Study Guide

Bless Me, Ultima Revenge

By Rudolfo Anaya


"I must go. He was my brother!" (2.103)

Chavez says this to Antonio's father. It's his argument as to why he, Chavez, can't simply let other men track down Lupito, the man who killed Chavez's brother. Right off the bat, Anaya starts to tie the idea of revenge with the idea of honor. Revenge, in most cases in the book, isn't just about violence or even over-reaction; it's about standing up for family and loved ones. Keep this in mind, because it plays out even in Tenorio's revenge, although honor gets a little twisted in that guy's mind.

"For what you have said to shame my daughters and my good name in front of those men, I will see you dead!" (10.414-416)

Talk about your foreshadowing, right? Tenorio drops this classy line on Ultima in chapter 10. It will take him about twelve more chapters to make it happen, but he does prove true to his words in the end.

"Your evil bird blinded me!" he cried. "For that I curse you! I will see you dead! And you, Narciso, I swear to kill you!" (12.480-482)

Angry old Tenorio is cursing Ultima again and promising he'll kill her. Big deal. I mean, saying he's going to kill Ultima is like a mantra for this guy. But, if you look closer, there's something very important about this quote. In his rage and desire for revenge, Tenorio raises the stakes here. Now, he's not only going to kill Ultima; he's going to kill Narciso, too.

"It will only end when blood is spilled" (14.282)

Samuel is wise beyond his years, and here he hits on something that becomes a theme for Anaya. Once revenge is sought, there is no peaceable end to it. It's kind of like Macbeth (sorry theater people, sometimes you have to say the word). Once violence becomes the means to settle something, it will inevitably lead to more violence.

Vengeance is Mine! […] not even your golden carp would give up that power as a god! (14.1142-1143)

God shouts this in one of Antonio's dreams, and this raises a really interesting question for Antonio. If God, the golden carp, and other Supreme Beings thrive on revenge and are unable to forgive, how can humans be expected to act any better?

"I will find a way to kill the witch." (16.89-90)

Okay, Tenorio, here we go again. More claims of revenge on Ultima. Yay for you. This one keeps it interesting, though. Do you think the difference between a witch and a curandera is just a semantic argument in the book? Or does Tenorio actually have it right about Ultima?

I had not thought of Tenorio all summer […] but now here he was again, plotting to bring another tragedy into my life. (22.316-320)

Leave it to Antonio to keep it interesting. All this time, it's seemed like Tenorio's revenge was bent on Ultima, but in actuality are his actions really revenge against Antonio? They are, after all, the protagonist and antagonist of this whole shebang.

"I hope you rot in that hole as your bruja will rot in hell!" (22.421-422)

Sure, we could use this revenge quote to put Tenorio on the therapy couch and ask him what went wrong in his childhood to make him so angry, but there's something interesting about this quote that goes beyond one man's psychotic nature. This quote from Tenorio acknowledges the connection between Antonio and Ultima. In Tenorio's eyes, she is Antonio's bruja, and that makes Antonio culpable, too.

"This very night I will avenge the death of my two daughters! It is the owl that is the spirit of the old witch." (22.500-501)

Is Tenorio beating a dead horse? Maybe. But each little tidbit of revenge-speak from this guy opens the book up a little more. He knows it's the owl, now, and he's going to do something about it. This man is setting up a clash with the supernatural, and it's gonna be quite the show.

"May your evil deeds speed your soul to hell." (22.590)

Lovely sentiment. But to be fair, the malediction's earned in this case. Antonio's uncle Pedro speaks this line after he kills Tenorio, because of what Tenorio's daughters did to Pedro's brother. This is a good one, because it raises the question as to whether or not revenge is justified if it is carried out by a righteous man. Also, is this the punishment that Antonio sought for Tenorio when he questioned why God let evil men roam free?