Bless Me, Ultima
full title · Bless Me, Ultima
author · Rudolfo A. Anaya
type of work · Novel
genre · Bildungsroman (coming-of-age story); magical realism
language · English, with Spanish words and phrases throughout
time and place written · 1960s, Albuquerque, New Mexico
date of first publication · 1972
publisher · Quinto Sol Publishers
narrator · Antonio as an adult, recounting a few years of his childhood
point of view · The novel is written exclusively from Antonio’s first-person point of view.
tone · For the most part, the narrator’s tone is serious and lyrical, with simple, poetic language used to depict Antonio’s weighty philosophical struggles. The tone of the novel generally matches the mood of its main character.
tense · Past
settings (time) · Mid-1940s, during and after World War II
settings (place) · Guadalupe, New Mexico, and its surrounding area
protagonist · Antonio
major conflict · As Antonio moves from childhood to adolescence, he tries to reconcile his parents’ and his community’s conflicting cultural traditions; Antonio’s goal is independent thought and action; he strives to make his own moral decisions and to accept responsibility for their consequences.
rising action · After Ultima arrives to stay with Antonio’s family, Antonio witnesses the murder of Lupito, a local man. He also experiences mounting anxiety over going away to school and leaving his mother.
climax · Ultima cures Lucas’s illness, presumably caused by Tenorio’s daughters, whom he saw participating in a satanic ritual. By curing Lucas, Ultima incites Tenorio’s rage, and Tenorio vows to kill Ultima.
falling action · Antonio goes to school and builds friendships there. Tenorio, still angry with Ultima, kills the pet owl that guides her in her magic healing. When the owl dies, Ultima dies as well. She asks Antonio to bury the owl’s body.
themes · The importance of moral independence; the influence of culture on identity
motifs · Dreams; family; learning and education; tolerance and understanding
symbols · The golden carp; Ultima’s owl; the Virgin of Guadalupe
foreshadowing · Antonio’s dreams; Ultima’s comments about the future
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