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Bless Me, Ultima

Bless Me, Ultima

by Rudolfo Anaya

Analysis: Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Exposition (Initial Situation)

A Grande Entrance

Antonio Márez is a young man on the brink of discovery and the brink of starting to figure out what it means to grow from a boy to a man. This journey truly begins when Ultima—called La Grande out of respect—comes to stay with Antonio and his family. Even older Antonio who narrates the novel knows that Ultima's arrival is when everything started for him, saying "Let me begin at the beginning. I do not mean the beginning that was in my dreams and the stories they whispered to me about my birth […] but the beginning that came with Ultima" (1.13-17).

Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

Uncle Lucas, Antonio's mother's brother, has been cursed by witches, and it all goes downhill from there once Ultima gets involved. This is the stage of the novel when the protagonist (Antonio) and the antagonist (Tenorio) are truly set against each other. The events that follow inevitably lead the two to their final confrontation—good old conflict at its best.

The brouhaha over the curse eventually leads Tenorio to blame Ultima for the death of his daughter (it's complicated), which is when things really start cooking. When Tenorio's other daughter falls ill and eventually dies as well, Tenorio's desire for revenge on Ultima grows even stronger, and lead us to the point of no return. These two are gonna battle, and there's no way it's going to end well.

Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)

As Owl Lay Dying

From the moment Antonio and Ultima meets Tenorio in that sleazy bar in the village and Ultima accuses Tenorio's daughters of witchcraft, everything has been leading to this. This story starts with the arrival of Ultima, and when her departure is imminent, the story all but comes to a close.

Here's how the final battle goes down: despite his raving and lunacy, Tenorio proves to be right about the owl—it does contain Ultima's soul, and that's how he'll exact his revenge. As Antonio rushes home to warn Ultima, Tenorio arrives and shoots the owl dead. Uh oh. To make matters worse, Tenorio almost kills Antonio, but Antonio's uncle kills Tenorio before he can fire on the boy.

It's got all the markings of a classic climactic throwdown, and we're left in suspense about Ultima's fate. That's where the falling action comes in…

Falling Action

The Final Blessing

The owl held the spirit of Ultima. Her fate, as well as Tenorio's, is now clear. The climax has occurred and the conflict has been resolved. There's just one little thing that needs taking care of.

With the owl dead, Antonio rushes into find Ultima, who gives him his last blessing. Ultima instructs him to bury the owl under the forked juniper tree. As a final wish, Antonio asks Ultima to bless him.

Resolution (Denouement)

Beneath the Juniper Tree

While the major events have gone down, there's still one conflict that's in need of some sort of resolution: Antonio's spirituality. In the novel's final moments, Antonio fully embraces the fact that there is more power in the world than just the power of God.

When he buries Ultima's owl, he knows that he's the one who is truly closest to her. Though everyone else will mourn her, and bury her body with all the trappings of a standard funeral, he knows that he has just laid the real Ultima to rest right under the juniper tree—where he buried her owl.

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