----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Bless me Ultima"Voodoo Doll, Golden Carp or Magical Realism Surrealistic Art -Extra Credit - DueFriday March 27th, 2015 (Receive up to 28 points)
Create any of the following:Voodoo Doll, Golden Carp or Magical Realism Surrealistic Art from the story "Bless me Ultima" and type up one page telling about your project.
Symbolic Painting Essay - DUE
Curandera, by Ariel is filled with organic and magical symbolism.
Notice the female figure directly beneath the main figure of the Curandera. Plants grow from her body directly into the body of the Curandera. This symbolic vegetation thrives throughout her body.
Three hearts containing the profiles of two faces run up her body into her head.
Beneath her healing hands a small pale figure kneels. Symbolic tears run down its face.
A winged head hovering in the left hand corner of the painting gazes down on the Curandera. Its face is in profile and a bold cross seems tattooed under its eye.
Diamond shapes are scattered throughout the upper half of the painting. Some rain, spark-like, from the winged head and hands of the curandera over the small kneeling figure. Other diamond shapes, possessing dark red centers, occupy the otherwise empty spaces of this picture.
Read the article, Curandera, to understand the role these women play in certain latino and/or indian societies. This article will illuminate their intimate connection with nature and sometimes "magic."
Answer the following questions to help you interpret the meanings of the symbols in the painting.
What does the hovering face with wings represent? What makes you think this?
Who does the smaller figure beneath the Curandera's hands represent? Why do you think so?
Why are plants and flowers growing throughout the Curandera's body?
The Curandera seems to be connected to a large figure lying underground beneath her. Who or what do you think this large figure represents?
There are three large hearts within the Curandera's body and head. What do these hearts represent?
Why is this painting filled with plants and flowers?
This painting is filled with diamond shaped objects. What do you think these objects represent?
Five Paragraph Essay
Write a 5 - Paragraph Essay interpreting the symbolic content of one of the paintings pictured at the following web site:
Select one of the South Western (New Mexico) works of art to compose your Five Paragraph Essay. Choose three symbols and their themes to discuss in your paper. (Please don’t use the Curandera Painting to discuss in your paper)
Example of Essay structure: 1st Paragraph - "Hook," Main Topic Sentence, Thesis Statement You must give the reader a preview of the three Symbol/themes that you will be discussing in your paper.
Example: One of the symbols that appears in the Curandera Painting could be the vegetation that thrives throughout the Curandera’s body. This could symbolize nature and the herbs that the Curandera uses to heal people. Another symbol might be the diamonds that appear in the sky, which might symbolize the Magic that the Curandera wields. You will need to come up with three of your own Symbols and Themes from the painting that you select.
2nd, 3rd and 4th Paragraphs - The painting, "Curandera," is filled with organic and magical symbolism. Describe one of the symbols you have found in the painting along with its theme. Explain the meaning of each symbol. State the importance of the symbolism in the painting.
5th Paragraph - Conclusion
Bless Me Ultima: About the Author
Rudolfo Anaya lives and breathes the landscape of the Southwest. It is a powerful force, full of magic and myth, integral to his writings. Anaya, however, is a native Hispanic fascinated by cultural crossings unique to the Southwest, a combination of oldSpain and New Spain, of Mexico with Mesoamerica and the anglicizing forces of the twentieth century. Rudolfo Anaya is widely acclaimed as the founder of modern Chicano literature. According to the New York Times, he is the most widely read author in Hispanic communities, and sales of his classic Bless Me, Ultima (1972) have surpassed 360,000, despite the fact that none of his books have been published originally by New York publishing houses. His works are standard texts in Chicano studies and literature courses around the world, and he has done more than perhaps any other single person to promote publication of books by Hispanic authors in this country. With the publication of his novel, Albuquerque (1992),Newsweek has proclaimed him a front-runner in "what is better called not the new multicultural writing, but the new American writing." His most recent volume, published in 1995, is Zia Summer.
"I've always used the technique of the cuento. I am an oral storyteller, but now I do it on the printed page. I think if we were very wise we would use that same tradition in video cassettes, in movies, and on radio."
"Bless me Ultima"Voodoo Doll, Golden Carp or Surrealistic Art - Extra Credit Due (Up to 40 points)
BMUVoodoo Doll, Golden Carp or Magical Realism Surrealistic Art Extra Credit Due Wed. April 4th, 2012 (Receive up to 40 points)
Create any of the following:Voodoo Doll, Golden Carp or Magical Realism Surrealistic Art from the story "Bless me Ultima" and type up one page telling about your project.
Study Issues and Discussion Questions for Bless Me, Ultima
1. The events of Bless Me, Ultima take place in the middle 1940s, during and immediately after World War II. How, if at all, is the war or this particular moment in history significant to the story the novel tells?
2. What role does the physical environment-the New Mexican landscape-play in Bless Me, Ultima? How do the novel's characters live in it and respond to it? Is the landscape used by the author to provide a realistic material backdrop to the events of the story? to carry particular symbolic or moral or aesthetic values? to do both?
3. Do you read Bless Me, Ultima as a work of social and historical realism? As a nostalgic romance? A child's fantasy? A religious or moral allegory? What difference does how we classify the novel make to our expectation, evaluation, and understanding of it?
4. Chapters 2, 4,7, 9, 11, 14, 20, and 22 of Bless Me, Ultima contain narrations of Antonio's dreams. What do these dreams tell us about Antonio? Do they develop or change significantly over the course of the novel? And what is the significance of the fact that dream sequences play such a large role in the novel's design?
5. Bless Me, Ultima may be viewed as a coming of age or rite of passage story, a story of a young person's education and development? What other such stories-in literature or film-might this novel be compared to? How does it differ from them? Which aspects of Antonio's coming of age or rite of passage seem universal and which qualities or details are particular to his time, place, and culture?
6. Early in the novel, Anaya writes that the schoolhouse rose above the housetops to "compete with the church tower." Do you think that Catholicism or Christianity is in competition with other belief systems or sources of authority in Bless Me, Ultima? With secular education? Or with other sources of spiritual mystery and power such as those of the Golden Carp or of the curandera, Ultima, herself? What is the nature and purpose of these competitions, if that's what they are? Do you think the various sources of authority are reconciled or not? If not, what wins and what loses
7. What is the significance of Antonio's friend Florence, the unbeliever, and of his death in the novel?
8. How do you understand the purposes and effects of the comic Christmas play scene in Bless Me, Ultima?
9. Is Rudolfo Anaya seeking in this novel to reflect on, or define, or recommend any particular understanding of or response to "good" and "evil" in the world? If you think he is not, why not? If you think that he is, what kinds of understandings and responses do you think the novel promotes?
10. Given the status of Bless Me, Ultima as a now canonical modern American novel that has been touted to "represent" Chicano experience and culture, some have criticized it for what they see as an absence of social criticism and political purpose. Is this a valid criticism? Why or why not? Do you see the novel as apolitical? As implicitly political in some way? Is the relationship between Mexican American and Anglo culture or power at issue in any significant way in the book? If so, how?
11. Anaya's novel has also been viewed by some as not just reporting but reinforcing traditions of patriarchy and gender inequality in Mexican American families and communities? Is this a fair criticism? How are power and voice or voicelessness distributed among the male and female characters in the novel? Are traditional gender roles and power relations accepted by all or are they challenged anywhere or by anyone in the novel?
12. Like some other important American novels-most notably, Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn-Bless Me, Ultima may be viewed as a book for young people or as a book for adults or both. Which do you think it most appropriately is? Do you think the novel offers something different to adolescent than to adult readers (or perhaps to senior readers) or is likely to be read differently by readers of different age groups?
Spanish TranslationsFrom the Book Bless, Me Ultima
Page 1 - llano = plains
Page 2 - curandera = healer
Page 29 - Ya las campanas de la iglesia estan doblando Por la sangre de Lupito, todos debemos de rogar, Que Dios la saque de pena y la lleve a descansar. = Now the church bells are tolling For the death of Lupito, we should all beg That God rescues him from his pain and carries him to rest.
Page 30 - Es una mujer que no ha pecado = She is a woman who has not sinned
Page 31 - Una mujer con un diente, que llama a toda la genta. = A woman with one tooth who calls all the people
Page 32 - La compana de la iglesia esta doblando... Arrimense vivos y difuento Aqui estamos todos juntos = The church bell is tolling... Come here living and dead, Here we are all together
Page 32- chinga = [roaring explicative!]
Page 33- cabron = One who consents to the adultery of his wife
Page 34 - los vatos = red-necks, hoods
Page 37 - yerba del mansa = herbal medicine
Page 39 - manzanilla = chamomile (herb)
Page 55 - la tristesa de la vida = the sadness of life
Page 96 - hechicera (bruja) = witch
Page 123- le juro a Dios = I swear to God
Page 131 - mitote = Uproar,diversion
Page 198 - voy a tirar tripas = I'm going to throw up
Page 220 - gracias a Dios que venites = thank God you've come
Page 222 - benditos sean los dulces nombres = blessed be the sweet holy names -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Read more about . . .
Rudolfo Anaya Biography Resource Center and Literature Resource Center, two of Austin Public Library's online reference databases, include several short biographies of the author. The databases are available to everyone at any Austin Public Library location and to Austin Public Library Cardholders from their home or office computers. From home select the remote access link and enter your Library Card number in the box to be connected to the database. Type Rudolfo Anaya in the search box to find articles about the author.
Bless Me, Ultima Search one of APL's full-text databases to read more about the book. MasterFILE Premier, and Literature Resource Center are available to everyone at any Austin Public Library location and to Austin Public Library Cardholders from their home or office computers. From home select the remote access link and enter your Library Card number in the box to be connected to the databases. Type Bless Me, Ultima in the search box to find articles about the book.
Curanderismo, the folk medicine practiced by Ultima Search the Alt-Health Watch database to learn more about curanderismo. The database is available to everyone at any Austin Public Library location and to Austin Public Library Cardholders from their home or office computers. From home select the remote access link and enter your Library Card number in the box to be connected to the databases. Type curanderismo in the search box to find full text articles on the topic. Other sources on this ancient practice include the Handbook of Texas Online, a bibliography prepared by staff of the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas, and the students' page on New Mexico State University's Southwestern Literature site.
LA LLORONA - The legend of the weeping ghost of the Southwest
LA LLORONA. The ghostly woman who wanders along canals and rivers crying for her missing children, called in Spanish La Llorona, "the Weeping Woman," is found in many cultures and regions. Her story includes some strong similarities to that of Medea. She is perhaps the most widely known ghost in Texas. Her New World history goes back to the time of Hernán Cortés and links her with La Malinche, the mistress of the conquistador. As tradition has it, after having borne a child to Cortés, La Malinche, who aided in the conquest of Mexico as a translator for the
Spanish, was replaced by a highborn Spanish wife. Her Aztec pride plus her jealousy drove her, according to the story, to acts of vengeance against the intruders from across the sea. Sometimes the story is told about a Spanish
nobleman and a peasant girl. Some years ago, the story goes, a young hidalgo fell in love with a lowly girl, usually named María, who over a period of time bore him two or three children. She had a casita-a little house-where the young man visited and brought his friends, and in almost every way they shared a happy life together, except that their union was not blessed by the church. His parents, of course, knew nothing of the arrangement and would not have allowed him to marry beneath his station. They urged him to marry a suitable lady and give them grandchildren. Finally he gave in, and sadly he told María that he must marry another. But he would not desert her, he promised-he would still take care of her and the children and visit them as often as he could. Enraged, she drove him away, and when the wedding took place she stood veiled in her shawl at the back of the church. Once the ceremony was over she went home, and in a crazed state killed the children, threw them into a nearby body of water, and then drowned herself. But when her soul applied for admission to heaven, el Señor refused her entry. "Where are your children?" He asked her. Ashamed, she confessed she did not know. "Go and bring them here," the Lord said. "You cannot rest until they are found." And ever since, La Llorona wanders along streams at night, weeping and crying for her children-"Ay, mis hijos!" According to some, she has been known to take revenge on men she comes across in her journey. She usually dresses in black. Her face is sometimes that of a horse, but more often horribly blank, and her long fingernails gleam like polished tin in the moonlight.
The story of the Weeping Woman is told to youngsters as a "true" story of what might get you if you're out after dark. But the most frequent use of the story is to warn romantic teenage girls against falling for boys who may have nice clothes and money but are too far above them to consider marriage. The Cortés variant is said to be used in the late twentieth century to express hostility to European culture. La Llorona's loss is compared to the demise of indigenous culture after the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish.
What is a Curandera?
A curandera is a healer of the spirit and body of those who believe in his of her mystical powers. The literal translation of the word “curandera” from Spanish to English is “healer or one who heals through nature.” The tradition of the curandera comes from the Aztec and Mayan beliefs that are ever present in the cultures of the Mexican and Mexican-American people.
Like the Native-American medicine man, the curandera has a special connection with nature and the powers that nature provided through herbal remedies. Oftentimes the cures that are bought about by the curandera are accomplished through the use of herbs and a strong understanding of the spiritual aspects of the human mind and body.
Some people even mistaken curanderas as witches because the cures that they produced were so unbelievable and unexplainable that the only explanation people could come up with was the idea that the curandera was using witchcraft to accomplish his or her tasks.
In modern times, the curandera has come to be more understood and less feared. Although there are fewer and fewer in existence, the craft is still practiced in Mexico and some southern states of the United States. Like the old days, the craft is passed on to worthy individuals that the curandera feels has the same passion and strength need to continue the tradition in a respectful and honorable manner.
Who knows, a curandera might live right in your own neighborhood and you do not even know it. If you meet one remember they possess a special ability that should be respected.
This is a painting titled “Curandera” by Ariel.
This painting shows the tie that the curandera has with the earth and how she is connected to all that nature represents.
Herbs of the Curandera
Here is a list of some of the common herbs used by the curandera.
HEALTH -asafoetida, betony, catnip, dandelion leaves, eucalyptus, feverfew, goldenseal herb, heal-all herb, hops, horehound, hyssop, life everlasting, peppermint, pumpkinseed, sassafrass leaves and root, thyme, vervain.
-African ginger root, asafœtida, balm of gilead buds, basil, bay, black cohosh, blood root, boldo leaves, brimstone, caraway seeds, dragon's blood reed, fern, five-finger grass, frankincense, garlic, grapevine, High John the Conquerer root, lucky hand root, mandrake root, plant of peace, quince seeds,rattlesnake root, sacred bark, St. John's wort, snakehead, stone root, vetivert, wolfbane root.
Read the article, Curandera at the link listed below, to understand the role these women play in certain latino and/or indian societies. This article will illuminate their intimate connection with nature and sometimes "magic."
Bless me Ultima is a coming of age story about a Hispanic boy growing up in New Mexico. The novel explores several themes such as good against evil, catholic beleifs against "the old ways" and education against the gift of knowledge. The book chronicles the relationship of Ultima a Curandera and a boy named Antonio Marez. Even though Ultima is not a blood relative she comes into Antonio's home where she give him spiritual knowledge and enables him to question his own belief system.
Read "Bless Me Ultima" Chapter 1 (Pages 1 -13)
Classwork Tuesday's In-class writing dialogic journal 1/2 page typed, 1" margins, double spaced, arial # 12 font What do you think of Antonio so far? Is there anything in the first chapter that confused you?
Write about a group of people you have been friends with. Is
Antonio more ofa Marez or a Luna? Is he neither? Why?
(Due at the end of class )
HOMEWORK - DUE
Study Questions: Chapters 1 - 3 (Type questions & answers)
1) Who is the narrator? 2) Where was Tony born? 3) When and Where does Tony spend his childhood? 4) Why does Ultima come to live with Tony's family? 5) Why is Tony disturbed at first by Ultima's owl? 6) How does Lupito die? 7) Who knows that Tony saw the killing of Lupito? 8) What does Tony dream the night after Lupito dies? 9) What do you think Lupito would have liked to have said to the men who shot him? 10) Tony mentions the"rebellion of my brothers against my father." How do you suppose they will rebel? Classwork Literature Circles: Chapters One-Three of Bless Me, Ultima
Directions A literature circle is a time to discuss topics of interest to you and your peers. First, take the time to share your Journal on chapter three of the novel (or any previous journals you particularly liked). You might use issues brought up in these entries to stimulate discussion. Or, you might consider discussing one or more of the questions below. Finally, you can always choose to formulate questions of your own.
Suggested Questions for Discuss 1. Which character do you like the most and why? 2. Which character do you like the least and why? 3. Does anything in the novel remind you of your own childhood? 4. What do you make of the the physical location of Antonio's house? 5. What might this location represent? 6. Why do you think some of the people in the village are suspicious of Ultima? 7. What do you make of the strong presence of religion in the characters' lives? 8. Who is religion most important to in the novel? 9. Why do you think that is?
The events of Bless Me, Ultima take place in the middle 1940s, during and immediately after World War II. How, if at all, is the war or this particular moment in history significant to the story the novel tells?
READ "Bless Me, Ultima" Chapter 6 (Pages 51 -59)
REVIEW Chapter 6
What role does the physical environment-the New Mexican landscape-play in Bless Me, Ultima? How do the novel's characters live in it and respond to it? Is the landscape used by the author to provide a realistic material backdrop to the events of the story? to carry particular symbolic or moral or aesthetic values? to do both?
Journal: Do you read Bless Me, Ultima as a work of social and historical realism? As a nostalgic romance? A child's fantasy? A religious or moral allegory? What difference does how we classify the novel make to our expectation, evaluation, and understanding of it?
Study Questions: Chapters 4 - 8 (Type questions & answers) Due
1) List three herbs Ultima gathers and their uses. 2) Where do Tony and his mother go every year? 3) Why is Tony eager to go to school? 4) Why does Tony feel like an outcast the first day of school? 5) Who returns home after the war ends? 6) What does Tony mean by comparing his brothers to "turgid animal?" 7) Why does Tony cry down to his brothers, "I will bless?" 8) Why does Tony compare his brothers to "wild bull?" 9) What do you notice about the way author, Rudolfo Anaya uses language in chapters 4-8? 10) Will Tony's brothers settle down?
Map It: Story Recipe and Storyboard Chapter 7 - Due READ "Bless Me, Ultima" Chapter 9 (Pages 70 - 82) REVIEW Chapter 9
Journal: Bless Me, Ultima may be viewed as a coming of age or rite of passage story, a story of a young person's education and development? What other such stories-in literature or film-might this novel be compared to? How does it differ from them?
Which aspects of Antonio's coming of age or rite of passage seem universal and which qualities or details are particular to his time, place, and culture?
Early in the novel, Anaya writes that the schoolhouse rose above the housetops to "compete with the church tower." Do you think that Catholicism or Christianity is in competition with other belief systems or sources of authority in Bless Me, Ultima? With secular education? Or with other sources of spiritual mystery and power such as those of the Golden Carp or of the curandera, Ultima, herself? What is the nature and purpose of these competitions, if that's what they are? Do you think the various sources of authority are reconciled or not? If not, what wins and what loses?
Study Questions: Chapters 9 - 10 (Type questions & answers) Due
1) Where do Leon & Gene go? 2) What does Andrew say he plans to do? 3) Why isn't Tony promoted to 2nd grade? 4) According to Samuel, who is "lord of the waters?" 5) Why does Ultima go to Tenorio's saloon? 6) Why does Lucas' family blame the Trementinas for Lucas' illness 7) What does Ultima do with the three clay dolls? 8) How does Ultima cure Lucas? 9) Why do you think Lucas gets better? 10) Will Tony's classmates praise Ultima or bad-mouth her?
The novel is narrated in the first person by ANTONIO. He is writing of his childhood, specifically the summer ULTIMA, a curandera (healer) came to stay with his family and chose him as a disciple to learn curandismo (the practice of healing). Anaya leaves Spanish words in the text of the novel to give it a sense of the language-consciousness of Spanish.
"Ultima" is a Spanish word meaning ultimate or "the end." When Antonio says he will begin at the beginning that came with Ultima, he is touching on a very significant time concept. Ultima is for Antonio the unification between the beginning and the end. Time stands still with her. Antonio almost sees her as a sort of deity.
"LLANO" is a word meaning plains or prairie. It is a dry grassland.
Antonio's father is from the llano. The MÁREZES are descendants of the vaqueros, the Mexican cowboys. Márez takes its root from the word for sea. Since the Spanish conquistadores came from the sea, the Márez name shows its roots in the sea. The LUNAS on the other hand are firmly rooted to the land. Luna is the Spanish word for moon. The Lunas are farmers and practice the ancient method of farming according to the cycles of the moon.
A "CURANDERA" is a healer, specifically a female healer. She exists in harmony with the rhythms of the earth. Because she does, she can use the powers of the earth to heal people. She uses herbs and incantations. Her opposite is the BRUJA or witch.
Brujas do not exist in harmony with the earth, but they still use the powers of the earth to do what they want. They make people sick by cursing them with evil.
The two sides of Antonio's family are the Lunas, who are farmers and have traditions going back to the Aztecs, and the Márez, who are vaqueros and have traditions going back to the Spanish conquistadores of the sixteenth century. Because they are two seemingly irreconcilable traditions of the people of New Mexico, they are in constant antagonism. Anaya places Antonio in the middle of this antagonism. Ultima is a unifying force and she provides hope for the reconciliation of Antonio's two heritages. When Antonio finds out his dream is a true vision of his birth, he says "Ultima knew" He probably means, Ultima knew about his destiny since it was she who knew where his birth cord is. That destiny has to do with his decision of whether to follow the ways of his father or his mother's families.
Anaya shows that ROMAN CATHOLICISM did not fully eliminate the religion of Native Americans. Instead, it combined with that pre-existing religion to make a mixture of the two.
The OWL is the animal spirit of Ultima. Ultima and the owl exist in sympathy. Whatever happens to one, happens to the other. Wherever one goes, the other follows. The owl is Ultima's protector. Here, the owl encounters Antonio's other dominant tradition, Roman Catholicism. The owl works closely with the VIRGEN OF GUADALUPE
who Antonio’s MOTHER MARÍA LUNA adores. The Virgen is one manifestation of the Virgin Mary. According to Roman Catholics the Virgin Mary sometimes makes herself manifest to particular people. In the case of the Virgen de Guadalupe, she made herself manifest to a peasant man near the GUADALUPE RIVER. He told others and a shrine was built in her honor. The Virgen de Guadalupe is acclaimed especially in Mexico, Texas, New Mexico.
ANTONIO’S FIRST DREAM is about an un-christened infant that is carried from limbo to heaven by an owl. This is clearly a violation of the Catholic doctrine. Yet, the owl operates with the Virgen of Guadalupe to save the child’s soul. This dream helps Antonio realize that Ultima’s mysticism and Catholicism can work hand in hand for a virtuous cause even though they come from different schools of thought.
Ultima mentors Antonio, teaching him the names of the flora and fauna of the llano and the river. She also teaches him sympathy with the rhythms of the earth. Ultima's wisdom is the oneness of the person and the earth. Closely linked to this sense of oneness is the presence of the river. Ultima tells Antonio the RIVER and he share the same spirit.
Antonio believes the river is animated by an ancient soul that watches out for the people that come to it. This belief comes from the religion of the Aztecs. He learns more about it from his friend JASÓN and from Ultima. When he thinks he hears LUPITO asking him to bless him before he dies, Antonio repeats the Act of Contrition, but he despairs of anyone's ability to wash the blood of murder from the river.
ANTONIO'S SECOND DREAM involves his three brothers. It also relates to Antonio's destiny, but it brings in a third element. It combines the pull between the Lunas and the Márezes with the pull of the river's presence. Antonio has been learning of the spirit of the land from Ultima. He puts the dark priest's robe on, but he speaks of a power that is outside the doctrine of Catholicism. Perhaps this dream suggests that Antonio will be a PRIEST OF THE RIVER OF THE CARP. In recognizing that despite differences between the llaneros and the Lunas, all are children of the white sun, Antonio shows his potential as a person who can unify the two sides of Mexican-and Spanish-American heritage.
Antonio begins to question the answers of religion when he sees Lupito killed. As he understands it, the Catholic Church has a very rigid schema for determining sin and judgment. Lupito will most likley go to hell because he has committed a mortal sin without confession before he was killed. The second tradition, that which reveres the river as a sort of god, would see the river washing Lupito's blood downstream where it would fertilize the crops of the Lunas. The third possibility for life after death is that of LA LLORONA.
She is the sorrowful woman who haunts the banks of the Guadalupe river looking for her lost sons. Antonio wonders if he will have to fear Lupito as well as la Llorona when he goes to the river at night.
The boys from town, especially HORSE and BONES, represent the children from the barrio, who have to fend for themselves. They seem to symbolize animal spirits in children's bodies. The ancient traditions thrive in the barrio as well as in the country by the river. Antonio's virtues show up clearly against the backdrop of these boys. He stands his ground even when he is terribly afraid.
Ultima teaches Antonio how the gather herbs and roots and she also teaches him the history of that medicine that she uses. Antonio's child's mind takes the family metaphor of God the father, Mary the mother, and Jesus the son literally. He prefers Mary who is kind and forgiving. Like many children, Antonio experiences an idea of God based on his idea of his own earthly father. Antonio's father is a good man, but is morose, distant, and dissatisfied with his life choices, blaming others for them. His mother, on the other hand, is warm and loving, ever-present, and devoted to her children.
ANTONIO'S THIRD DREAM foresees that his brothers, EUGENE, LEÓN, and ANDREW will return home, but it also provides the disturbing image of the Virgin mourning for Antonio when MARÍA asks that he be a priest. It seems that already in the novel, the reader is aware that Antonio will notenter the priesthood.
Antonio arrives at the farming community of his mother's people. There, GRANDFATHER LUNA speaks of war as a sin against God because it takes the sons of the people away from the land.
In the VALLEY OF EL PUERTO
the DAUGHTERS OF BARKEEPER, TENORIO metaphorically do a witch's dance by the river. They will play an important part in the plot of the novel. This early glimpse of them is followed by the sound of Ultima's owl singing and Antonio's peace at the sound.
ANTONIO'S SCHOOL EXPERIENCE. He describes the loneliness a second-language learner feels from the isolation of using a different language and different customs from the norm. MISS MAESTAS (her name means teacher) seems to be a kind teacher, but unable to understand the point of view of a child who cannot speak English. When Antonio’s name is entered into the grade book, it is converted from Spanish to English, ANTONIO TO ANTHONY. This act describes one step in the process of assimilation that helps to erase Antonio's rich cultural heritage.
Antonio, who is only seven years old, quickly learns at a school that being a man means standing one's ground and not running. It also means being the center of attention. Antonio believes that a person who is threatened by the evil of the dust devil should make the sign of the cross and no evil can cross it. Antonio is confused by the para-normal powers of good and evil. He has heard and experienced the powers of evil, and when Ultima exerts power, he has to learn the difference that comes from power exerted by the forces of goodness.
Eugene, León, and Andrew return from war, feeling alienated from a family that cannot relate to them. They are reluctant to fulfill GABRIEL'S DREAM of moving to California. Gabriel and María seem oblivious to their sons' discomfort and battle fatigue. Antonio seems to recognize that the three brothers are lost to him forever. He blesses them even though they are cruel to him.
Antonio tackles some of the toughest theological questions of all time. He wonders about the meaning of innocence and understanding and their relationship to one another. If he understands, he loses innocence, but he cannot receive his first communion without understanding. For María, who represents the most devoted Catholic in the novel, even though she is devoted with a particular, local folk belief, Antonio will inevitably lose his innocence, as he becomes a man. However, in María's mind, Antonio can be saved from that loss of innocence by becoming a priest. Andrew tells him that when he was exposed to the horrors of war, he became a man and lost his dreams. Antonio does not want to gain understanding if it means losing his dreams. Ultima tells him that in the land he is innocent. There, gaining understanding does not equate with losing his innocence. This question will stay with Antonio throughout the novel.
Along with the POWERS OF ULTIMA and the Presence of the RIVER, the GOLDEN CARP is the third magical element in Bless Me, Ultima.
It is a myth related to the Aztec cosmogony, which features five suns. The Aztec calendar reveals ATONATIUH, the sun of water.
Atonatiuh is the forth epoch at the end of which everything on earth was killed by a great flood. The gods changed people into fishes to save them from the flood.Anaya provides a variation on this belief in the history of the golden carp.
Here, people are turned into carp because of disobedience. The legend is part of the collective memory of the community: some know it, some only know it is bad luck to catch or eat carp, and some do not know anything. The story upsets Antonio who has been raised under Roman Catholicism, a monotheistic religion. He cannot reject the golden carp because he feels drawn to believe it, but in accepting it, he has to reject Catholicism.
The belief in the diagnosis that UNCLE LUCAS has been cursed by a brujas is supported by evidence. The evidence is that doctors have not been able to cure him and the priest has not been able to exorcise him. The proof that the rancher did not kill a woman, but killed a witch in the disguise of a coyote is in the fact that he shot it/her with a bullet on which he had carved the sign of the cross. As with any system of thought, the folk belief in witches colluding with the devil and casting curses on innocent victims is also supported by a tradition of evidence. In Lucas' case, the folk belief system operates out of a very complex SYNCRETISM (fusion of differing religions) of a belief in the power of CHRISTIANITY, a belief in the power of EUROPEAN-BASED MEDICINE, and a belief in the power of CURANDISMO (folk medicine). These three systems of power often compete with one another when a particularly tough case like Lucas' presents itself. With the exception of the curandera, none of them accept the authority of the others. They each try to forbid the people from using the other authorities. It is a fearful decision to make which power to choose. Hence, the people wait a long time before calling on Ultima. In a sense, they are defying the church in doing so.
This healing represents a very important part of Antonio's education in curandismo. He participates in almost all the steps. He even emulates Ultima when he sees her standing fearlessly in Tenorio's bar. The cure is conducted with several forms of magic, but the most important is sympathetic magic. Antonio is used as a sympathetic agent to cure Lucas. The clay dolls are used as sympathetic agents to turn the curse back to the Trementina sisters. Antonio experiences the cure along with Lucas. Like Lucas, he cannot speak or move. Like Lucas he feels the taste of the oily medicine. Antonio vomits green bile, then Lucas vomits green bile before he vomits up the mass of living hair. Antonio has been used as a sort to surrogate for Lucas. Since he is young and strong, he can withstand the cure more easily than Lucas can. Since he is innocent as a child, he can expel the evil curse more easily than Lucas can. Antonio has complete trust in Ultima. She takes him to the room without explaining what she will use him for. Although it would seem a very dangerous remedy, Antonio never fears for his life.
The other dangerous part of the remedy, that which Ultima tried to prevent by asking Tenorio to call his daughters off, is the practice of turning back to curse onto the sisters. The dolls are made from earth. Wax is applied to imitate the color of skin. They are dressed in clothing Ultima might have somehow gotten from the sisters. When Lucas breathes on them, they actually squirm. It is one of the most clearly magical elements in the novel because inanimate objects move. They are pricked with a pin that is dipped in the same medicine that Lucas is given. The result of this turning back of the curse will be revealed in subsequent chapters. For now, we only see one part of that result: Lucas vomiting up the hair they stole from him to begin the curse with in the first place. Like the dolls, the hair also moves as if alive. Ultima has proved that her power is stronger than the power of the church and the medical doctors.
Once again, Ultima is treated as a revered saint, while at the same time she is suspected as a witch. To claim that an earthly woman has not sinned clearly goes against the doctrine of Christianity in which only Christ could walk the earth in fleshly form and still have no sin. Also, the woman touching Ultima's hem as she passes is highly reminiscent of the New Testament accounts of the response of the faithful to Christ. As He made His journey through the streets of villages where people have heard of His miracles of healing, people touched his garments as a means of cure.
It is useful to note at this point in the novel an element which runs throughout the novel which the reader should begin to notice. This chapter reveals the CONSERVATIVE GENDER IDEOLOGY which animates the entire novel. Women are assigned only a traditional role: they are wives and mothers. If they are ugly, they cannot make men happy and they become witches as a last resort.
Ultima makes it seem as though they do so out of the bitterness of the rejected. Pretty women who step outside traditional roles become prostitutes at Rosie's. Although Anaya creates a very strong feminine character in Ultima, he portrays as an exception to the rule of women's proper roles and she herself affirms those roles as proper. An alarming byproduct of the belief that women are brujas or curanderas is the idea that they can be shot with a bullet marked with a cross without penalty.
QUIZ "BMU" Chapters 1-10
REVIEW Chapters 11, 12 & 13
What is the significance of Antonio's friend Florence, the unbeliever, and of his death in the novel? Due
How do you understand the purposes and effects of the comic Christmas play scene in Bless Me, Ultima?
Is Rudolfo Anaya seeking in this novel to reflect on, or define, or recommend any particular understanding of or response to "good" and "evil" in the world? If you think he is not, why not? If you think that he is, what kinds of understandings and responses do you think the novel promotes? Due
Vienn Diagram, Character Diagram, Character Category Chart Due READ "Bless Me, Ultima" Chapter 15 (Pages 177 -185)
Study Questions: Chapters 11 - 12 and 13 - 14 (Type questions & answers)
SEE HANDOUT for questions Due
REVIEW Chapters 11 - 15
Journal: Given the status of Bless Me, Ultima as a now canonical modern American novel that has been touted to "represent" Chicano experience and culture, some have criticized it for what they see as an absence of social criticism and political purpose. Is this a valid criticism? Why or why not? Do you see the novel as apolitical? As implicitly that is political in some way? Is the relationship between Mexican American and Anglo culture or power at issue in any significant way in the book? If so, how? – Due today 3-15-06 at end of the period
Anaya's novel has also been viewed by some as not just reporting but reinforcing traditions of patriarchy and gender inequality in Mexican American families and communities? Is this a fair criticism? How are power and voice or voicelessness distributed among the male and female characters in the novel? Are traditional gender roles and power relations accepted by all or are they challenged anywhere or by anyone in the novel?
Like some other important American novels-most notably, Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn-Bless Me, Ultima may be viewed as a book for young people or as a book for adults or both. Which do you think it most appropriately is? Do you think the novel offers something different to adolescent than to adult readers (or perhaps to senior readers) or is likely to be read differently by readers of different age groups?
Chapters 2, 4,7, 9, 11, 14, 20, and 22 of Bless Me, Ultima contain narrations of Antonio's dreams. What do these dreams tell us about Antonio? Do they develop or change significantly over the course of the novel? And what is the significance of the fact that dream sequences play such a large role in the novel's design?
Choose one of the following options on Bless Me, Ultima. Details for each of the options are located below.
Option #1: Write (and read with a partner) a dialogue between Antonioand Ultima
Option #2: Write about which landscape--llano or river valley--wouldbest suit you.
Option #3: Draw a visual representation of Antonio's internal struggle and explain your drawing in one paragraph.
Option #4: "Antonio is an alienated individual." Write a persuasivepaper in which you defend or refute this statement.
Bless Me Ultima Story Review
The present setting of the novel is Guadalupe, New Mexico. Two surrounding villages that have a strong influence on the people of Guadalupe are Las Pasturas, New Mexico, the land of the llano where the vaqueros or llaneros (cowboys) used to run their livestock and El Puerto de los Lunas, New Mexico, a village ten miles away from Guadalupe in the valley. It is the farm land of the Lunas.
It is set during the time of World War II and after.
In a deeper sense, the novel’s setting is in its cultural history. The land and the people are marked by the history of place. The spirit and lore of Native Americans, specifically Comanches, is present in the place and the people. They were displaced by the Spanish conquistadores who brought two kinds of people: the vaqueros (cowboys) of the llano (prairie) and the priests and farmers of the land. The traces of Mexican past are also in the land. New Mexico belonged to Mexico before it was taken by the U.S. in the Mexican War of 1855. The ancient religion of the Aztecs also persists in the customs of the people who presently inhabit New Mexico.
Protagonist Antonio, a boy who is the son of people from two different traditions within Mexican-American heritage: the farming Lunas and the vaquero Márezes.
Antagonist The fact that there is more than one god in the protagonist's heritage. In order to reconcile himself to his heritage, he must find a way to bring all of his competing religious deities into harmony with one another.
Symbols There are three principle symbols in Bless Me, Ultima. First, the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe. She represents divine forgiveness. The town of Guadalupe, where the Márez family lives, is named after her. Antonio’s mother has a two-foot high statue of the Virgin in her home, to whom she and the rest of the family pray. Tony loves the Virgin more than any of the saints because of what she represents. The second symbol is Ultima’s owl. Antonio notices it for the first time when Ultima comes to stay with them. It is in the juniper tree outside Ultima’s window, and is obviously special because no other owl comes that close to the house. The owl is Ultima’s guardian spirit, and Antonio often hears it again in moments of crisis. The third symbol is the golden carp. It represents an alternative religion to the Catholicism that Antonio is raised in. The golden carp is a god who rules over his realm. The carp is also destined, according to the pagan myth, to rule the entire area when the humans are destroyed because of their sin. Antonio is at first scared of acknowledging any god other than the one approved by Catholicism, but when he sees the golden carp, he is enthralled by its sheer beauty. He feels as if he really has seen a god. The golden carp is contrasted to the black bass, which appears in the water immediately after the golden carp disappears. The bass is described as “monstrous,” with an “evil” mouth, and eyes “glazed with hate” (p. 114). Here the theme of good versus evil is transposed from the human and metaphysical realms to the realm of fish. It suggests that the battle between good and evil is to be found at all levels of life.
Imagery Much of the imagery reinforces the theme of the interconnectedness of all things. This applies especially to the instinctual connections that humans feel between themselves, nature and the cosmos. This connection feeds the mysticism in Antonio’s soul, and it is expressed in highly lyrical language. In the very first paragraph, for example, Antonio tells of the summer that Ultima first came to stay: “The magical time of childhood stood still, and the pulse of the living earth pressed its mystery into my living blood.” The imagery used to describe Antonio’s family also links the human world to the wider cosmos. The family name Márez means “sea,” so Antonio’s forefathers, the men of the llano, are known as men of the sea, because they are wild like the ocean. They are also referred to as men of the sun, and Antonio’s father says that they thought of themselves as brothers of the wind, because the wind is free. In contrast, the men from the farms along the river, where Antonio’s mother comes from, are associated with the moon. This can be seen in their name, Lunas, and the village where they live, El Puerto de la Luna, which means the door of the moon (Ultima explains that the river valley is the door through which the moon passes each month on its east-west journey). The Lunas live all aspects of their lives in harmony with the changing phases of the moon. The imagery brings out the interplay of opposites in creation—wind and earth, sun and moon—that is also embodied in the interactions of people. The poetic imagery finds fullest expression in Antonio’s dreams, with their lush romantic visions. For example, this is how Ultima speaks to Antonio in his dream about his brothers and his own innocence: “There in the land of the dancing plains and rolling hills, there in the land which is the eagle’s by day and the owl’s by night is innocence. There where the lonely wind of the llano sang to the lovers’ feat of your birth, there in those hills is your innocence” (p. 71).
Coming-of-Age The main theme of Bless Me, Ultima is the coming-of-age of Tony, the protagonist. (The protagonist is the chief character in a novel or play.) Although this theme is usually associated with protagonists older than Tony, who is not yet nine when the story ends, Tony goes through a huge learning process during the approximately two years the story covers. This occurs not only in school, where he learns English for the first time and is an excellent student, but also in catechism classes which expose him to the doctrines of the Catholic church. He also learns continually from Ultima, who teaches him the things that are not taught in school or catechism. From her he learns about nature and the many ways in which humans are connected to the earth. She teaches him that even plants have spirits, and that all things in the universe are connected in harmony, even though there is also good and evil in the world. Ultima also teaches him tolerance and understanding, two essential qualities of wisdom. However, Tony’s mental growth is not always easy. He is assailed by moral and religious questions for which he can find no satisfactory answered within the confines of the Catholic church. He is aware of the complexity of many of these questions. For example, he wonders whether his father will go to hell because he was part of the mob that killed Lupito. And when he receives a blessing from Ultima, the experience is similar to being hit by a “dust devil.” A “dust devil” was a small whirlwind in the llano, so called because it was said to carry an evil spirit inside it. Is there then, Tony wonders, no difference between the power of good and the power of evil? And if Ultima is indeed on the side of good, as he soon realizes she is, how does her magic relate to the teachings of the Church? (Although Ultima acknowledges the value of Christianity, her knowledge comes from another source.) And how will Tony be affected by the massive conflict between good and evil that drives the main action of the story? How will he reconcile the existence of good and evil (which finds easy support in Catholic doctrine), with the more pantheistic doctrine that Ultima teaches? Pantheism is the belief that everything in creation, including animals and plants, is a part of the all-pervading divine spirit. The growing Tony must grapple with this complicated metaphysical web and decide what he believes and where he stands. Tony faces yet another dilemma when he discovers the pagan myth of the golden carp. This provides him with a moving religious experience, something that he failed to get from his first holy communion. How can he reconcile the existence of the golden carp with the Catholic doctrines he has been taught? Tony also has to deal with the conflict between his parents, who each has very different backgrounds and beliefs. His mother is a pious Catholic, whose social ideal is a community of farmers ruled over by a priest, which she hopes Tony will become. Will Tony honor his mother’s wish, which is also supported by his uncles? Or will he grow up indifferent to organized religion, like his father, who values the life of the restless free cowboy? Like any young boy growing up, Tony has to cope with the pressures of family expectations. The reader is reminded of this by the story of Tony’s three older brothers, who turn their backs on their father’s dream in order to live their own lives. Is this the model for Tony’s future? By the end of the novel, Tony has lost much of his earlier innocence. He realizes that it is up to him to develop his own value system and sense of identity. Encouraged by Ultima, he decides to honor all the cultural and religious traditions to which he is exposed, but to think for himself as well. The coming-of-age novel is also known as the Bildungsroman, a German term that means literally “novel of formation.” It refers to a novel that shows the development of the protagonist’s mind and character from childhood to maturity.
Abel: Abel is the smallest of Tony’s friends. He has a habit of urinating in inappropriate places.
Bones: Bones is one of Tony’s friends. Tony and the others are wary of him because often he acts as if he is crazy.
Father Byrnes: Father Byrnes is the Catholic priest who gives Tony and his friends their catechism lessons. He teaches them to fear God. However, he does not treat the boys equally. When they are late for class, he punishes Florence but excuses Tony.
Chávez: Chávez is the father of Tony’s friend Jasón. After Lupito kills his brother, the sheriff, Chávez rounds up a mob to find and kill Lupito.
Cico: Cico is Tony’s friend. He does not hang out with the other boys and is reputed to spend all his time along the river, fishing. Cico shows Tony the golden carp.
Ernie: Ernie is one of Tony’s friends. He likes to brag and always wants to be the center of attention. Florence:Florence is one of Tony’s friends. He is an atheist. He is keenly aware of the injustices in the world and cannot reconcile them with the existence of a loving God. His own family is riddled with tragedy. His mother died when he was three, his father drank himself to death, and his sisters are prostitutes. Florence too meets an unhappy fate when is drowned in the lake.
Horse: Horse is one of Tony’s friends. He gets his nickname from the fact that his face looks like the face of a horse. He is big and tough and loves to wrestle.
Uncle Juan: Uncle Juan is one of Tony’s uncles who lives at El Puerto.
Uncle Lucas: Uncle Lucas is Tony’s uncle on his mother’s side. Lucas is cursed by the Trementina daughters and only escapes death because of Ultima’s intervention.
Lloyd: Lloyd is one of Tony’s friends. He has a voice like a girl’s, and he is always warning that people can get sued for even the most minor of infractions.
Lupito: Lupito is a World War II veteran whose war experiences have left him deeply scarred mentally. He murders Chávez's brother, the local sheriff, and is in turn killed by the townsmen. Tony observes the killing.Miss Maestas:Miss Maestas is Tony’s first grade teacher. He does well under her tutelage, and is allowed to skip second grade.Andrew Márez:Andrew Márez is one of Tony’s older brothers. He returns with Eugene and León from World War II service, and then decided to remain at home when his brothers go off to lead their own lives. He gets a job in town and decides to finish his high school education. But he does not stick to his resolution for long. When his brothers next come to visit, he goes back with them to pursue his life away from his parents.
Antonio Márez: Antonio Márez is the narrator of the novel. He is nearly seven years old when it begins. Highly intelligent, thoughtful, and precocious, his mind is filled with questions about religion. He wants to know what happens to the soul after death, and the nature of divine forgiveness. He goes through many traumatic experiences. He sees two men killed and his friend Florence drowned; he takes part in two of Ultima’s magical cures, and he finds his brother Andrew at Rosie’s, the house of prostitution. Tony’s mother wants him to be a priest, but in addition to the Catholicism he is learning, he is also attracted to the pagan myths that Cico tells him about. He gradually learns that he must think for himself and evolve a faith that honors all aspects of his heritage. Deborah Márez:Deborah Márez is one of Tony’s two older sisters. She has been to school for two years and insists on speaking only English.
Eugene Márez: Eugene Márez is one of Tony’s older brothers. They return home from World War II and spend a few months living with their parents. But they are restless, and Eugene takes the lead in deciding to leave home to try their luck in Las Vegas or Santa Fe.
Gabriel Márez: Gabriel Márez is Tony’s father. Before he married he was a vaquero (cowboy) who loved to roam across the plains. He cherished his independence and his freedom. Since marrying into the Lunas, however, his life has changed. He is restless because marriage has tied him down to living in a single place, with a woman who comes from a family of farmers, not vaqueros. This is the cause of many arguments between them. Gabriel dreams of moving with his entire family to the vineyards of California, but his three oldest sons make it clear that they are not interested. He has to accept that his dreams will never come true.
León Márez: León Márez is Tony’s eldest brother. He is badly affected by his experiences in World War II and has nightmares about them. Like his brothers, he is unhappy living at home and he goes along with Eugene’s decision to leave.
Maria Márez: Maria Márez is Tony’s mother. She comes from a family of farmers and is a devout Catholic. She wants Tony to become a priest.
Theresa Márez: Theresa Márez is one of Tony’s two older sisters. She is younger than Deborah, who teaches her English.
Uncle Mateo: Uncle Mateo is one of Tony’s uncles. He is the best story teller in the family.
Narciso: Narciso is a friend of Tony’s father, and he is known as the town drunk. But this is deceptive. He is in fact a man of integrity and courage. He tries to save Lupito from the mob, and he stands up to Tenorio. Eventually he sacrifices his life trying to warn Ultima of the danger from Tenorio. Another notable thing about Narciso is that he keeps a magnificent garden, full of all kinds of fruit and vegetables.Uncle Pedro:Uncle Pedro is one of Tony’s uncles who live at El Puerto. When he hears that Tenorio is seeking revenge on Ultima for the death of his daughter, Pedro immediately heads for the Marez’s home with Tony. When Tenorio aims his gun at Tony, Uncle Pedro shoots and kills him.
Prudencio Luna: Prudencio Luna is Tony’s grandfather on his mother’s side. Samuel:Samuel is one of Tony’s friends, and the Vitamin Kid’s brother. He is more softly spoken than the others. To Tony, he always seems wise and old.
Téllez: Téllez is a friend of Tony’s father. He seeks Ultima’s help because a curse has been laid on his house. Ultima performs a ceremony that lifts the curse.
Tenorio Trementina: Tenorio Trementina is a bad-tempered, vicious man who owns the saloon in town. He is also the town barber. His three daughters practice witchcraft. After one of them dies, Tenorio vows to be revenged on Ultima, whom he blames for the death. Ultima’s owl attacks him and plucks out one of his eyes. As he pursues his vengeance, Tenorio kills Narciso and tries to kill Tony. He also kills Ultima’s owl, which results in her death. Tenorio is eventually shot and killed by Tony’s Uncle Pedro.
Trementina Daughters: The three unnamed daughters of Tenorio are all thought to be witches. They put a curse on Lucas that nearly kills him. They are reputed to hold Black Masses and perform other rites in service of the devil. Two of the daughters die during the course of the novel, and their father blames Ultima for their deaths.
Ultima: Ultima is an old woman who is a curandera, a healer. She learned her powers from a great healer in Las Pasturas, the town where Tony was born. She knows how to heal by using plants and herbs, and she can also lift curses. Ultima is a long-time friend of the Márez family, and assisted Maria with the birth of Tony. The Márez’s invite her to live with them because they do not want her to live alone on the llano in her old age. Everyone in the house reveres Ultima, including Tony, who learns much from her about nature. He also absorbs her wisdom about life. Although Ultima is wise, she is also feared by her enemies, the Trementinas and their associates, who call her a bruja, a witch. Although Ultima is ruthless in how she deals with the evil of the Trementinas, she teaches Tony the virtues of tolerance. She sees wisdom in all things, knows her own place in the world, and accepts her destiny.
Miss Violet: Miss Violet is Tony’s third grade teacher.
Vitamin Kid: Vitamin Kid is one of Tony’s friends. No one knows his real name. He is the fastest runner among all the boys. No one can beat him.
Bless Me, Ultima Focusing Reading Questions
Chapter 1 • How are Antonio’s mother and father different from one another? • How does Antonio’s father feel about the family moving to Guadalupe? • Why does the Marez family take in Ultima? • What happens in Antonio’s dream? What is his mother’s reaction when Antonio relates his prior dream to her? • How does Antonio regard the owl that Ultima brings with her? What connotations are attached to the owl? • Describe Ultima and her first impressions on Antonio. • What is the significance of the landscape? • What are Antonio’s key characteristics?
Chapter 2 • What is Antonio’s father’s dream? • How does Ultima guide Antonio’s spiritual growth? • What does Antonio see by the river? How does this impact him? • What is the significance of Antonio’s dream? Chapter 3 • What questions is Antonio asking about Lupito’s death? • How do Antonio’s parents differ in their attitudes toward Antonio’s future? How does Ultima feel? • How does Antonio gain acceptance with the boys from town? Chapter 4 • How does the “presence of the river” affect Antonio? • How does Ultima perceive the two branches of the family? • How does Antonio feel here about having to choose his future? • How do Antonio’s ideas about God compare to his perceptions of the Virgin of Guadalupe? • Why is the Virgin in mourning for the fourth son? Chapter 5 • What are Antonio’s uncles like? • What do Antonio’s uncles feel about his future? • What does the family think about Antonio’s brothers? Chapter 6 • How does Antonio feel about starting school? How is Antonio’s mother reacting to Antonio’s first day of school? • Describe Gabriel’s feeling toward the llano. • What blessing is Ultima giving Antonio before he begins school? In what ways could Ultima’s blessing be like a whirlwind? What questions does Ultima’s blessing raise for Antonio? • What does Antonio experience at school? Chapter 7 • What is the significance of Antonio’s dream? • How has the war affected the brothers? • How do Antonio’s parents respond to the return of their sons? Chapter 8 • How are the brothers affected by the season of the year? • Compare and contrast Antonio to his brothers. Chapter 9 • How does the dream in this chapter affect Antonio? • Why does Andrew remain at home? • Why does Antonio feel like celebrating? • Why is it bad luck to catch and eat a carp? • How is Antonio feeling about his religious training, now that he has encountered the golden carp? Chapter 10 • What has caused Uncle Lucas’ illness? • What risk is Ultima taking in deciding to cure Lucas? • Describe Tenorio and his interaction with Ultima. • What role does Antonio play in Lucas’s recovery? How does the experience affect him? • How do the people of El Puerto regard Ultima after she heals Lucas? Chapter 11 • What does Antonio learn about Narciso? • Why do only a few people know about the golden carp? • How do seeing the golden carp and hearing more of Cico’s beliefs impact Antonio? • In Antonio’s dream, what forces are struggling with each other? Chapter 12 • Compare Antonio’s feelings toward Ultima to his feelings toward his mother. • Why does Ultima keep the three dolls? • Why does Ultima give Antonio her scapular, and why does she tell him not to tell others? • Why do Tenorio and his men try to hurt Ultima? • What happens with the owl and the cross? Chapter 13 • How does the experience with Tenorio affect Ultima, Antonio, and Uncle Pedro? • Why does Ultima appear in the casket in Antonio’s dream? • What doubts is Antonio having now? • What is the significance of the cottonwood casket and church scene for Tenorio and his daughters? Chapter 14 • What happens between Antonio and Ernie? • What does Antonio find out about Andrew? • What happens between Narciso and Tenorio? What does Antonio do? • What does Antonio’s dream reveal about his faith? Chapter 15 • What do people think of Narciso and how do they respond to his death? • What happens with the return of Eugene and Leon? • How does Gabriel change as his sons grow up? Chapter 16 • What questions trouble Antonio? • How does Antonio react to his encounter with Tenorio? Chapter 17 • What does Florence believe and why? • What does Antonio learn in catechism and what questions does he have? • What is Antonio’s moment of blasphemy? Chapter 18 • What does Florence believe about sin? • During the confession “game,” how does Antonio respond to Florence’s statements and the demands of the other children? Chapter 19 • What does Antonio expect will happen when he takes holy communion for the first time? • How does he feel when his expectations are not met? Chapter 20 • What is the significance of Antonio’s beating the Vitamin Kid across the bridge? • Where does the curse on the Tellez family come from? • What does Antonio’s dream symbolize? Chapter 21 • What does Cico mean when he says, “There are many gods”? • Why do Cico and Antonio feel that it would be good for Florence to know of the golden carp? • How does the tragedy impact Antonio? Chapter 22 • What words of wisdom from Gabriel and Ultima help Antonio? • What tools has Ultima passed on to Antonio to help him become a spiritual leader?
BLESS ME, ULTIMA, MORE STUDY QUESTIONS
Chapters Uno through Once
1.How does Tony's father feel about the family moving to Guadalupe?
2. What is Tony's first reaction when he meets Ultima?
3. How does Tony regard the owl that Ultima brings with her?
4. What connotations are attached to the owl?
5. How does the family regard the responsibility of taking care of the older generation?
6. What happens in Tony's dream?
7. What is his mother's reaction when Tony relates his dream to her?
8. Compare Tony's two meetings with Ultima--one on page 1 and the second on page
10. How are they similar? How are they different?
9. Anaya was interviewed by Juan D. Bruce-Novoa in a book called
1. How does Ultima guide Tony's spiritual growth?
2. In what ways is Ultima a believer in animism?
3. Why do they say the war has made Lupito the way he is?
4. What does Lupito feel in this chapter?
5. Analyze the images used to describe Lupito as he is being chased.
6. What does Tony feel after witnessing the death of a man for the first time?
7. Why does he recite the Act of Contrition as he runs?
8. How does the river affect Tony?
9. Why is it significant that he hears the owl as he is running?
10. What is Tony's father's dream? 11. What does Tony dream in this chapter?
12. Why does Tony say, "Bless me" on page 20?
13. In this chapter, how does Tony feel about becoming a priest?
1. How is Tony noticing the passage of time in this chapter?
2. What questions is Tony asking about Lupito's death?
3. How do Tony's parents differ in their attitudes toward Tony's future? How does Ultima feel?
4. What stories has Tony been told about life in Las Pasturas?
5. What is going through Tony's head as he wrestles with Horse?
6. Why does María Márez (Tony's mother) say that "growing into manhood is a sin"?
7. What was the grey house on the hill?
1. How is Tony changing as this chapter opens?
2. How does the "presence of the river" affect Tony?
3. How does Ultima perceive the two branches of the family?
4. How does Tony feel here about having to choose his future?
5. What is Tony afraid of at the end of this chapter?
6. Why does Tony's mother have an altar in the house?
7. How is Communion regarded in the Catholic Church?
8. How do Tony's ideas about God compare to his perceptions of the Virgin of Guadalupe?
9. What is the nature of Tony's dream in this chapter?
10. Why is the Virgin in mourning for the fourth son?
1. What are Tony's uncles like?
2. What do Tony's uncles feel about his future?
3. Why do cultures often have stories about people in forests dancing with the Devil?
4. Why does the family stop at the grandfather's house first?
5. Describe the harvest that the family works to gather.
6. Why do the bells toll?
7. What is the feeling at the end of this chapter as Tony drifts off to sleep?
1. How does Tony feel about starting school?
2. How is Tony's mother reacting to Tony's first day of school?
3. How does Tony's father regard his work on the highway?
4. Describe Gabriel's feeling toward the llano on page 51.
5. What blessing do you think Ultima is giving Tony on page 51?
6. In what ways could Ultima's blessing be like a whirlwind?
7. Tony says, "I looked at the three of them standing there, and I felt that I was seeing them for the last time: Ultima in her wisdom, my mother in her dream, and my father in his rebellion.” Comment.
8. Why do the other children make fun of Tony in class and at lunch?
9. How is Tony feeling at the very end of this chapter? 10. Why does the author compare the area to a "land of milk and honey”?
11. Why do the boys believe that drawing letters in the sand is magic?
12. Why are blessings important?
1. Why are the three sons meeting in San Diego?
2. How has the war affected the brothers?
3. How do Tony's parents disagree in this chapter?
1. How does Tony's mother react to having her sons back from the war?
2. How are the brothers affected by the season of the year?
3. In particular, how is Leon faring after his return, and what does Tony think about it?
4. Compare and contrast Tony to his brothers.
1. How does the dream in this chapter affect Tony?
2. Why does Andrew remain at home?
3. Why does Tony feel like celebrating?
4. Why is it bad luck to catch and eat a carp?
5. How is Tony feeling about his religious training, now that he has encountered the Golden Carp?
1. What has caused Uncle Lucas' illness?
2. What risk is Ultima taking in deciding to cure Lucas?
3. Why do the Tenorio sisters feel the way they do?
4. Why is Tony's presence important when Ultima exorcises the curse?
5. What role does Tony play in Lucas’ recovery?
6. How does the experience affect him?
7. How do the people of El Puerto regard Ultima after she heals Lucas?
8. Why do the witches take the form of the coyote?
9. Why does the curse involve a hairball?
1. What do Cico and Tony agree to do?
2. What feeling is conveyed by the description of Narciso's garden, and what Biblical reference resembles it?
3. Why do only a few people know about the Golden Carp?
4. Why does Tony become sick?
5. What does the black bass represent?
6. What is Cico's opinion about human nature and people's behavior toward each other?
7. In Tony's dream, what forces are struggling with each other?
8. Compare and contrast the story of la llorona with Cico's story about the mermaid.
9. In what ways is this chapter similar to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible?
10. In this, Tony begins to doubt some of the beliefs he has been taught. His experience with Ultima as she cures Tony's uncle has affected him deeply. Think of a time when you or someone you know has experienced doubts. This can be about any aspect of life--school, job, family, graduation, past, present, or future. Describe this experience and say what effects it
CHAPTER 12 1. Why do Tenorio and his men try to hurt Ultima? 2. Why does Ultima's owl attack only Tenorio? 3. Compare Tony's feelings toward Ultima to his feelings toward his mother. 4. Why does Ultima give Tony her scapular, and why does she tell him not to tell others? 5. Why can't a witch pass by the sign of the cross? 6. How does Ultima feel as the mob threatens her? 7. Why does Ultima keep the three dolls?
CHAPTER 13 1. How does the experience with Tenorio affect each person in the Márez home? 2. What doubts is Tony having now? 3. Why does Ultima appear in the casket in Tony's dream? 4. How do people know that the dead Trementina daughter was a witch?
CHAPTER 14 1. What kind of person is Narciso? 2. Why does Tony decide to give Narciso confession? 3. If Tony is supposed to be so faithful to his religion, why does he seem to believe so strongly in the Golden Carp? 4. How does Ultima feel about Tony's getting involved in this conflict? 5. What is the tone of the scene at the Christmas play?
CHAPTER 15 1. Discuss your impression of Narciso and the way people treat him. 2. If you were Tony's mother and father, how would you feel if your sons returned with the story of the burned car and then left home again? 3. Gabriel matures as his sons grow up. Support this idea with details from book and commentary.
CHAPTER 16 1. Describe Florence's life and values. 2. How does Tony react to Tenorio in this chapter?
CHAPTER 17 1. According to the teachings of the church that Tony has learned, why does evil exist? 2. Why is Tony being blasphemous? 3. Why does Florence say he has never sinned? 4. What do the children think of Tony's playing the part of a priest? 5. How does the presence of the atomic bomb affect the people of the town? 6. How does the gang of boys represent different traits in Tony? 7. Compare Florence's behavior in the Christmas play and at Easter with his behavior at Horse's and Bones' first confession when Tony plays the priest.
CHAPTER 18 1. Why does the priest say, 'Thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return" as he places ashes on each person's forehead? 2. What fears does Tony have about his actions? 3. Why does Florence refuse to confess his sins? 4. Why does Florence have trouble believing in God? 5. Why does Tony wonder "how the priest could shoulder the burden of all the sins he heard” on page 201? 6. After Tony absolves Florence of his sins, he feels relieved. Why?
CHAPTER 19 1. What does Tony expect will happen when he takes holy communion for the first time? 2. How does he feel when his expectations are not met?
CHAPTER 20 1. Why do people believe that a curse has been placed on the Téllez family? 2. Where does the curse come from? 3. What is the significance of Tony's beating the Vitamin Kid across the bridge? CHAPTER 21 1. What does Cico mean when he says, "There are many gods"? 2. Why do Cico and Antonio feel that it would be good for Florence to know of the golden carp?
CHAPTER 22 1. Why does Tony say the Act of Contrition for Florence when he knows that Florence didn’t believe and it wouldn't do any good? 2. Why doesn't the Vitamin Kid race Tony at the end? 3. Why does the author make Florence die right before Tony and Cico get a chance to tell him about the Golden Carp? 4. What is Gabriel's answer to Tony's question about the existence of evil? 5. Why don't the townspeople turn against Tenorio if he is so evil? 6. How is Tony's flight through the woods to warn Ultima similar to Narciso's? 7. If Ultima is so powerful, why can't she save herself? 8. What advice does Ultima give Tony at the end? 9. Why is the owl's death important? 10. What tools has Ultima passed on to Tony to help him become a spiritual leader? 11. Think back to one or more people or experiences that have influenced you as you have grown up. Describe those people or experiences and say how they have affected you.
Bless Me, Ultima writing assignment
Read the poem “Abuelito Who” by Sandra Cisneros & create your own poem by following the instructions listed at the bottom of this page. (See steps 1-6)
“Abuelito Who” by Sandra Cisneros
Abuelito who throws coins like rain and asks who loves him who is dough and feathers who is a watch and glass of water whose hair is made of fur is too sad to come downstairs today who tells me in Spanish you are my diamond who tells me in English you are my sky whose little eyes are string can't come out to play sleeps in his little room all night and day who used to laugh like the letter k is sick is a doorknob tied to a sour stick is tired, shut the door doesn't live here anymore is hiding underneath the bed who talks to me inside my head is blankets and spoons and big brown shoes who snores up and down up and down up and down again is the rain on the room that falls like coins asking who loves him who loves him who?
Like Bless Me, Ultima, this poem by Sandra Cisneros is about family, devotion, and change. In it, she uses similes and metaphors to capture the character of her grandfather, who changes from a man “who throws coins like rain and asks who loves him” to one who “is sick” and “is the rain on the room that falls like coins / asking who loves him / who loves him who?”
Instructions (Steps 1-6)
1. Choose a character from Bless Me, Ultima.
2. Make a list of objects and images associated with this character.
3. Using “Abuelito Who” as a model, write a poem about this character.
4. Be sure that the poem conveys the character’s most essential traits.
5. Your poem should be 23 lines long and should follow the pattern of the original work, including the title. I especially want you to keep all the whoand is words in the same place.
6. Review and revise your poem, then recopy it neatly to turn in.
Some suggestions for characters: Antonio, Ultima, Gabriel, Narciso, Tenorio, Florence (though you may choose any character in the book.)