Bless Me, Ultima

by Rudolfo Anaya

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In Bless Me, Ultima, do specific symbols represent good and evil?

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There are several examples of symbolism in the novel. Antonio's dreams not only reflect future events in the novel, they actually predict them. They also tell us things about Antonio and his family in the past, such as when Antonio dreams of his own birth. Water is also an important symbol, seen in the golden carp, the religious rituals of the Catholic church, and the native spiritual traditions.

The best example of symbolism representing forces of good is Ultima's owl. The owl is Ultima's soul and is able to distinguish between good and evil. The owl appears after Lupito's death when Antonio is mourning for Lupito's soul. When Ultima and Antonio cure his uncle from the spell of the Trementina sisters, the owl scares the animals away from the house. Tenorio's eye is gouged out by the owl because Tenorio is after Ultima. When the owl dies at the end, Ultimate's protective spirit dies as well, foreshadowing Ultima's death.

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In Bless Me, Ultima do certain characters seem to fall into each category of good, evil, or both?

It's fairly obvious in the novel who is evil and who is good. There are some characters who aren't evil, but because they refuse to do anything to help Ultima when she's threatened, they betray their loyalty to Ultima after she has healed them.

Whether you believe Ultima is a bruja (witch) or a healer, she uses her talents to help people against the forces of evil. She teaches Antonio her methods of healing, but more importantly, shows him that he doesn't have to choose between his mother's and his father's family traditions. She guides Antonio's spiritual journey through life, and he says at the end of the novel, "And that is what Ultima tried to teach me, that the tragic consequences of life can be overcome by the magical strength that resides in the human heart."

Narciso, even though he's seen as the town drunk, is a spiritual person and proves himself when he makes the ultimate sacrifice of his own life in order to protect Ultima.

Tenorio Trementina and his three daughters are the evil forces in the novel. The Trementina sister place a curse on Antonio's Uncle Lucas when he catches them using their dark power to summon Satan. Ultima warns Tenorio to have his daughters lift the curse or suffer the consequences if they don't. When he refuses, the three women die, one by one. Tenorio sets out to avenge the deaths of his daughters, killing Narciso and Ultima's owl. He's killed when he tries to kill Antonio.

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