- Title of Work: Bless Me Ultima
- Author & Date Written: Rudolfo Anaya 1972
- Country of Author: New Mexico, USA
Ultima- An old Curandera who comes to spend her last days with Antonio and his family. She is Tony’s mentor and helps him to find the right path for his life.
Antonio Marez- A young boy who is torn between his parents: a Marez and a Luna. But with the help of Ultima, he discovers his own destiny. He thirsts for knowledge: he is a curious boy, an outstanding student, and a questioning worshiper. Maria Luna – Antonio’s mother. A kind woman whose one dream is to see her youngest son become a priest. She is obsessed with his education and pushes him to learn about the culture of her family, the Lunas.
Gabriel Marez- Antonio’s father. A proud man, a carefree rancher on the plains who tends to push his son away from his mother’s protective arms. He is often depressed because he gave up his lifestyle for his wife. His dream is to move to California.
Lupito- A man turned mad by the happenings of the war who kills the sheriff of the town in cold blood. It is his blood that first defiles the river. The memory of his death stays with Tony throughout the novel and causes him to think about the difference between good and evil and forgiveness.
Narciso- An honorable man who tries to protect Ultima from harm. Because of the loss of his young wife, Narciso begins to drink and is known as the town drunk. Through his garden, Narciso makes magic by growing beautiful flowers and plants. He is later killed by Tenorio in cold blood while trying to warn Ultima of harm and is buried as the town drunk instead of the hero that he is.
Leon, Andrew, and Eugene– Tony’s brothers. The giants in his dream. They go off to fight the war and come back grown men with their own dreams and beliefs. They inevitably break the heart of their proud father by going out on their own and not helping him fulfill his dream of moving to California.
Tenorio Trementina- The villain of the novel. He seeks revenge on Ultima for the death of his daughters and stops at nothing to get it. He kills Narciso in cold blood. He is a true coward and he hides behind others instead of facing those who he seeks to fight.
Abel, Bones, Ernie, Horse, Lloyd, Red, and the Vitamin Kid– Antonio’s friends and a wild group of boys who curse and fight. Horse loves to wrestle, but everyone fears Bones more because he is reckless and maybe even crazy. Ernie loves to brag. He does not like Tony very much and teases him every chance he gets.
The Vitamin Kid is the fastest runner in Guadalupe, and he races Tony across the bridge to school every morning until he takes an interest in girls. Red is a Protestant, so he faces teasing very often from the group. Like Tony, he is a good student. Lloyd enjoys reminding everyone that they can be sued forever the most minor of offenses. Abel, the smallest boy in the group, likes to urinate in the most inappropriate places.
Florence– Florence is one of Antonio’s friends. Although he does not believe in God, he attends catechism lessons with his friends. Florence’s mother died when he was three. Afterward, his father slowly killed himself with alcohol. His sisters are now prostitutes at Rosie’s house.
He asks Antonio insightful questions that point out the gaps in the Catholic Religion. When Antonio becomes worried about Florence’s soul, Samuel suggests that the golden carp might be a better god Florence. Unfortunately, as Cico and Tony prepare to take Florence to see the golden carp, Florence dies in a swimming accident before they can do so.
Cico- Cico is one of Tony’s closest friends. Unlike most of his friends, he is quiet and gentle. Cico takes Antonio to see the golden carp, a pagan god to Antonio.
The Llano– The land of the Marez, the vaqueros. A land of rolling hills and beautiful, dark plains and clusters of adobe huts. This land symbolizes freedom and the spirit of the vaqueros. It is the land of Tony’s father and seeing it makes him homesick for the days when he used to wander it with his family.
El Puerto De Las Lunas- This is the land of the Lunas, The land of Tony’s mother. A place where calm, quiet farmers plant their crops in peace and in time with the moon. It is a flat valley that reveals adobe houses and a peaceful village. There is a dusty road that leads passes in front of the church and then Tenorio’s bar and then straight into a cluster of mud houses with tin roofs.
At the end of this road is the house of Tony’s grandfather. The village is settled by the people of Tony’s mother. It is peaceful and calm and the complete opposite of the town. The only evil which dwells there is Tenorio and his daughters. The Town- A busy place filled with both good and evil. Inside it is the church where Tony takes these Catholic lessons and his school where he works hard to fulfill his mother’s dream. In this town, there are many dangers.
Here, Tenorio fights with Narciso over Ultima. This is also the place where Antonio’s brother becomes distracted by the girls at Rosie’s house, the local whore house. In the legend of the Golden Carp, it says the sins of the people will make this town sink into the earth and be covered by water. Plot Outline: Tony is the main character of the story.
Throughout the course of the book, he goes through several trials that will inevitably determine his destiny. With the help of Ultima, he begins to understand the cultures of both his mother and father and the significance of his surroundings. He learns the difference between good and evil and religion and pagan worship.
Ultimately, Tony realizes Ultima is the symbol of knowledge and he chooses to follow in her path. At the beginning of the story, Ultima is called to the home of Tony’s grandfather to cure his cursed uncle. She relieves him of his curse and also curses the three witches that wished him harm.
Later on, one of the witches becomes ill and her father, Tenorio, swears to avenge the coming death of his daughter by killing Ultima, who he believes to be an evil witch. During this Narciso, the town drunk swears to protect Ultima until he is killed by Tenorio in cold blood. Tenorio then tries other ways to bring harm to Ultima but fails miserably.
Then finally, he discovers the secret to her power: the owl. He then tries to kill Tony while telling him what he plans to do to Ultima. Tony runs to his home from El Puerto to warn Ultima of Tenorio’s evil doing but is too late. Tenorio kills the owl. But he is then killed by Tony’s Uncle Pedro. Sadly, Ultima dies along with her owl.
Major Themes of Work
Religion and Superstition– Tony, through incidents that happen all through the novel, seems to always be confused on these matters, for he seemed to have three possible paths: Ultima, the Golden Carp, or Catholicism. He saw Ultima cure his cursed uncle. Why had not God been able to cure him? He gained knowledge through her instructional guidance-whether is to respect the earth or to do well in school. He also witnessed her mysterious death. He heard about the Golden Carp and its legend.
Tony almost believed in it- Florence had abandoned God because he thought God could not be cruel enough to take away his parents. Tony and Florence could not honestly think of any reason why God would do this. But, his mother was deeply religious and strongly wanted him to be a priest. He loved the purity of the Virgin Mary. He later says that “I did not think that I could live without God” (Page 196).
Good Versus Evil- In the story the good and evil theme is well represented. Ultima, throughout the book, is always considered good-she as a healer and a teacher. However, there were several incidents involving evil. Tenorio is considered evil throughout the book. He swears to avenge the death of his daughters by killing Ultima. He tries many different ways to defeat Ultima but fails. This proves the saying that good conquers all. Even though Tenorio does kill the owl, and Ultima with it, he does not win because Ultima accomplishes everything she set out to and dies a peaceful death.
Symbols in the Book
Water– All through the book water is used as a symbol of purity and innocence. It represents life and it surrounds the town. At the beginning of the novel, the river is defiled by the blood of Lupito. The water of the river represents the sins and impurity of the town itself.
In the novel, the Golden Carp, a pagan god, never swims in the river because of its impurity. The pond represents purity and innocence. Cico and Tony come here to see the Golden Carp. It is secluded and it contains none of the sins or blood of the people in town.
The Owl- The owl is the spirit of Ultima. It was given to her by her teacher: “el hombre volador” or “the flying man.” The owl protects Ultima and the Marez family throughout the book. When the mob of Tenorio and his friends came to the home of the Marez to kill Ultima, the owl sounded an alarm and warned everyone of the oncoming danger. With the death of the owl came Ultima’s death.
Blood– In the novel, blood symbolizes several things. The blood of the Marez and the Luna symbolize Antonio’s connection to the cultures of both his mother and father. This connection causes much confusion in Antonio’s life because he does not know which culture he wants to be apart of. The blood that stained the river symbolized the sins and wrongdoings of the people of the town. It was impure. In the death of Ultima and her owl, blood was never mentioned.
Other significant imagery: In the novel, Rudolfo Anaya uses imagery to give you a feel of the environment in which the story takes place. His elaborate description of the llano shows you the beauty of Spanish America and helps you to understand the restless culture of the vaqueros who wander across it. Also, Anaya gives you a detailed description of El Puerto.
The village in which the Lunas reside. The imagery in this description also helps you to understand the culture of the farmers, the calm and quiet people who plant their crops by the light of the moon and live in peace. Imagery plays an important role in this novel because, without it, certain aspects such as the point of view of both the Lunas and the Marez family would never be understood.
Significance of Title of Work: The title of the novel: Bless Me, Ultima shows the power and knowledge of Ultima. At the end of the story, Antonio says, “Bless me, Ultima” (260). With these words, you find the meaning of the title.
Author’s Techniques: Rudolfo Anaya uses many Spanish terms in this book. The reason for this is to show the culture of the characters in the novel. Also, he uses imagery to explain the beauty of Spanish America.
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