| Rhetorical Elements|
Point of View
MLA Works Cited
Figures of Speech
Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya, is a coming-of-age story that revolves around a young boy named Antonio. In this story, Antonio is torn between three destinies. His mother wants him to become a priest while his father wants him to explore and be free; then along comes Ultima. Ultima, an old woman who works with herbs and magical powers, comes to visit Antonio and hisfamily on the Ilano. With her, she brings her magic, her views, and her perspectives on life--and she has chosen to pass these things down to Antonio before she dies.
It is clear throughout the story that both Ultima and Antonio have magical powers. It is unclear, however, if Antonio's powers have been given to him or lent to him from Ultima, or if he has had the magic inside of him from the very beginning. Antonio's dreams seem to foretell the future. From the very beginning, Antonio sees Ultima by his mother's side while he was being bom in a dream. Antonio's dreams seem to foreshadow several events in this novel.
Up to the point where Ultima visits, Antonio has it in his mind that it is his destiny to become a priest. He is to follow his mother's belief system, which consists of strict, traditional rules; Antonio's mother is Catholic, and she practices her religion very strictly. This belief system is shaken when Antonio not only witnesses, but becomes a part of, Ultima's cure for Uncle Lucas. Uncle Lucas is dying, and the Priest's past attempts to save him had failed. So, the family turns to Ultima as a last resort. Ultima agrees to treat him, but requests Antonio come with her. During the cure, Antonio experiences weird feelings, most of these feelings painful and unpleasant. It is like he has taken some of the burden of the pain off of Uncle Lucas, helping him overcome his illness. Ultima's cure ends up saving Lucas' life, and Antonio isn't only there to witness it, but actually becomes a part of it. Because the Priest failed where Ultima did not, this really shakes Antonio's whole belief system: "The power of the doctors and the power of the church had failed to cure my uncle. Now everyone depended on Ultima's magic. Was it possible that there was more power in Ultima's magic than in the priest? "(103). At this point, Antonio begins to doubt his destiny of becoming a priest.
Later on, Antonio learns the story about the golden carp from another boy his own age. Antonio sees the golden carp, which means he is one of the magical people in the town. Not everyone can see the golden carp; the golden carp is considered a pagan god: "The golden carp is my god, Tony. He will rule the new waters. I will be happy to be with my god. It was unbelievable, and yet it made a wild kind of sense! All the pieces fitted! "(124).
At this point in time, Antonio is searching for answers to his many questions about life and what happens afterwards. So far, the church is not providing answers to his questions, but Antonio thinks his First Communion will cause him to know the answers to all of his questions. The carp seems to make more sense to Antonio, but he is not ready to believe in that yet; he will wait for his First Communion. Antonio knows that he is special since he can see the golden carp, and that is it going against his church and his entire destiny if he chooses this path. He cannot both become a priest and believe in the golden carp.
When Antonio receives his First Holy Communion, and his questions are not answered, he is extremely disappointed: "After Easter I went to confession every Saturday and on Sunday morning I took communion, but I was not satisfied. The God I so eagerly sought was not there, and the understanding I thought to gain was not there " (235). This is the last nail in the coffin for his future priesthood. At this point, Antonio is looking to the belief system involved with the golden carp.
So, what does all of this have to do with Ultima passing her powers down to Antonio before she dies? In every instance mentioned here, Ultima moves Antonio one step closer to her belief system, and it is necessary for Antonio to accept Ultima's belief system in order for him to receive her powers. When Antonio becomes part of Uncle Lucas' cure, his absolute certainty that he will become a priest goes away since the Priest failed where Ultima had not. When Antonio learns about the golden carp, this presents a new idea about religion into his life.
The fact that his First Holy Communion failed to bring about answers to his questions further weakens his ties to the church and further strengthens his belief in the golden carp. Ultima then has Antonio exactly where she wants him. Ultima sees the big picture; she recognizes that all the belief systems have the same thing in common and that you need to approach problems in life with an open mind. You cannot work with Ultima's magic with a closed mind or a fixed belief system. She has to break Antonio's strong ties with the church and introduce something new in his life in order for her to achieve this.
Antonio will carry on Ultima's work. Antonio will see the entire picture, instead of just the blinded, closed-minded views of a particular religion, which will allow him to use Ultima's magic. Antonio will always have more questions than answers. Antonio will become Ultima's successor.
Anaya, Rudolfo. Bless Me Ultima. New York: Warner Books, 1972.