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Bless Me, Ultima

Bless Me, Ultima


by Rudolfo Anaya

Character Clues

Character Analysis


Antonio's father is not really a man of many words, and he's not big on handing out advice to his youngest child (at least not until near the end of the book), but he shows what kind of man he is by the actions he takes:

[Tenorio] did not have a chance to finish his accusation because my father reached out and grabbed him by the collar. Tenorio was not a small man, but with one hand my father jerked him off his feet and pulled the cringing figure forward. (12.315-318)

Okay, so from his actions, we can see that Antonio's father might do pretty well in the UFC, but that's not really the point. In this scene, Antonio's father is protecting his home, his family, and Ultima. He stands up to Tenorio, a man who very people stand up to, in order to make sure that no harm comes to the people he loves. This deed comes to define manhood for Antonio. Antonio learns that a man does what is necessary to protect the people closest to him.


Okay, so the whole story takes place in New Mexico (quick, what's New Mexico's nickname?), but it's the locations within about a ten-mile radius in the book that come to define people—not the whole darn state. There is the town of Guadalupe, there is the llano, and there is the farmland where Antonio's mother's family lives. The key location, though, is Antonio's house:

On this side of the river, there were only three houses. The slope of the hill rose gradually into the hills of juniper and mesquite and cedar clumps. (1.319-321)

The key here is that Antonio lives between worlds. He does not live in town, and he does not live in the llano of his father or the farmland (La Pasturas) of his mother. Antonio's location serves as a literal representation of how he sees himself in the world. He is stuck in the middle, drawn by multiple powers, but not truly belonging to any. Eventually, he learns to draw from all of the influences (and locations) around him to start developing into the man he will become.


Sometimes, a character's essence is all in the name (think Remus Lupin or Billy Pilgrim). While the names in Bless Me, Ultima might not be quite so obvious to people who don't have a solid working knowledge of Spanish, Anaya lays all out there with the family names of Antonio's mother and father.

Antonio's father's family, the Márez (sea), are wanders and in motion like the sea. In fact, the book straight up tells us this: "his forefathers were men of the sea, the Márez people, they were conquistadors, men whose freedom was unbounded" (2.417-418). Antonio's mother's family, the Luna (moon), are pretty much the opposite:

"This one will be a Luna," the old man said, "he will be a farmer and keep our customs and traditions. Perhaps God will bless our family and make the baby a priest." (1.159-161)

Their family names not only define the character and temperament of Antonio's mother and father, they also define the struggle that rages in Antonio throughout the novel. Once again, we see that he dwells between different worlds.