Bless Me, Ultima

by Rudolfo Anaya

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How did the characters in Bless Me, Ultima impact Antonio?

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Cico, Ultima and Narciso are the three characters that can be argued to have the strongest impact on Antonio's views. 

Cico tells Antonio the story of the Golden Carp and takes Antonio to see it. This experience of nature and the idea of a God of nature both help to shape and to confuse Antonio's spiritual outlook.

“If the golden carp was a god, who was the man on the cross? The Virgin? Was my mother praying to the wrong God?”

Ultimately, Antonio's confusion leads to an enriched perspective and a broader view than he began with.

Like Cico, Ultima exemplifies a connection to nature and a humility before nature. She does not instruct Antonio as to what he should believe, but rather helps to show Antonio what is available to believe, what is possible, and how to see the world differently. 

She becomes a mentor to Tony, helping him to interpret his dreams and negotiate the dangerous terrain of his quest for self knowledge.

Narciso does not directly speak much with Antonio, but serves as an example of bravery and other positive values. Narciso shows Antonio also that reputation is often not founded in reality, as Narciso turns out to be a noble man despite his reputation as being a weak-willed drunkard.

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In Bless Me, Ultima, what ways does Antonio's character impact the reader?

As readers, we feel a natural empathy with Antonio.  He is a young boy in the midst of growing up and trying to figure life out, something all of have to grapple with at times in our life.  As we see him wrestling with his own religious beliefs, we remember our own struggles coming to terms with our own.  When he is first exposed to death, we remember our own experiences.

So through Tony, the reader can remember his/her own youth, or in your case, you can probably recognize some experiences and thoughts that Tony has as being ones that you are dealing with now, or very recently.  It is one of the things that makes this such a good novel: it has themes and characters that are universal for everyone regardless of age or identity.

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How does the death of other characters in Bless Me, Ultima affect the main character, Antonio?

Like any young boy, Antonio is frightened of death.  It represents the unknown to him, and as a young, devout Catholic, he worries about what happens to babies who have not yet been christened, and what will happen to him and to Ultima, or Narciso for that matter.

Life and death are central themes in the book, as well as Antonio's coming of age.  Some who die in the story are innocent, or merely unfortunate, or in the case of Tenorio or his daughters, they seem deserving.  Coming to terms with the fragility of life as well as his own mortality, Antonio learns about death from Ultima, and the experiences he has with her and because of her.

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