Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Antonio Márez y Luna
Antonio Márez y Luna (MAH-rehs ee LEW-nah), a child at the threshold of a larger world. Although he is only seven, Antonio’s brothers are already fighting in World War II. Before his first day of school, Antonio sees a traumatized veteran killed by an enraged mob. In school, Antonio must master a new language because classes are taught in English. At the end of the year, he is promoted an extra grade. The larger world proves more difficult to master, however. Antonio witnesses the deaths of several people he loves, endures the nauseating fears that beset local children in response to nearby atomic testing, and shares his father’s anguish when his brothers return from the war only to wander away again, their cultural roots severed. Finally, he watches as Ultima, his spiritual mentor, dies, defeated by an opponent who hates her healing powers.
Ultima (EWL-tee-mah), an agedcurandera (healer), trained by el Volaré, the flying man from las Pasturas. Ultima is a friend of Antonio’s mother, Maria Luna. In her old age, she is left behind in a village that has lost many members through the war and economic migration. The Márez y Luna family invites Ultima to stay with them. Ultima is loved by a faithful few whom she helped in the past, especially Maria and Narcisco. She is also the object of...
(The entire section is 674 words.)
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Cico is a friend of Samuel’s who spends most of his time fishing along the river. He takes Antonio to see the Golden Carp.
Florence, another friend of Antonio’s, attends catechism class at church with Antonio. Florence does not believe in God—he attends catechism because his friends are there—and his questions are troubling to Antonio, who does not have answers to all of them. Antonio and Cico decide to reveal the secret of the Golden Carp to Florence so that he will have something to believe in, but Florence drowns before they are able to show him the pagan god.
Horse is one of the boys from town whom Antonio befriends at church the summer before he begins school. They attend school and catechism class together. Horse is the bully of the group and is always described in terms related to horses: “I could hear the deep sounds a horse makes inside his chest when he is ready to buck”; “He chomped his teeth.”
See Ultima Andrew Marez Andrew is one of Tony’s older brothers. All the older brothers, Andrew, Eugene, and Leon, return from World War II feeling the wanderlust of the Marez blood. They soon leave again, telling Tony that he will have to be the son who fulfills their mother’s dreams. Andrew decides to stay for a while and return to school. After refusing to help Narciso to warn Ultima, which results in Narciso’s death at the...
(The entire section is 1135 words.)
Themes and Characters
Bless Me, Ultima is a coming-of-age novel that centers on Tony's quest for personal and cultural identity. Perhaps the most prominent theme is that of Tony's emerging spiritualism, which becomes an essential part of both his personal and cultural self. Anaya entrusts Tony's spiritualism to Ultima, a wise healer, or curandera, who comes to live with Tony and his family. Upon meeting Ultima, Tony is overwhelmed by her powers. Suddenly the world comes alive for him, and we come to understand that Ultima will be the one to pave the path to Tony's manhood.
Tony knew Ultima before she arrived, because he too has spiritual powers that he would soon learn how to tap. He is perceptive, and he had dreamt of Ultima and of her presence at his own birth. Revelation through dreams is one of the ways Anaya illustrates Tony's metamorphosis. According to tradition, curanderas often attend laboring mothers, and Ultima had attended Tony's mother during the birth of her children. In further keeping with tradition, she had buried the placenta after Tony's birth, and with it the key to his destiny.
Ultima has always been with Tony in spirit, even before she comes to live with his family. She is not related to them, but the family welcomes her as one of their own. They call her Grande, meaning "large" which signifies the profound respect they feel for her. Ultima is a small woman in size, but she appears larger than life. Tony says "there was a nobility to...
(The entire section is 2070 words.)