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