Novel “Bless Me Ultima” by by Rudolfo Anaya

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Anaya uses syntax to create somewhat of a flow and or rhythm with short sentences appearing creating a passage with then the dialogue within or after to compliment the short sentences and give them much more detail and practicality as well as another way of interpreting the text. I will be using passage 2 which can be referred to above in that the rhythm the author creates with syntax such as short sentences then dialogue complimenting it creates a more intriguing emergency in that Antonio cannot find his friend and the running by Antonio followed by the panicked dialogue creates this. This sets the tone of urgency as well as mystery using panicked short spoken dialogue as well as Antonio’s multitude of actions in such a short span of time. Furthering theme in that the plot continues with more compelling actions between the beginning and end reaching the final resolution/theme.

Concrete Detail/Imagery

A recurring image/symbol that appears throughout the story is Ultima’s Owl as when it is first introduced it is very mysterious and Antonio naturally gravitated toward being afraid of what he does not understand as he does not enjoy it’s occasional eerie watching of him when he is around Ultima throughout the story Antonio learns more and more about the owl finding that it is a protector of Ultima, once the owl is shot it is revealed that Ultima’s soul is linked to the owl’s and that once the owl dies so does Ultima too. The quotation revealing this moment is “The thundering report of the rifle followed by the flash of fire. That shot destroyed the quiet, moonlit peace of the hill, and it shattered my childhood into a thousand fragments that long ago stopped falling and are now dusty relics gathered in distant memories.”(Anaya 81) this is when Antonio realizes the owl has been shot and Ultima will die too.


The novel is very symbolic using recurring symbols and images to help further the theme and main ideas of Anaya. A recurring symbol/image throughout the novel is The Golden Carp. Antonio first becomes aware of the existence of this Golden Carp after first questioning Catholicism and seeing this myth further his disbelief, even more, causing him to question God’s ways and teachings more so now than before “The range of the golden carp appeared at the edge of the pond. As he came out of the darkness of the pond the sun caught his shiny scales and the light reflected orange and yellow and red…we watched in silence at the beauty and grandeur of the great fish.”(Anaya 115) this is when Antonio sees the fish for the first time and sparks the thought process of disbelief and such. Both the magic carp and the owl can appear in either category above or below, I decided to split each one into one category.

Figurative Language

There is a multitude of examples of figurative language throughout the novel such as an example of personification “Time ceased to exist. Ultima came and went. The moaning of the wind”(Anaya 112) as wind does not moan as it is not human, another example is the use of a simile “It was at that moment that my uncle sat up in bed. It was a fearful sight and one I never want to see again. It was like seeing a dead person rise, for the white sheet was wet with sweat and it clung to his thin body.

He screamed the tortured cry of an animal in pain.”(Anaya 114) comparing his uncle waking up in agony to a dead person rising, another example of a simile is “He ate like a starved animal. He vomited once, but that was only because his stomach had been so empty and so sick. I could only watch from where I sat.”(Anaya 115) comparing his uncle once again to a starved animal based on the way he was eating. Another example of a simile is “Around us the trees rose like giant skeletons. They had no green on them, but were bare and white.”(Anaya 117) in which Antonio is comparing the trees to giant skeletons.


The book’s tone changes often but for most of the time revolves around the general pattern of a calm tone, suspenseful tone, and an informal tone. The author creates this tone by using short sentences combined together followed by fragmented dialogue to increase suspense or the level of informality and with longer dialogue to create a calm tone. The evidence is as follows ‘Three days,’ he answered. ‘Do you feel well, Tony?’ he rubbed my head. Next to Ultima it seemed the first human contact I had felt in a long time. ‘Yes,’ I answered. Up ahead we saw a fire burst out. It was Ultima burning the evil load of the sack exactly where the three witches had danced when my uncle saw them.

A trace of the smell of sulfur touched the foul, damp air. Again my uncle crossed himself. ‘(Anaya 105) which is using short dialogue coupled with short sentences to create an overall calm tone. An example of a suspenseful tone being created is “Jason!’ I called at the kitchen door. I had run hard and was panting. His mother appeared at the door. ‘Jason no Esta aqui,’ she said. All of the older people spoke only in Spanish, and I myself understood only Spanish. It was only after one went to school that one learned English.

‘Donde Esta?’ I asked. She pointed towards the river, northwest, past the railroad tracks to the dark hills. The river came through those hills and there were old Indian grounds there, holy burial grounds Jason told me. There is an old cave lived his Indian. At least everybody called him Jason’s Indian. He was the only Indian of the town, and he talked only to Jason.”(Anaya 22) in which this time short sentences and even shorter dialogue with a rapid amount of actions occurring creates a suspenseful/urgent tone that Antonio cannot find Jason.


The theme of the book I believe is to question everything and yearn for knowledge as throughout the novel Antonio questions almost everything he comes into contact with and discovers the deeper meaning of each unknown idea and or object. This can be seen with when Antonio first sees the owl he questions it then gets to the deeper meaning of it, he does this with religion as well after he sees The Golden Carp he questions as to why the carp in there and realizes that it conflicts with previous beliefs with his family’s religion.

Significance of Title

I believe the author wants to convey with the title “Bless Me Ultima” that Antonio without Ultima and her guidance would have been for sure a lost cause after having so many internal conflicts they would have never been resolved. Antonio is basically asking Ultima to bless him and help him get through the conflicts as well as the death he witnesses as every single time Antonio is conflicted with an idea or event he has witnessed he turns to Ultima for advice as to how he can process and move on with this information or quite possibly he turns to her for the blessing of knowledge as Antonio has multitudes of questions for everything he witnesses.

Though it’s not very likely the title can also refer to everyone else asking for Ultima’s blessing as she helps others with their conflicts too but mostly Antonio as he seems to be the most troubled. Yes, the meaning of the title changes from pre- to post-reading as it did for me, at first the title seems as if there is some troubled being asking for help quite frankly from a higher being such us Ultima and after reading the story the reader now can fill in the blanks as to why is asking for help and who is providing that help.

Significant Quotations

‘Give us the witch!’ Tenorio shouted from behind the safety of his men. He was raging with insult, but he would not approach my father.”(143) this quotation is significant to the work as it shows the societal beliefs in the town than anything that the people don’t understand or understand little outcast it as witchcraft calling the supernatural immoral and bad, a good example of this is how Ultima has been outcasted and called a witch even though she is morally good and helps others. “Why do you allow the evil of the Trementinas?”(Anaya 221) this quotation is significant as it is just one of the multitude of questions that Antonio is asking God, he is asking why his friends have died and accusing God of allowing these deaths, this shows Antonio’s questioning of everything and his unsurety of religion as well as god.

“’Ay,’ he murmured, ‘we lived two different lives, your mother and I. I came from a people who held the wind as brother, because he is free, and the horse as companion, because he is the living, fleeting wind-and your mother, well, she came from men who hold the earth as brother. They are a steady, settled people. We have been at odds all of our lives, the wind, and the earth. Perhaps it is time we gave up the old differences-‘.(Anaya 247) This quotation is significant as the long-term conflict between Antonio’s parents which drove them apart is finding some resolution with his father Gabriel accepting that it’s okay that Antonio’s mom had different viewpoints as she was raised differently, this resolution leads into Gabriel realizing that he can no longer force his son into his failed dreams as well as his previous past.

“It is a sin to catch them,’ Samuel said, ‘it is a worse offense to eat them. They are a part of the people.’ He pointed towards the middle of the river where two huge back fins rose out of the water and splashed upstream.”(Anaya 92) This quotation is significant as this is when Antonio learns of the carp and how it is apart of the people, again as I’ve stated before the learning of the carp was a detrimental part of his questioning towards religion and the quotation listed above sparked it all.

Additional Comments

Overall I enjoyed the text, it presented me with many questions to ruminate over as did Antonio multiple times. I believe a strength of the novel was Anaya’s ability to create such a diverse character as Antonio and also make the growing up aspect of him too fell surreal as I can relate to many of the things young Antonio questioned as well as the activities he participated in.

A weakness I believed, which is just my personal preference, is the somewhat longer plot development of the story as I enjoy stories that head straight to the point and not take too much time like Anaya’s novel did. Definitely a few insights with the amount of murder that was going on as well as the war going on when the achievement is winning the war but the consequence is millions of lives either lost or ruined by traumatic war experiences. I expect the theme to have a lasting effect on me as now I will start to question more ideas and concepts as compared to blatantly accepting them with no evidence whatsoever.

Cite this paper

Novel “Bless Me Ultima” by by Rudolfo Anaya. (2021, Jul 30). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/novel-bless-me-ultima-by-by-rudolfo-anaya/

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