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Antonio notices three wax-covered clay dolls on Ultima’s
shelf. One seems to be bent over in pain. Ultima forbids him to
touch the dolls and warns him to stay away from Tenorio. She gives
him an amulet containing dried herbs to protect him from danger.
One evening, Narciso bursts into the Márez home to report that one
of Tenorio’s daughters has died. Tenorio told everyone that he found
Ultima’s little pouch of herbs under his daughter’s bed. Narciso
warns Ultima that Tenorio is coming with a drunken lynch mob hungry
for a witch’s death. At that moment, Tenorio and his cohorts arrive.
With Antonio at his side, Gabriel demands that they identify themselves and
state their business.
To guard against witches, one man has thrust through
his lips needles that have been blessed by a priest. Narciso declares
that they can pin the needles over Gabriel’s door in the sign of
a cross. If Ultima is a witch, she cannot walk through the door.
The mob agrees to abide by the test. Ultima’s owl suddenly gouges
out one of Tenorio’s eyes. When everyone looks up, Ultima has passed
through the door. The mob disperses, but Tenorio vows to kill Ultima.
Antonio notices that the needles are no longer pinned above the
door. He never finds out if they simply fell or if someone had broken
Gabriel accompanies his family to El Puerto and stays
to take part in the Lunas’ harvest for the first time. Antonio ponders
the conflicting belief systems of the Catholic Church and the golden
carp. He wishes there were a god that always forgave and never punished.
He wonders if God is too much like a man. Antonio asks Pedro why
he and Antonio’s other uncles did not come to warn Ultima like Narciso
did. Pedro admits that he was a coward, but he vows to stand by Ultima
from now on. Antonio’s uncle, Mateo, reports that the surviving
Trementina sisters have woven a cottonwood coffin for their dead
sister because a witch cannot be buried in a pine, cedar, or piñon
coffin. He describes the frightful ceremony for a Black Mass funeral.
Antonio has a dream in which Mateo’s description of the ceremony
is enacted, but when he looks inside the coffin, he finds Ultima.
He awakes just in time to see the El Puerto priest refuse to give
the dead woman the funeral mass and, therefore, burial in hallowed
ground. The whole town witnesses their public shame. Tenorio will
never again be able to sway the townspeople to join his vendetta
Bless Me, Ultima largely describes the
process of leaving childhood behind as adult knowledge is acquired.
During the remainder of the summer, the anxiety-prone Antonio learns
that coping with change and disappointment is a normal part of living,
and one that he must accept. At no point does life stop changing.
Moreover, change inevitably brings loss and grief, which Antonio
learns from watching Gabriel grieve by drinking and muttering to
himself angrily because his sons have rebelled. But change can also
bring redemption and forgiveness, which Anaya shows when Gabriel
finally begins to understand that his sons must build independent
lives and that the Márez spirit he admired in them led them to abandon
his dream for their own. By witnessing the drama between Gabriel
and his brothers, Antonio learns that rebellion against parental
authority is a normal part of becoming an adult.
When Gabriel’s old friends from the llano come to town
for supplies, Anaya uses their stories as a vehicle for examining
the social and economic changes affecting their lifestyles. They
demonstrate how railroads and barbed wire are causing the vaquero
lifestyle to change and slowly disappear. Antonio listens to the
tales of hardship and realizes that his father pines for a life
that is already fading. Again, change is shown to be inevitable,
and it brings hardship and grief. However, Antonio recognizes that
as the vaqueros drink and reminisce about the good old days, they
discuss a past that is heavily idealized. María also idealizes her
ancestral past—she neglects to mention that the priest who led the
Lunas to El Puerto was actually their father. She also idealizes
the role of the priest, an important realization for Antonio. He
must learn to evaluate truths on his own because other peoples’
truths are colored by their personal experiences and losses.
Although Antonio is coming to accept the imperfections
in his mother and father, he still has a lot to learn from his parents. Although
Gabriel has come to terms with the loss of his old way of life,
he retains the vaquero’s fierce spirit of independence, as we see when
the mob comes for Ultima and he does not hesitate to defend her.
Antonio stands by his father’s side and learns a valuable lesson in
personal integrity. Antonio also learns that not everyone has the courage
to stand by his or her convictions when they become unpopular. His
Luna uncles did not warn Ultima about Tenorio’s evil plans, because
they were afraid. Again, Antonio is learning that there are many
moral pitfalls in adulthood.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Bless Me, Ultima!