Bless Me, Ultima

by Rudolfo Anaya

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Discussion Topic

The significance and perception of Ultima's owl in Bless Me, Ultima

Summary:

In Bless Me, Ultima, Ultima's owl symbolizes her protective spirit and connection to nature. The owl is seen as a guardian, watching over Antonio and his family, and is perceived with both reverence and fear by the community. Its presence underscores Ultima's mystical powers and plays a crucial role in the unfolding of the story.

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Why is Tony disturbed by Ultima's owl in Bless Me, Ultima?

Tony is initially disturbed by the owl because they have never had an owl so close to the house. When Ultima arrives, the owl arrives as well and hoots in the night. The strangeness, novelty and surprise of this disturb Antonio and his sisters. 

Antonio mentions that brujas have been known to take on the form of an owl. However, when Antonio's father does not go out to shoot the owl, Antonio quickly he realizes the connection between Ultima and the owl. 

As Ultima had come into the house to join the family, the owl too had come to serve a positive purpose.

"Its song seemed to say that it had come to watch over us."

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What is the significance of Ultima's owl in Bless Me, Ultima?

The owl is commonly associated in myth and legend with wisdom. Someone renowned for their wisdom is often referred to as a "wise old owl." Ultima certainly falls into that category; she's a very wise old lady who displays exemplary wisdom in her capacity as Antonio's spiritual guide. But as well as symbolizing Ultima's wisdom, the owl also represents her darker, more vengeful side. As a witch, Ultima has the capacity for both good and evil, and the owl reflects this. We see this in the incident where the owl savagely rips out one of Tenorio's eyes. Even though he's a thoroughly unpleasant character, Tenorio doesn't really deserve such a hideous fate.

Most importantly of all, however, the owl symbolizes the relationship between Antonio and Ultima. At first, he's somewhat frightened of the owl, just as he is of his beguiling grandmother. But in due course, he comes to see Ultima—and the owl—as his protector, as the very soul of nature.

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What is the significance of Ultima's owl in Bless Me, Ultima?

The appearance of the owl serves to articulate and symbolize Ultima's special understanding of/with nature.

Antonio learns many lessons from Ultima, one of the most important being that nature has a power and should be respected. Humans are a part of a larger circle of being.  

To Tony she says, “You have been seeing only parts . . . and not looking beyond into the great cycle that binds us all.”

Ultima's owl arrives with Ultima at Antonio's family's house, symbolizing the idea that Ultima is bound with nature. As an active character, the owl protects Ultima and the family and watches over them. Though Antonio initially is disturbed by the owl (because witches/brujas have been known to take the shape of owls), he quickly comes to realize that Ultima's owl is a protective presence. 

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What is significant about the owl being at Lupitos death scene in Bless Me, Ultima?  

It could have many significances, but the owl in the story represents Ultima's spirit, her power animal.  Wherever the owl is, Ultima is also.  So I saw it as Ultima the curandera, the Medicine Woman, the spirit guide, arriving to shepherd Lupito's soul when he is killed.

Lupito is a sympathetic character with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from World War II.  While he commits murder, he is clearly crazy, and his killing a sad event in the story.  Ultima realizes this and the owl is there to help him.

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How does Tony view Ultima's owl in Bless Me, Ultima?

In Chapter One, Tony regards Ultima's owl as a special presence that has been sent to watch over the family.

Even though owls are said to portend evil, Tony feels that Ultima's owl will be different. He deeply believes that this very special owl which sits in a juniper tree outside Ultima's window will not be a bruja or a witch. When Tony's father makes no move to shoot the owl, Tony is further reassured about his assessment of Ultima's owl.

So it is that when he sleeps on the first night of Ultima's stay, Tony dreams wonderful dreams about the owl. In his dream, he sees the owl as a good and protective presence. The owl takes both the Virgin of Guadalupe (the patron saint of the town) and the babies in Limbo to heaven.

In Roman Catholic theology, The Limbo of Infants is a theory about the fate of unbaptized babies. Accordingly, when babies die without the benefit of baptismal dispensation for original sin, they can theoretically end up in a state of Limbo. In Tony's dream, he sees Ultima's owl bringing all the infants in Limbo to heaven. Ultima's owl is a benign, rather than an oppressive or virulent, presence.

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