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Bless Me, Ultima

Rudolfo A. Anaya

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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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