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Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors
used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
The golden carp represents a magical religious order not
connected to Catholicism. The golden carp legend offers its own
brand of wisdom, comfort, and moral guidance. Within the context
of the novel’s themes, the carp supports the idea that every religious
tradition offers different, but equally valid, lessons about the
world. Antonio first rejects the golden carp, feeling that he is
abandoning God by simply pursuing an interest in the magical fish.
He learns later that the carp can actually help in his endeavor
to draw from all the cultural and religious sources available to
him in crafting his own identity and finding his own answers.
Ultima’s owl represents her life force and the power of
her religious mysticism. The owl sings softly outside Antonio’s
window at night. Its song symbolizes Ultima’s comforting presence
in Antonio’s life and the protective power of her magic. At the
end of the novel, Tenorio’s killing of the owl literally destroys
Ultima’s life force and leads very quickly to her death. Antonio
equates Ultima with the owl—when he buries it, he says that he is
really burying Ultima.
María’s statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe symbolizes forgiveness, understanding,
and the resolution of cultural conflict. The story of the dark-skinned
Virgin represents the reconciliation of the European Catholic Church
with the indigenous culture of Antonio’s homeland. Antonio turns
to the Virgin repeatedly when he is frustrated by his failure to
find a forgiving god.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Bless Me, Ultima!