Study Guide

Bless Me, Ultima Men and Masculinity

By Rudolfo Anaya

Men and Masculinity

"The ways of men are strange, and hard to learn." (2.398-399)

Okay, so this is Antonio's journey pretty much laid out in one line. He'll spend most of the rest of the book trying to learn the ways of men.

You are but a baby, Antonio, you are our mother's dream. (2.435-436)

Here we get the idea that one of the first major steps toward manhood is leaving the protection of your mother. Which makes sense, if you think about it. How can Antonio ever be himself, if he's always trying to fulfill his mother's dreams?

"You leave my brothers out of this! They are honorable men. They have always treated you with respect." (6.44-45)

As Antonio will learn throughout the novel, to truly be a man, one must act with respect and honor. He learns this from his father, Narciso, and his mother's brothers.

"We're men, Andy, we're not boys any longer. We can't be tied down to old dreams." (8.101-102)

The choice of one simple word gives this line a world of meaning: "old." Becoming a man doesn't mean giving up on dreams altogether, it just means that you develop new dreams of your own. (And then you grow old and foist those dreams on your kids.)

"You shame your good names by following this jodido Tenorio!" (12.378-379)

Once again, it all comes back to honor for guys in this book. However, not acting honorably doesn't just bring disgrace to you, it brings disgrace to your entire family. That goes to show how strong familial ties are in the culture of Bless Me, Ultima and how each generation (past, present, and future) is linked to all other generations.

"The next time, and God grant there isn't a next time, I will not shirk my duty to her." (13.69-71)

Anaya drops a little bit of foreshadowing in our laps again. We know there will be a next time, and when it comes around, Pedro does not shirk his duty.

"I don't know, maybe it's because the war made men out of us too fast." (9.143-144)

Although it never dominates the book, what role does World War II play on shaping the lives of Antonio and his brothers? In other words, what's really being said here?

"Your uncles are strong men, you can learn much from them." (22.82-83)

This is an important piece of advice that Ultima passes onto Antonio. She knows that he has learned a lot of what it takes to be a good man from his father, but she knows that the Luna men have much to teach him, as well. Antonio will ultimately take lessons from them all to become his own man, which definitely seems like the right way to go.

"It will be good for you to be on your own this summer, to be away from your mother." (22.115-116)

Preach! It's been hinted at before, but this is the moment it's made crystal clear. In order for Antonio to truly become a man, he must leave the protection of his mom for a while and call his own shots. When he returns, he is a man, and he gives orders to his mother, which she follows.