You don't have to get all buffed up and super strong to become a man, despite what those P90X ads might lead you to believe. For Antonio, the journey to manhood is about learning to make decisions on his own, and discovering that there is not always a single answer to life's big questions. In Bless Me, Ultima, manhood and masculinity also ties directly to a sense of honor. From his father, uncles, and Narciso, Antonio learns that real men stand up to those who would seek to injure their loved ones, that real men stand by their friends and family in times of need.
Antonio learns a lot about what it takes to be a man from a lot of people, but it's an old lady, Ultima, who teaches him more than anyone.
In the time, setting, and culture of the novel, a boy is forced to become a man at seven or eight years old, which is just plain nuts. Seriously, one day this kid is hanging out tending a garden, and then he's battling evil, giving commands to his mother, and figuring out the meaning of life.