Study Guide

Bless Me, Ultima Fate and Free Will

By Rudolfo Anaya

Fate and Free Will

He is a Márez, the vaqueros shouted […] He is his father's blood! (1.190-192)

Dealing with the claims that his parents' families lay on Antonio from the moment he comes into the world is at the very heart of who this kid is, the struggles he faces, and the journey he takes.

Only I will know his destiny. (1.198)

Well someone's getting territorial. Antonio hears Ultima say this in the dream he has about his birth, before Ultima ever even shows up to the joint (and already she's staking her claim). With this little tidbit, Anaya establishes the deep connection between Antonio and Ultima, and he grants Ultima a pretty heavy dose of power. She is the only character who can truly see how another human being's life will turn out. At least, that's what Antonio seems to think.

I saw the old woman who had delivered me from my mother's womb. I knew she held the secret of my destiny. (1.411-413)

Obviously, this ties into what Antonio sees in his birth dream. More importantly, though, it demonstrates that one of Antonio's driving obsessions when he was very young is discovering his fate, which is a little existential for a tiny tot like him.

"Your blood is tied to the blood of your brothers." (15.45)

So—big question here—if all people are tied to the history and blood of their family, do they have free will, or are their lives determined by the actions and lives of others that came before them?

"I do not want you to waste your life in dreams, like your father." (15.86-87)

Antonio's free will takes a bit of a hit from his sense of duty. He so badly wants to fulfill the hopes and dreams of his parents that he struggles to discover what it is he truly wants and believes for himself. This struggle is complicated by the fact that, as seen in this dandy little quote, that his parents' hopes for him are directly at odds with each other.

Christ will come to judge the living and the dead. (19.20)

Time for another one of those big philosophical questions that Bless Me, Ultima brings out. If Antonio accepts Christ and the God of the Catholic Church, does he sacrifice his own free will to the will of those higher powers?

"Ultima says a man's destiny must unfold itself like a flower." (20.25)

Ultima knows Antonio's destiny, but she never reveals it to him—that would be cheating. Instead, through quotes like this, she shows him that one's destiny is slowly revealed, and maybe even slowly formed. This ties into a recurring theme in the novel. Both Ultima and Antonio's father make it clear that to come to any kind of real knowledge about himself or his destiny, Antonio must be willing and ready to live. He cannot simply wait for someone to tell him what is going to happen or what is true or not true.

"You know the rules that guide the interference with any man's destiny." (20.205-206)

This is huge. With this line, Ultima acknowledges that each man's life is fated to turn out a specific way. However, she also makes it clear that a man's fate can be changed. But, that change does not come without consequences. Those that interfere with another man's fate must be willing to suffer the consequences, whatever they may be.

"Papá," I asked, "can a new religion be made?" (22.160)

Everybody has those breakthrough moments in life at one time or another. This is one of those moments for Antonio. He believes that he can make something new, and not just anything, a new religion. He can define his own future, at least, up to a point.

"But I was not to interfere with the destiny of any man." (22.635-636)

Before she dies, Ultima reveals to Antonio that she has stepped in and altered the destiny of men. She knows this causes disharmony. By telling Antonio this, she also passes along one final piece of wisdom: do not interfere with the path that has been laid out for another. Help people and act out of goodness, but don't meddle.