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Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary
devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.
Antonio has a number of dreams throughout the novel, from
his early dream about watching his own birth to his later dreams
about his brothers calling for his help. Anaya uses the recurrent
dream motif to show how Antonio’s interpretations of his thoughts
and experiences change as he develops as a character. In his early dreams,
for instance, Antonio is largely preoccupied with the question of
his destiny, of whether he will become a vaquero or a priest. But
in his later dreams, he is preoccupied with much larger questions
of family, morality, and duty. This gradual transformation, traced
in dreams, reflects Antonio’s growth from childhood to maturity.
His dreams also offer him a rich and variable set of images and
symbols with which to understand his own life.
The recurring presence of various family relationships—uncles,
siblings, and parents, especially—provides a subtle commentary on
the nature of identity and ultimately underscores the book’s main
theme of moral independence. Many of Antonio’s family members seek
to define his future, especially his uncles, who argue about whether
he will become a priest or a vaquero. Antonio looks to
other members of his family to help define his identity, especially
when he tries to model himself after Andrew, his older brother.
In the end, Antonio must learn to make his own choices, drawing
from the wisdom and experience of his family, but not being limited
by their wishes and perspectives.
Ultima once predicts vaguely that Antonio will be a “man
of learning.” Many scenes in the book explore Antonio’s education,
both religious (his Communion classes) and academic (his school classes).
Antonio’s growth and development serve as examples of education.
Ultima believes that every experience helps inform one’s identity
and perspective on life. Bless Me, Ultima is the
story of Antonio’s growth from childhood to maturity. His progress
is represented by his gradually expanding education, both in the
classroom and in his own introspective interpretation of his experience.
Ultima represents the importance of tolerance and understanding. Though
she comes from an indigenous mystical tradition, she openly acknowledges
the value of the Catholic faith. She also encourages Antonio to
draw from the various conflicting sets of ideals that define his
outlook. Learning the importance of tolerance marks Antonio’s growth,
especially as he begins to realize that some religions may be better
suited to some people than to others, as Florence is seemingly better
suited to the faith of the golden carp than to Catholicism.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Bless Me, Ultima!