Tony comes to realize that 1) he will have to choose a path through life for himself and 2) this path can be made up of various cultural strains. Early in the novel, Tony can only see the differences and the conflicts between different ways of looking at the world, but in the end he feels empowered to try to see points of commonality instead of points of difference.
Tony then realizes that “maybe I do not have to be just Marez, or Luna, perhaps I can be both,” and he expands this understanding when he says, “Take the llano and the river valley, the moon and the sea, God and the golden carp—and make something new . . . can a new religion be made?”
Tony learns to see nature as having an aura and a voice of its own for the first time upon Ultima's arrival in his home. As the novel moves on, Tony encounters the Golden Carp and is confirmed in the Catholic Church. These experiences, along with the tensions in his family, lead Tony to a confusion of identity (specifically spiritual identity).
Tony’s life is fraught with opposing forces. One of the primary conflicts in the novel is the tension between his parents.
By the end of the novel, Tony has realized that even strong people have weaknesses, like his father and his brothers, yet they are capable of change. This is true of Tony's father in particular as well as Narciso.
Seeing the strength of people close to him as they find ways to change and to help one another, Tony comes to realize that he can change as well: he can change (and choose) his spiritual views; he can act on what he feels is right; he can become a good person without becoming a priest, literally or figuratively.