Bless Me, Ultima

by Rudolfo Anaya

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What does Ultima teach Antonio in the first three chapters of Bless Me, Ultima?

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Let us remind ourselves of what happens in these first three chapters: Ultima is brought to the house, and as Antonio watches Lupito dying, he hears Ultima's owl with him and senses her presence alongside him. It is Ultima that carries him back to his house and gives him something to make him sleep. As he reflects on his experience of the night before, he asks Ultima what happened the night before, expressing his insatiable curiosity. The main think that Ultima teaches him, therefore, is in how she answers his questions. Note what she says:

"A curandera cannot give away her secrets," she said, "but if a person really wants to know, then he will listen and be patient. Knowledge comes slowly--"

This in a sense is the kernel of Ultima's teaching of Antonio in these chapters. There is so much he doesn't understand about Ultima and how she works her magic, but at the same time, Ultima is trying to encourage him to be patient and accept that knowledge only develops slowly over time. Of course, we see this process in action over the rest of the novel as Antonio matures and develops and he learns from Ultima.

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