throughout Tony’s childhood. Antonio, the narrator, is the protagonist of the book. It is not clear to the reader the age of Antonio when narrating the story but he is able to look back and give vivid details to explain what he went through. Over the course of the book, Tony changes his perspective about religion and his belief. He starts questioning it and does not know what to think about it. Also, other characters influence Antonio majorly so he changes his point of view several times. While some people say one thing, some say another this so he starts to question more about life. With the author’s point of view, he achieves that the reader clearly understands what is happening and makes it seem like we are living the book. Also, since it is is said in Antonio’s point of view, it seems like we are put in his shoes and it is easier to understand his emotions and what he is going through. If it was not written in first person, then we would have seen the story through the perspective of many characters rather than just one and it would be more confusing. Also, this would have caused the reader to be puzzled and not understand the real story. First person was the best way to go because we read the book about what one person went through and not several others.
Many different characters show up throughout the novel but not all have a big role as others. This leads us to the conclusion that some flat characters are, Antonio’s friends, father Byrnes, Lupito, Cico, Tenorio and his daughters, Tenorio, Narciso, Antonio’s sisters, Jason Chavez, and Chaves. These individuals show up in the book but do not make the a drastic change to the story. On the other hand, Ultima, Antonio, and Antonio’s parents are round characters because they are involved in most sections of the story and are put in tough positions that makes the story more interesting to the reader. If it was not for these characters, than the novel would have been more boring in a way because not a lot of suspenseful things would have occurred. Ultima can be a static character because she provides trust and characters can feel comfort around her because they can rely on her. She does not change while all of the other individuals she’s around do. Gabriel, Antonio’s father, is a dynamic and complex character because he has to change some of his ways in his lifestyle in order to keep his family members and loved ones together. In this case, was to enjoy of a farming life instead of being a vaquero like his descendants. The characters in the novel are believable because the book took place in the older times and all of the characteristics go along with the setting. All were revealed over the course of the novel when Ultima was introduced. When Ultima was introduced, she started to affect other characters which was when they started to appear. As an estimation, there is around thirty-nine characters in the novel. Some being important, and others only making an appearance a couple times.
The protagonist of Bless Me, Ultima is Antonio Marez because he was the main character and was narrating the story. On the other hand, the antagonist is Tenorio because he cause a lot of problems to Antonio and his family. Some minor characters include, father Byrnes, catholic priest and teaches Antonio and friends in catechism, Miss Maestas, Antonio’s teacher and see a lot of potential in him education wise, and Antonio’s uncle which is his mom’s brother. An important character of the book is Ultima. While age is not given, it is know that she is elderly; therefore, is very respected. She is a curandera which is a healer that uses magic and herbs (spiritual power). Often times in the book is confused as a witch. Ultima is very complex and wise and knows a lot about life. She develops an important bond with Antonio which is needed for the overall book. Her name is significant because it is in the title which gives the reader a hint that she will be important throughout the novel. When describing her in three adjectives, she is old, wise, and calm. A key quote said by Ultima is, ?It is because good is always stronger than evil. Always remember that Antonio.’ This is a piece of wisdom that Ultima gives Antonio since she knows a lot about life. Also, it shows the impact that she has had on Tony and how she gives him advice. Another character is Antonio Marez who is six years old when introduced in the book. He is the protagonist and is narrating events that occurred in his youth.
For his age, he is really smart and is able to understand a lot of adult topics. Also, when going to school, his teacher, Miss Maestas, noticed huge advancement academically in a short period of time. He has a very special bond with Ultima and learns a lot from her. Lets just say that he learns a lot for his age and is able to understand certain subjects. At one point, he starts to question a lot about religion and life. In three adjectives, it can be said that he is bright, serious, and thoughtful. He goes through a lot of issues and has to solve them by either doing the right or wrong thing. Also, he switches from being a child to an adolescent and has learns that actions result in suffering through consequences. A key quote is, God was not always forgiving. He made laws to follow and if you broke them you were punished. The Virgin always forgave. This phrase, is the start of Antonio incorporating religion into the book. Later on, he will start questioning and affects the overall novel. Florence is another character in Bless Me, Ultima and is a young blond boy.
Details In the book Bless Me Ultima
He is one of Antonio’s friends that does not believe in God or is religious. Even though he is not religious, he still attends catechism just so he can be with his friends, including Antonio. He can be described as young, upset, and cloudy.
The feeling of being upset and upset is because both of his parents are dead and his sister’s are prostitutes which is the main reason that he started to question the Catholic religion. This can affect a child dramatically because he does not have the love and support he needs from his family members.
Florence is a bad influence to Antonio in a way because he starts telling him that religion is not always reliable and can fail. Alsom he tells him that the Catholic religion is not perfect. This was the start of Antonio questioning religion. A key quote about Florence is, Why do you punish Florence? Why doesn’t he believe?In this phrase Antonio is asking God why he punished Florence about not believing in religion. Miss Maestas is Antonio’s first grade teacher that is very nice to her students. She notices that Antonio is very intelligent even though he does not know english. With three words, she can be described as generous, loving, and patient. She is very patient when teaching Antonio in school. By the end of the year, she advances Antonio to third grade because she believes that he is smart and is capable of moving up. Even though she is a minor character, she has a huge impact on Antonio education wise.
- 1 Setting:
- 2 Diction:
- 3 Syntax:
- 4 Concrete Detail/Imagery:
- 5 Symbolism:
- 6 Figurative Language:
The novel takes place in Guadalupe, New Mexico, and the area around it. Also, World War ll in the late 1940’s was happening when Antonio was narrating his story. Basically, Antonio and his family were alive during war. This progresses to about two years in the future. Bless Me, Ultima takes place at Agua Negra in New Mexico where Ultima teaches Antonio more about land, freedom, and nature. Then, Ultima lifts a curse from the land by using her curandera powers. This specific setting is symbolic for the overall book because it makes the story authentic and includes the Native and Spanish culture. It also takes place in the Llano which is the Land of the Marez. Including beautiful land of hills, clusters of adobe huts, and dark plains. As said in the book, Antonio’s father enjoys being free and the Llano is where he prefers to be. This land symbolizes freedom and the spirit of the vaqueros.
The writing of the author for Bless Me, Ultima can be said to be somewhat colloquial. Most phrases are something that we might hear everyday since there is a lot of dialogue between characters. On each page, there is some sort of dialogue amongst the characters. As shown, ?so it is. Be respectful to your teachers,’ he said to us. ?And you Antonio.’ he smiled, ?suerte.’ It made me feel good. Like a man.'(page 54) This is an example of the familiar conversation because it is something out parents would tell us on our first day of school.
Ultima came to stay with us the summer I was almost seven. When she came the beauty of the llano unfolded before my eyes, and the gurgling waters of the river sang to the hum of the turning earth. The magical time of childhood stood still, and the pulse of the living earth pressed its mystery into my living blood.(page 1) In this brief passage, a lot of descriptive imagery is given which gives the reader a clear idea of what is happening. The tone of this phrase is calming and Antonio’s emotions are really clear to understand. Also, it is lyrical because the llano is described in a very beautiful way that brings the reader peace and tranquility.
?”But I want to know, there are so many things I want to know,” I insisted.
“A curandera cannot give away her secrets,” she said, “but if a person really wants to know, then he will listen and see and be patient. Knowledge comes slowly™(page 33-34) In this phrase, it is a conversation between Ultima and Antonio. This was when Tony wanted to seek knowledge and wanted the answers to all his questions. Ultima refused because she did not think he was ready yet to learn about certain topics. This is formal because in order for individuals to learn certain things, they have to be patient until the time comes. The dialogue between characters is that one is more sophisticated while the other is being more concentrated.
God was not always forgiving. He made laws to follow and if you broke them you were punished. The Virgin always forgave.(page 44) The sentences in this phrase are short and it creates it more informative to the reader. Antonio is trying to show how the Virgin Mary forgives while God does not. This is educational in a way for those who are catholics. It contains no imagery because it is not being descriptive about any topic. Also, the phrase has a more serious tone since religion and catholicism was important to Antonio’s family.
A variety of different sentence and phrase patterns is used in the novel. This is used to enhance the complexity of the reading and make it more interesting for the reader. The sentences vary from being simple short sentences to long complex sentences that include a lot of information. Also, most of the novel is written in english but some words or phrases are in spanish to bring out the Mexican side of the book. An example is that the names of the characters are mostly traditional mexican names such as Maria and Antonio. Some other words used are vaquero, llano, and curandera. The sentence structure of the book is not that formal because it is basically telling a story about someone’s childhood; therefore, there is a lot of dialogue. As in diction, God was not always forgiving. He made laws to follow and if you broke them you were punished. The Virgin always forgave.(page 44) This statement can pass as repetitive because it is explaining how God does not forgive but the Virgin Mary does. This is an example of the book that does not include any sort of dialogue and is formal since religion is an important thing to all Catholics.
In the book, Bless Me, Ultima, there are a lot of vivid details, such as our five senses, that cleary gives the reader an idea of what the narrator is living. An important section in the novel that gives concrete details is the golden carp passage. Antonio describes what he is seeing so vividly that the reader can clearly imagine the emotions he was feeling and what he was looking at through his own eyes. Also, this is very significant to the overall book because it is the first time that Antonio encountered with something religious without it being related to catholicism. As shown in the passage, ?The orange of the golden carp appeared at the edge of the pond. . . . We watched in silence at the beauty and grandeur of the great fish. Out of the corners of my eyes I saw Cico hold his hand to his breast as the golden carp glided by. Then with a switch of his powerful tail the golden carp disappeared into the shadowy water under the thicket.’ This phrase is an example of when Antonio described what he was seeing for the first time. Another example of concrete details was towards the beginning of the chapter one when Antonio was describing the appearance of Ultima and what he first thought of her. As shown in the passage, She wrapped the black shawl around her hair and shoulders. Her face was brown and very wrinkled. When she smiled her teeth were brown. I remembered the dream. From this phrase, it is obvious that Ultima is old. Also, previously Antonio had mentioned the dream he had in which Ultima had an appearance in and reminds Tony.
Since the novel incorporates religion a lot throughout the chapters, it is clear that there are a lot of different symbols. The most important symbol is Ultima’s owl. Wherever she goes, so does the owl. Also, the owl calls out a warning whenever they are in danger. It is said that the owl is actually her spirit and soul.This is shown when Tenorio says, ?It is the owl! Do you hear, little bastard! It is the owl that is the spirit of the old witch. Also, when, the owl is killed, Ultima dies shortly after. They are both buried together. Ultima is thought to be generous and the best person one can imagine but once being compared with owl, the script changes. This is shown when the owl rips out Tenorio’s eye when Ultima is being intimidated. During this situation, the darker side of Ultima is given to the reader. Since the owl and Ultima are basically the same spirit, the owl enhances the revenge side of Ultima. In other words, a new layer of her personality has been discovered by the reader.
The last names of Tony’s parents are Marez and Luna and when translated to english mean the moon and the sea which represents the background story of the lifestyle of each individual. Another symbol is the golden carp which symbolizes a religious topic that it not connected to Catholicism in any way. Instead of believing in Virgin Mary or god, the golden carp is another from to feel guidance, wisdom, and comfort. This religion involves a magical fish in which Antonio relies on when feel abandoned by God. Last, the Virgin Mary is an important symbol thought out the novel because Tony’s mom, Maria, is devoted and a firm believer of this saint. This catholic figure represents forgiveness, trust, and moral support when someone is in the need of it. Most Mexicans rely on her and is very important in religion. Antonio finds comfort in the Virgin Mary when he feels left by God and does not feel like he has a forgiving God. Symbols is something important that needs to be added in a book because over the course of the book, the reader finds out about the meaning behind what something symbolizes.
A variety of figurative language is present to develop a more sophisticated mood to the book.
An example is personification. Being pretty obvious, Ultima’s owl is an example of a human characteristic in a nonhuman object. The owl has human traits such as being able to detect danger and warn Ultima. In reality, animals can detect trouble but are not always able to communicate it to humans, unless it is a trained service dog. As shown in the text, “The owl was the protective spirit of Ultima,- The owl was her soul!”(page 255) Another example of personification is when the fish represented more than just an animal was was to be good luck. When comparing to real life, it is quite obvious that a fish cannot be magical but can be a good luck sign. In addition, allusion was also present throughout the book. An example of the allusion is how Antonio represents a christ figure.
The supernatural and ordinary reality
The supernatural and ordinary reality are worlds that exist side by side. I don’t believe the truth is out there, I believe it is within. To discover the truth and power within is to walk in the supernatural.-Rudolfo Anaya. The supernatural and magic are strong essences presented throughout Anaya’s captivating novel. There are many ways the characters of Bless Me Ultima and even the state of New Mexico reflect his comments.
One of my favorite ways Ultima reflects Anaya’s comments is when she gives her final blessing to Antonio, I bless you in the name of all that is good and strong and beautiful, Antonio. Always have the strength to live. Love life, and if despair enters your heart, look for me in the evenings when the wind is gentle and the owls sing in the hills. I shall be with you” (Bless Me Ultima, pg. 247). This beautiful statement signifies her spiritual being that connects all living things and she assures him that her spirit will prevail with him and the lessons she has taught him will continue to help guide him.
Another example that reflects Anaya’s comments is a conversation Antonio has with his father Gabriel. Understanding does not come that easy, Tony”. You mean God doesn’t give understanding?” Understanding comes with life, he answered, as a man grows, he sees life and death, he is happy and sad, he works, plays, meets people”sometimes it takes a lifetime to acquire understanding, because in the end, understanding simply means having a sympathy for people, ( Bless Me Ultima, pg. 237). In that conversation Gabriel also mentions, Ultima has sympathy for people, and it is so complete that with it she can touch their souls and cure them” . That is her magic” Ay and no greater magic can exist. But in the end, magic is magic, and one does not explain it so easily. That is why it is magic. To the child, it is natural, but for the grown man it loses its naturalness”so as old men we see a different reality. And when we dream, it is usually for a lost childhood, or trying to change someone and that is not good. So, in the end, I accept reality. (Bless Me Ultima, pg. 237). Ultima is wise and mysterious. We are torn between whether she is an ordinary woman with extraordinary power or if she may be of the supernatural world.
A way Antonio reflects Anaya’s comments is when he sees the Golden Carp for the very first time. As he describes, the story Cico told him was unbelievable but it made perfect sense. He then goes home and shares the story with Ultima, and she smiles because she knows. He questions whether he should believe the story or not and Ultima replies, I cannot tell you what to believe… As you grow into manhood you must find your own truths. (Bless Me Ultima, pg. 111-112)
Another aspect that I think really reflects Rudolfo Anaya’s comment, To discover the truth and power within is to walk in the supernatural., are the vivid dreams sequences Antonio has foreshadowing the events that take place in the novel. The dreams help put things in perspective for Antonio as he transforms through his journey. Ultima teaches that things are not always as they seem, and they cannot be accepted that way. The whole must be looked at in order to truly understand. Antonio learns much from his experiences and uses Ultima’s teachings to stay open minded and gain wisdom. In the end, however, Antonio learns that he must go his own path to reach total peace of mind and have the control over his dreams, not letting his dreams control him.
Lastly, when thinking about the supernatural and the ordinary reality of the world, the state of New Mexico provides a great example of how those two things interact. New Mexico has been and is still greatly influenced by the Catholic Church. Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, the Indigenous people who lived here worshiped very differently. Ultima is also a perfect example of blending cultures. Even though she practices indigenous beliefs she is still respectful of the Catholic Church. She attends mass and never tells Antonio that the things the church professes are wrong. She always encourages him to look within and come up with his own opinions/decisions.
Bless Me Ultima has many themes and shares so much magic and history. Its super natural essence brings a powerful dynamic to the reading and makes it unforgettable. I enjoyed this book and I am glad I was given the opportunity to read it. In conclusion, these a few ways in which the characters of Bless Me Ultima and even the state of New Mexico reflect Rudolfo Anaya’s comments.
About Rudolfo Anaya
Rudolfo Anaya was born on October 30, 1937 in Pastura, Mexico, but moved shortly after he was born. For about the first 14 years of his life he lived in a small town called Santa Rosa. In 1952 him and his family moved to Albuquerque where he was introduced to many cultural changes, including racism, which he had not previously experienced.
He had six other siblings. He was not taught English until he started going to school. In his home there were no books so when he went to school it was interesting to him. He was finally able to read stories and often read books like Nancy Drew and other western stories. He worked very hard and his mother encouraged him to excel in his studies.
When Anaya was 16 he was with friends swimming in a ditch. He decided to dive into it. This resulted in him breaking two vertebrate in his neck and being temporarily paralyzed. After this, he had a new outlook on life. He realized how valuable life is and it gave him more motivation than ever before.
He initially went to business school but quickly realized his heart was not in that and switched to a liberal arts program. He went to the University of New Mexico. Anaya worked hard to get his masters degree in literature and met his wife during the process. She was there learning to be a guidance counselor which she accomplished. It took him a while before he had found his own style. He says that for a long time he was just copying other authors styles because he wasn’t sure he was good enough to try his own. He wanted to ask for help from his family to help him find how he should write. Ultima was a mentor both in the story and for him in real life. She was this random old woman that helped inspire him. He was learning to write when he wrote Bless Me Ultima, and he realized he should use his own culture to help inspire him while writing this novel. When he finally finished it he tried to get it published but was rejected many times because it was half spanish and english. Eventually TQS Publications agreed.
Bless Me Ultima a coming-of-age movie
Bless Me Ultima, is a coming-of-age movie that is centered around a young child named Antonio. In this movie, Antonio is torn between three fortunes in his life. His mother wants him to become a preacher while his father wants him to explore life and find himself.
Ultima, an old woman who works with herbs and exchanted powers and other claims she is a witch, comes to visit Antonio and his family on the Ilano. With her, she brings her wizardry, her outlooks, and her different perspectives on life and has chosen to pass these things down to Antonio before she passes away.
It is clear throughout the movie that Ultima and Antonio have special powers. It is uncertain if Antonio’s powers were given to him from Ultima or if he has had the magic ability since he was born. Up to the this point where Ultima has regular visits, Antonio has it in his mind that it is his life calling to become a preacher. He has to follow his mother’s belief ideology which is made up of strict, accustomed rules that must be obeyed at all times.
This belief system is jolted when Antonio not only a bystander but becomes a part of, Ultima’s antidote for Uncle Lucas. Uncle Lucas health is declining, and the Priest’s past attempts to save him fell shirt. So, the family Ultima for as their last resort. This goes to show healers are not the first resort anymore because . Ultima agrees to help him, but wants Antonio come with her.
During the practice. Antonio has these weird feelings most of these feelings are somewhat painful and distasteful. It is like he has taken some of the difficulty of the pain off of Uncle Lucas, helping him fight through his pain. Ultima’s remedy ends up saving Uncle Lucas’ life. As a result of the Priest failing, where Ultima succeeded, this really rattles Antonio’s whole belief structure. At this moment, Antonio begins to doubt his futre of becoming a priest. Ultima moves Antonio one step closer to her belief complex, and it is necessary for Antonio to accept Ultima’s belief entity in order for him to gain her powers. When Antonio becomes part of Uncle Lucas’ recovery.
Hope and Understanding: Comparing Life of Pi and Bless Me, Ultima
In tough times, it seems that many people turn to their faith. In moments of weakness, when it seems that everything is lost, many people find that a certain hope remains in God. Others turn to God for a “why”; a reason that circumstances are the way they are, or why God is putting them in such a difficult situation. In the novels Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolpho Anaya and Life of Pi by Yann Martel, the protagonists Tony and Pi both have beliefs that give them something to turn to in hard times. The faith journeys of Pi and Tony are similar in that each boy finds mentors for the three faiths he identifies with; however, the main characters differ in how they understand the concept of one person possessing multiple faiths and in how they apply their faiths to the obstacles that they face in their lives.
Both of these adolescent boys are impressionable and malleable, and they both find mentors for their faiths that help shape and guide them in their beliefs. Pi, for one, identifies with Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. Growing up in India where Hinduism is predominant, Pi was influenced by Hinduism from a young age. This is why he feels that he is Hindu. He explains that he has always felt a “Presence,” and this seems to explain how he came into Hinduism: “I am aware of Presence, not personal the way we usually feel presence, but something larger” (Martel, 28). Much as Pi grew up with Hinduism surrounding him, Tony grew up in Catholicism. Tony follows the model that his mother sets, and she is a mentor to him in this faith; his mother encourages him to practice Catechism and wants him to grow up to be a priest. Pi’s own second religion is Christianity, and Father Martin introduces him to this faith in his youth. Father Martin encourages him in this faith, and helps him to understand the basic idea of The Story. Tony’s second faith is from Ultima, the ways of “la cuaranderas.” Just as Pi feels a Presence, Tony feels a presence of his own as well: “I had been aware of the awful presence of the river, which was the soul of the river, but through her I learned that my spirit shared in the spirit of all things” (Anaya, 15). Bringing to mind the idea of a spirit within the river, Ultima taught him about the spirits within plants. She tells Tony to speak to the plants before extracting them, and to tell them why they are being dug up. Finally, Pi’s mentor for his third religion, Islam, is Mr. Kumar, a Muslim baker. He introduces Pi to Islam after Pi watches him pray in his bakery. Tony’s own third faith is in the Golden Carp, a pagan god. His mentor who teaches him about the Golden Carp is his friend Samuel (in partnership with Cico), a boy who instructs Tony in the legends and ways of the Golden Carp. These various mentors help to teach these two young boys about the religions that they encounter.
A difference that is clearly evident between these two boys’ journeys is how Tony and Pi interpret faith and how they accept the practice of multiple faiths. Pi sees different religions simply as different channels to the same God, yet Tony finds that the contradictions between the faiths that he practices inhibit his ability to accept all of them at once. To begin with, Pi sees his three religions differently than others do. He has one intention: to love God. When the imam, pandit, and priest all visit Pi’s house inquiring about his faith, Pi simply tells them: “Bapu Gandhi said, ‘All religions are true.’ I just want to love God” (Martel, 39). Pi maintains that the three religions have distinct characteristics but all lead to the same God. Contrary to how Pi sees things, for the majority of the novel Tony is confused by religion, since he firmly believes in all three faiths but doesn’t see how they can coexist. Cico further confuses Tony by telling him that he cannot have more than one God, because the Catholic God is a jealous God. At the end of the novel, Tony seems to have a better understanding of religion; “Take the llano and the river valley, the moon and the sea, God and the golden carp – and make it something new” (Anaya, 247). Even though it is difficult for him to see the three religions coming together, he sees how they all point to the same thing, which is a higher power. Tony ultimately realizes that he can worship however he chooses to, and that he does not need to conform to society. He realizes that he can create his own religion. This realization still differs from Pi’s beliefs, though, in that Tony feels that if he is to possess multiple faiths, doing so requires the creation of an entirely new religion. Pi believes that multiple religions can remain separate and distinct, while still leading to the same God.
A further difference between the faith journeys of Pi and Tony can be seen in how Pi and Tony apply their unique religious beliefs to the challenges they face in their lives. They each face very different obstacles; Pi needs to survive, and Tony needs to mature. Yet they both use their faiths as resources as they go through tough times, in different ways. As Pi goes through his ordeal in his lifeboat, his goal is to survive and his faith is what keeps him going, even during his darkest days. At certain points his hope falters, as can be seen in the fading of orange (a color of Hinduism) on the lifeboat, and in the dead, decaying lamb. Yet in the end, Pi’s faith is what brings him to land, and without it he would have died on the lifeboat. As for Tony, his obstacles accompany his journey of growing up. He is trying to understand his destiny, what the purpose of his life is, and his faiths play a large role in that understanding. Some of the situations he goes through challenge his understanding of his purpose, such as the deaths of Florence, Narciso, and Lupito. These deaths cause Tony to question the differences between good and evil, and where the line lies for forgiveness and for condemnation by God. In a dream he has, he asks for forgiveness for Narciso, but not for Tenorio. God laughs and says to him, “You would have a God who forgives all, but when it comes to your personal whims you seek punishment for your vengeance” (Anaya, 173). Furthermore, the problems presented by Tenorio and his daughters continue to provoke Tony’s questions. His faiths are a resource for him in that he turns to them for understanding of all these problems. Yet Tony finds that the many questions he has aren’t always answered in the way that he expects. In fact, he faces even more questions after his first communion, when he thought he would suddenly receive all of the answers he was looking for.
The novels Bless Me, Ultima and Life of Pi are ostensibly similar, but actually differ in multiple ways. Firstly, they are similar in that the novels are both about young boys who identify with multiple faiths, and who find mentors to help guide them through their spiritual journeys. Yet also prominent is the difference in how each boy understands the idea of possessing multiple faiths, and what that means for his life. Finally, they differ in the way that the characters use their faiths to overcome challenges in their lives: Pi uses his faith for hope in his ordeal on the lifeboat, and Tony for understanding as he grows up. These two novels showcase the importance of faith in difficult times, while emphasizing that people experience faith differently and have their own religious ideas. Turning to faith for hope in tough times, or for understanding in confusing situations, is a common tactic of many people in the world. These two powerful ideas can be what bring people through tough times when, without faith in a higher power or purpose, it would be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The Journey to Independence
Although innocence may seem at times like a desirable state, a lack of innocence most often pertains to intelligence and maturity. In Rudolfo Anaya’s novel, Bless Me, Ultima, the main character, Antonio Maréz, loses his innocence through experiences of the world’s harsh reality, which force him to cope with his beliefs despite his young age. Through early encounters with death, conflicts with faith, and problems with his family and friends, Antonio matures rapidly by dealing with injustice and conflict.
As only a young child, Antonio is quickly stripped of his outlook on the world when he witnesses the deaths of Lupito and Narciso. When Lupito is killed by the angry town mob, Antonio is introduced to the presence of injustice and violence. He quickly understands that the death was an act of suicide on Lupito’s part when “he was shooting to draw [the mob’s] fire” (Anaya, 22). Antonio must deal with the fact that, for some, death maybe an easier route than living life. He thought before that life was easygoing and rational, but the mob mentality that dominates Lupito’s fate shows him that oftentimes there is no voice of reason among men. He quickly starts to question the ways of humans as they seem to be crueler than he expected. The death of Narciso, a close friend, is another blow to Antonio’s precious childhood. Circumstantially different, this death is caused by revenge rather than as an act to preserve justice (as is the case with Lupito). Antonio falls into shock as he realizes that Narciso has died “for doing good” (170). As a Catholic, Antonio has been taught that killing another man is an unforgivable sin that would send one to hell. However, when Tenorio blindly kills Narciso out of his rage for his daughter, Antonio has to face the fact that God’s laws are not always followed, and that evil lurks in the shadows. Because of this, he starts to wonder why evil had prevailed over good, leading to a religious stalemate with his faith. This instance forces Antonio to grow and mature a tremendous amount, as he struggles to accept the wrongdoing that has escaped with no punishment and left Narciso dying in his hands. The shock of Tenorio’s iniquity reintroduces him to the bloody tendencies of man, as he already witnessed with Lupito. Stripped of his innocence at an elementary age, Antonio is already required to deal with the guilt, suffering, and mourning that accompany cruel injustice.
Another cause of Antonio’s loss of innocence is his constant questioning of his own religion. The deaths of Lupito and Narciso cause him to start doubting the reliability of God and His actions. When Lupito dies, Antonio cannot draw the fine line between who would be punished when he asks Ultima, “will [Lupito] go to hell?” (25). In practice, Catholicism clearly defines the difference between good and evil, but in reality Antonio is unable to discern whether Lupito is at fault with his mental state, or if the mob is for killing a criminal, or even if his father is for being in the mob. Antonio learns that what the church taught him has no accountability until it takes the form of an actual experience. When he asks for the forgiveness of Narciso in a dream, God responds by saying only if “[Antonio] also asks me to forgive Tenorio,” the murderer (173). Antonio is utterly perplexed and distraught about why God would treat good the same way as evil. In his search for answers, Antonio starts accepting new systems of belief, while trying to remain open to Catholicism. Expecting all his questions to be answered during communion, Antonio works hard through catechism, but he hears “only silence” from God, which only leads to more questions (221). The absence of his God coupled with the appearance of the pagan, golden carp, and Ultima’s dominating power lead Antonio to doubt tradition and to sample a different belief under the magical carp. In this process, Antonio trades his innocence for security and faith in a God that he knows actually exists. Another factor which causes Antonio’s separation from Catholicism is the constant questioning of Florence, an atheistic thinker. Florence often attacks Antonio’s faith with questions that are impossible to answer, such as the reason for the existence of evil. When the Catholic God is absent during Antonio’s communion and questioning, he starts to wonder, “was the golden carp a better God?” (197).
The last cause of Antonio’s loss of innocence is the strife that he encounters within his family and group of friends. His three brothers are in a troubling state when they return to Guadalupe: they have already lost their innocence through death and destruction from the war. Gene says “we are men now,” explaining they have grown up through the hardship (72). Antonio is sad because his brothers start to exhibit their individuality, which destroys their parents’ dreams in the process. Their own actions and desires as men cause them to sin, especially with prostitutes. Gene says they “have to say goodbye to the girls at Rosie’s,” and although Antonio is too young to understand, he knows they have done wrong (68). Soon, only Andrew remains in Guadalupe to finish his education, but instead he deals another huge blow to Antonio. When Antonio discovers him at Rosie’s, he feels that Andrew, his former role model, has betrayed and deprived him of his innocence. During a dream, Andrew says that he will “not enter until [Antonio] loses [his] innocence,” indicating that Antonio already knows too much about the world’s cruelty to be considered a child (71). Not only has Antonio witnessed sin and unfairness within his family, he also encounters them among his friends. When Antonio acts as a priest and forgives Florence for his deeds, his friends quickly turn on him and cause physical harm because they are unable to accept an atheist being forgiven. The torture Antonio endures proves again that the mainstream Catholic doctrine results in conflict rather than moral rightness. However, Antonio “stood [his] ground for what [he] felt to be right” (214). This step in his mental thinking points to a self-governing method of reasoning and action which previously he had not considered before. His friends and family ultimately lead him to think for himself, resulting in a huge step in maturity and knowledge.
When a person is brought up following a certain belief, he or she blindly follows it, with innocence. There is nothing to contradict it until an actual, personal experience leads him or her to a self-developed conclusion. In Bless Me, Ultima, Antonio starts out as a naïve, Catholic child, but through cruel experiences of death, religion, and injustice, he is able to reevaluate his beliefs in order to start thinking about his own ideas. When he buries Ultima’s owl, he essentially buries away his innocence and childhood away to start a new life of intellectuality. This finally marks the point that symbolizes Antonio’s loss of innocence throughout the novel as a positive pattern, for he can finally search for his own truths and start a “new religion,” thus achieving in the end self-responsibility, wisdom, and individuality (247).
Antonio’s Syncretism Through Education in Bless Me Ultima
In 1519, when the Spanish conquistadors landed in North America, they were surprised to discover that natives already inhabited the land. These indigenous people had different beliefs from the Spaniards, so the Spanish proceeded to teach these people to be “civilized”. As the indigenous people began to learn the Spanish ways of life, they blended their beliefs with those of the Spaniards to create syncretism, which continued through the ages. In Bless Me Ultima (1972), Anaya shows how the two worlds collide and settle themselves on common ground in Antonio. Different people in the novel come to represent the different sides of the Spanish colonization of Mexico: Antonio’s father, the Spaniards; Antonio’s mother, the indigenous people; and Ultima, the embodiment of all beliefs. These people, as well as others, help Antonio learn to be a man and teach him to accept all aspects of his life as one. In Bless Me Ultima, Antonio learns syncretism by blending various forms of education: familial, spiritual and Ultima’s. Antonio’s familial education is fraught with the two opposing symbols of Spanish colonization, his mother’s family, the Lunas, and his father’s family, the Marez. The Lunas represent the indigenous people, tied to the earth by their farming; whereas, the Marez represent the conquistadors, freely roaming the llano. Throughout the novel, Antonio, or Tony, is divided between his Luna blood and his Marez blood, always trying to decide between the two. Even in the first pages of the novel, this conflict becomes apparent in Tony’s dream about his birth:This one will be a Luna . . . he will be a farmer and keep our customs and traditions. Perhaps God will bless our family and make the baby a priest . . . Then the silence was shattered with the thunder of hoof-beats; vaqueros surrounded the small house . . . He is a Marez . . . His forefathers were conquistadores, men as restless as the seas they sailed and as free as the land they conquered. (5-6)Tony’s first familial education from his parents is that there can be no compromise; he must choose. Throughout the novel, Tony’s mother, Maria, and his father, Gabriel, constantly bicker about Tony’s destiny. Tony knows that one day when he gets to be a man that he will have choose to be his “mother’s priest” or his “father’s son” (41). Both parents always ridicule the other’s family. His mother refers to the vaqueros as “worthless drunks” and “thieves” (9), and his father questions Tony becoming a priest and a farmer. Yet, as the novel progresses, his father comes closer to compromise seeing the effects of Marez blood on his older sons, Andrew, Leon and Gene. Gabriel is bewildered by his sons deserting him and his dreams of California, saying to himself “I was proud that they would show the true blood of the Marez, but little did I realize that same pride would make them desert me” (122). Tony realizes through these words that being too much Luna or Marez is not a good thing because it threatens the balance of the family. Although Maria and Gabriel represent the two forces colliding in one household, Tony’s brothers and his Luna uncles teach him how this conflict functions in the world. When his brothers return from the war, they have changed drastically. The changes in their personalities teach Tony that the world is bigger than just his household. His brothers exhibit Marez tendencies, wanting to leave and strike out on their own. When Tony cannot seem to understand his brothers’ actions, Andrew tries to explain growing up to him, by saying:Look, Tony, I know what you’re thinking about. You’re thinking about mama and papa, you’re thinking of their wishes-but it’s too late for us, Tony. Leon, Gene, me, we can’t become farmers or priests, we can’t even go to California with papa . . . maybe it’s because the war made men out of us too fast, maybe it’s because their dreams were never real to begin with. (74) Andrew teaches Tony that a man must find his own destiny instead of relying upon the dreams of the past. Just as Tony’s brothers represent the instability of the Marez, his uncles represent the stability and steadfastness of the Lunas. During his summer stay with his uncles, Tony comes to realize the stability and solitude of the Lunas. They teach him to be one with the earth and respect it. Their lives are governed by the moon, which they hold to be sacred. Because of his uncles’ stability, Tony comes to terms with all the death and sorrow he has seen. He begins to thrive on an inner strength, which prepares him for the “final tragedy” (249), Ultima’s death. His uncles, through their silence and reverence for the earth, teach him to see beyond himself into the earth and its peace, seeing the bigger picture. At the end of the novel, Tony embraces syncretism within his familial education, saying to his father, “maybe I do not have to be just Marez, or Luna, perhaps I can be both” (247). Even as Tony tries to deal with the conflicts within his own familial education, he is also trying to sort through his spiritual education.Tony’s spiritual education also has two opposing sides, Catholicism and cultural spiritual beliefs. Tony’s mother plays a vast role in his spiritual education, believing in both God and the Virgin of Guadalupe, a saint of the culture. Tony mirrors her beliefs in both God and the Virgin, yet he sees vast differences between the two: My mother said the Virgin was the saint of our land, and although there were many other good saints, I loved none as dearly as the Virgin . . . the mother of God, the last relief of all sinners. God was not always forgiving. He made laws to follow and if you broke them you were punished. The Virgin always forgave. God had power. He spoke and the thunder echoed through the skies. The Virgin was full of a quiet, peaceful love. (43-4)His mother has a deep reverence for structured religion, shown throughout the text by her constant kneeling and praying to the Virgin. Tony learns reverence for the Virgin and fear of God, yet he questions the Catholicism rigorously, searching for answers to his questions. The Catholic priest teaches Tony and the other children to fear God by painting Him as a punishing, terrifying God. Tony does not ask the priest his questions for fear of making him mad, believing that the answers will all come from God at his first communion. Although doubt looms in his mind about God, the first significant event where Tony realizes he can never be a priest is the pretend confession in front of the church. When Tony, their pretend priest, does not perform the way the children want him to, they become violent and take on a mob mentality. The other children teach him that he cannot be their priest because he will not do something if he does not believe in it. The second significant event that leads to Tony disbelief in the God is his first communion. When the answers do not come from God, he is extremely disillusioned, wondering why “there was only silence” (221). At this point, Tony becomes very unsatisfied with the Catholic religion, wanting something more substantial and tangible like the golden carp. The golden carp represents a wonderful god to Tony because he is loving and tangible. Although Samuel teaches the legend of the golden carp to him, Tony is reluctant to believe at first because of his former education in Catholicism. When first introduced to the idea of a “new god” (81), uncertainty arises in Tony’s mind:I could not believe this strange story, and yet I could not disbelieve Samuel . . . His voice was strong with faith. It made me shiver, not because it was cold but because the roots of everything I had ever believed in seemed shaken. If the golden carp was a god, who was the man on the cross? The Virgin? Was my mother praying to the wrong God? (81)Samuel opens another door in Tony’s spiritual education, an opposition to Catholicism. In the summer, Cico takes him to actually see the golden carp. When Tony sees the golden carp for the first time, his reaction is one of awe, “I could not have been more entranced if I had seen the Virgin, or God Himself” (114). By the next summer after the first communion, Tony truly begins to doubt God: “I wondered if God was alive anymore, or if He had ever been. He had not been able to cure my uncle Lucas . . . He had not been able to save Lupito or Narciso. And yet, He had the right to send you to heaven or hell when you died” (236). Cico tries to help Tony believe only in the golden carp, but Tony still cannot let go of God. His syncretism of the two different religions begins when he asks Cico, “Does one have to choose . . . Is it possible to have both?” (238). Even though Tony doubts the Catholic Church, he cannot bring himself to solely believe in the golden carp or in God. In his spiritual education as well as familial education, Ultima, the wise curandera, helps to teach him that he can believe in both sides, leading him toward syncretism. In this text, the most influential person in Antonio’s education is Ultima, who embodies all beliefs. In the first page of the novel, he begins to tell his story at the beginning: “I do not mean the beginning that was in my dreams and the stories they whispered to me about my birth, and the people of my father and mother, and my three brothers-but the beginning that came with Ultima” (1). Ultima herself represents the embodiment of all beliefs. She does not push Tony to choose any particular path in life; she simply wants him to be able to decide for himself. She helps him decipher the conflicts in both his familial education and his spiritual education, ultimately giving him an education in syncretism. From the first day of Tony’s life, Ultima steps forward to protect his right to choose his own destiny by taking the afterbirth and burying it, so she alone knows his destiny. In all disputes on whether he is to be a Luna or a Marez, she remains neutral, not taking sides but providing Antonio with words of wisdom with which to make thoughtful decisions. Ultima allows him the freedom to make his own decisions, pushing him to strike out and discover things on his own without the protection of his mother, who has kept him close and hindered him in making his own decisions. The first day Tony heads out for school, Ultima tells Maria her son’s fate: “He will be a man of learning” (56). Although this seems to make Maria happy, little does she realize that being a man of learning requires Tony to analyze and question seemingly concrete beliefs, such as religion and family heritage. Ultima helps Tony to find his inner strength, which finally comes when he goes to stay with his uncles in El Puerto for the summer. She knows that when he returns he will be a different person, and she prepares him for the changes: “Be prepared to see things change when you return . . . You are growing, and growth is change. Accept the change, make it part of your strength” (245). When she sends him to El Puerto, Ultima knows that he will gain an inner strength that will help him to become a man and deal with the conflict in his life, helping him to find his own paths, both familial and spiritual. Ultima shows Tony syncretism even more in his spiritual education. She embodies all religious beliefs, which is what gives her power. She thrives on all sources of power, balancing them to her advantage. She respects and reveres God, the Virgin, the golden carp, and the earth equally. She longs for Tony to make his own religious choices: “I cannot tell you what to believe . . . As you grow into manhood you must find your own truths” (119). As she heals Uncle Lucas, Tony sees that her powers work where God’s could not, making him question His power. Although her actions such curing Uncle Lucas and ridding the Tellez house of the curse may make Tony question his Catholic beliefs, Ultima never actively tries to persuade him against any beliefs even Catholicism. The power of her education of syncretism is that she allows Tony to decide for himself, not imposing her own feelings on him and protecting him from too much influence from others. Finally, at the end, Tony understands the balance Ultima has taught him; he must be both Marez and Luna and have a balance between all religious beliefs to truly be a man of learning. In one of Tony’s dreams, Ultima appears to him and explains that he must see beyond himself: “You have been seeing only parts . . . and not looking beyond into the great cycle that binds us all” (121). As Tony learns all beliefs are bound together into a balanced system, he also realizes that, when the balance is disturbed, it must be restored, as with the deaths of Tenorio and Ultima. Tenorio and Ultima both meddle in the lives of other people, which is forbidden, so for balance to be restored, they both must die. By the end of the novel, Tony is able to understand and cope with Ultima’s death, having embraced the syncretism which she taught him and making himself stronger. In Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima, Antonio embraces syncretism through several different types of education: familial, spiritual, and, most importantly, Ultima’s. Many different people influence Tony’s path to syncretism, teaching him the importance of all beliefs and opinions. Antonio’s quest for the truth leads him directly into being a man of learning because all good scholars search for a balance in knowledge. Through Ultima, Tony discovers his own destiny and how to lead his own life, despite what others might want him to do, because the choice is ultimately his. Work CitedAnaya, Rudulfo. Bless Me, Ultima. New York: Warner Books, 1972. Print.