Bless Me, Ultima Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Guadalupe

Guadalupe. Small town in eastern New Mexico where Antonio lives. Tony’s family has moved from Las Pasturas (a smaller town where he was born) to Guadalupe, where he will spend these crucial years growing up. The town is dominated by three symbolic structures: the Roman Catholic church where Tony receives his catechism, the school he attends, and the water tower. Many of Tony’s adventures will be on water: It is at the river at night where he watches the death of Lupito, in a pond where he sees the golden carp, in a snowstorm where he witnesses the death of Narciso, and in Blue Lake where he finds his friend Florence drowned.

Tony and his family live on a hillside outside of town, where Tony does traditional chores, feeding the livestock and tending his mother’s garden, and it is from his mother’s family that he learns some of his most lasting lessons: “From my mother I had learned that man is of the earth, that his clay feet are part of the ground that nourishes him, and that it is this inexplicable mixture that gives man his measure of safety and security. Because man plants in the earth he believes in the miracle of birth, and he provides a home for his family, and he builds a church to preserve his faith and the soul that is bound to his flesh, his clay.”

Ultima, a curandera (or healer) and grandmother-figure who was present at Tony’s birth, introduces him to the beauty that surrounds Guadalupe: “the wild beauty of our hills and the magic of the green river” that surround the town. Thus, Tony’s location just outside of town, and his adventures in the hills and on the river there, show a merging of the two familial traditions through the help of Ultima.

Llano

Llano (YAH-noh). Plains on which Tony’s father works all of his life as a cowboy. The vaquero tradition is a dying one, being eliminated by fences and highways and the modern farming equipment which changes the face of the Southwest in the twentieth century. The llano also symbolizes not only an older way of life, but a sense of freedom that Tony’s father and others still cherish in the modern world: From “my father and Ultima I had learned that the greater immortality is in the freedom of man, and that freedom is best nourished by the noble expanse of land and air and pure, white sky.”

Agua Negra ranch

Agua Negra ranch. Between Guadalupe and Las Pasturas. Tony accompanies Ultima when she goes to the simple adobe home of Tellez to lift a curse that has caused stones to rain down upon it. It is the last act before her death.

El Puerto (de los Lunas)

El Puerto (de los Lunas). Small town that is Tony’s mother’s birthplace. Every fall, Tony and his family make a pilgrimage to “the adobe houses of the peaceful village. . . . We always enjoyed our stay at El Puerto. It was a world where people were happy, working, helping each other.” By the end of the novel, Tony says, “Take the llano and the river valley, the moon and the sea, God and the golden carp—and make something new.” He will weave together, in short, the various strands of his family traditions: not only the “moon” and the “sea” (the Luna and Marez families), but also his orthodox Catholic heritage with the native spiritual traditions of the Southwest, including the magical folk religion and history represented by Ultima.

Bless Me, Ultima Historical Context

New Mexico
New Mexico was a Spanish colony from 1595 to 1821. When the Spanish explored the region, they found permanent...

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Bless Me, Ultima Setting

The novel is set in the plains of New Mexico in the 1940s, during World War II. The first part of the book takes place around Tony's home, a...

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Bless Me, Ultima Literary Style

Point of View An integral aspect of the construction of Bless Me, Ultima is the point of view from which the story is told. The novel...

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Bless Me, Ultima Literary Qualities

Much of what Tony learns about his past and his future is revealed to him in dream sequences in which Anaya uses stream of consciousness and...

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Bless Me, Ultima Social Sensitivity

Anaya covers themes in his novels that have had significance in his own life. But while Tony's experiences mirror Anaya's own experiences,...

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Bless Me, Ultima Compare and Contrast

1940s: During World War II, the U.S. population, including the people living in New Mexico, is mostly located in small towns and rural...

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Bless Me, Ultima Topics for Discussion

1. Why was Maria particularly bothered by her sons' exhibiting what she considered inappropriate behavior around Ultima?

2. Why...

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Bless Me, Ultima Ideas for Reports and Papers

1. Using Ultima as an example, define the role of the shaman in Mexican American societies. (Daghistany's book in For Further Reference...

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Bless Me, Ultima Topics for Further Study

Research the practice of curandismo (native healing) in the Southwestern United States, and evaluate Anaya’s portrayal of the...

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Bless Me, Ultima Related Titles / Adaptations

Anaya's books attempt to answer some of life's most perplexing questions: how we can understand the nature of God and how we can we find...

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Bless Me, Ultima Media Adaptations

In 1982, Rudolfo Anaya read sections of Bless Me, Ultima as well as his novel La Tortuga on a sound recording for American...

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Bless Me, Ultima What Do I Read Next?

Victor Martinez’s Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida won the 1996 National Book Award for Young People’s Fiction. In powerful prose, it...

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Bless Me, Ultima For Further Reference

Anaya, Rudolfo. Keep Blessing Us, Ultima: A Teaching Guide for Bless Me, Ultima. Edited by Abelerdo Baeza. Austin: Eakin Press, 1997....

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Bless Me, Ultima Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Gonzalez, Ray, “Desert Songs,” in Nation, Vol. 259, Issue 3, July 18, 1994, p. 98.

Jussawalla,...

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Bless Me, Ultima Bibliography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Suggested Readings

Bruce-Novoa. Portraits of the Chicano Artist as a Young Man: The Making of the “Author” in Three Chicano Novels. Albuquerque, N.Mex.: Pajarito Press, 1977. This important early analysis of Bless Me, Ultima reveals the novel to be “the apprenticeship of a writer who fulfills his training with Ultima by becoming a novelist, the author of his own text.”

Calderón, Héctor. “Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima: A Chicano Romance of the Southwest.” Critica 1, no. 3 (Fall, 1986): 21-47. Argues that the novel is actually a highly crafted romance.

González-T., César A., ed. Rudolfo A. Anaya: Focus on Criticism. La Jolla, Calif.: Lalo Press, 1990.

Gonzalez-T., Cesar A., ed. Rudolfo A. Anaya: Focus on Criticism. La Jolla, Calif.: Lalo Press, 1990. Includes useful essays on Bless Me, Ultima by Roberto Cantu, Jean Cazemajou, and others.

Lamadrid, Enrique R. “The Dynamics of Myth in the Creative Vision of Rudolfo Anaya.” In Paso por aquí: Critical Essays on the New Mexican Literary Tradition, 1542-1988, edited by Erlinda Gonzales-Berry. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1989. Shows the ways in which Anaya uses Southwestern myth in his novel.

Saldivar, Ramon. “Romance, the Fantastic, and the Representation of History in Rudolfo Anaya and Ron Arias.” Chapter 5 in Chicano Narrative: The Dialectics of Difference. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990. Argues that Anaya’s book “creates a uniquely palatable amalgamation of old and new world symbolic structures.”

Trejo, Arnulfo D. “Bless Me, Ultima: A Novel.” Arizona Quarterly 29 (1973): 95-96.