Bless Me, Ultima

by Rudolfo Anaya

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What kind of person is Narciso in chapter 14 of Bless Me, Ultima?

Quick answer:

Narciso is very loyal.

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Antonio characterizes Narciso as “the town drunk” in chapter two of the novel. We see a small part of his character in that chapter when he tries to convince an angry mob not to kill Lupito (a man struggling with mental illness) after he shot the sheriff of the town. During that exchange, Narciso shows a part of who he is when he tries to get Lupito to turn himself in rather than be shot while standing confused in the river. Narciso says,

“Hey Lupito! It is me, Narciso. It is me, hombre, your compadre. Listen my friend, a very bad business has happened tonight, but if we act like men we can settle it—Let me come down and talk to you, Lupito. Let me help you—” (chapter 2).

Of all the men on the bridge, it was Narciso alone who knew Lupito and begged for him to turn himself in. He showed compassion for the man despite his crimes.

In chapter 14 of the novel, we see more of that compassion and bravery when Narciso confronts Tenorio (the antagonist), who then threatens to kill Ultima, an older woman that Narciso loves dearly. Narciso replies to Tenorio’s threat with, “If you seek to do evil to la Grande I will cut out your heart” (chapter 14). This is the last thing he says before Tenorio threatens to kill Ultima and goes off.

Antonio (the protagonist) sees the fight and follows Narciso as he tries to warn someone about Tenorio’s deadly threats. We see more of Narciso’s character and his loyalty, especially when he waves off the other men at the bar who insist that he go back into the bar to drink. The bartender tells him, “It is nothing,” and says, “Ah! Only words. Forget this bad thing before it gets you into trouble with the sheriff.” Earlier in the novel, he is described as a drunk, but even the offer to drink more is not enough to entice him to betray his close friend to the possibility of harm.

Narciso, despite the heavy snow blocking his way to talk to Antonio’s father, sets out to find a way to warn Ultima. He tries to tell Andrew, Antonio’s brother who is at the brothel, but Andrew doesn’t take him seriously. He tells Narciso to come in and enjoy the company of the girls. Narciso flatly refuses, saying, “The diablas putas have turned your mind! You do not think with your brains, but with your balls” (chapter 14).

Narciso continues, attempting to warn Ultima himself when Tenorio shoots him after a struggle. He dies under a juniper tree, having given a short confession to Antonio.

In chapter 14, we see the bravery, resolve, and loyalty that Narciso shows towards Ultima—so when you look to describe his character, those three traits are the ones that might stand out the most.

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In chapter 14 of “Bless Me, Ultima,” Antonio comes upon Narciso and Tenrorio fighting in the snow outside the saloon. Tenorio stumbles away and vows to kill Untima because he blames her for the sickness of his second daughter. He leaves towards the direction of Tony’s house where Ultima resides. Narciso sets off to warn Andrew of the ominous threat, but Tony’s brother refuses to take him seriously and does nothing to protect Ultima and his family. Narciso decides to follow Tenorio through the blizzard in order to protect Ultima from his revenge.  Narciso is then shot and killed by Tenorio when he confronts Ultima’s enemy. He confesses his sins to Tony just before he dies.

Narciso’s actions show that he was selfless, loyal, and brave. He lost his life to protect the lives of others when, in all actuality, it wasn't his responsibility to do so. Andrew neglected his responsibility, and through his neglect, Narciso proved himself to be the better man. He redeemed himself of his reputation of worthless town drunk, and demonstrated nothing but heroism and concern for the welfare of others.

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