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Literature Study GuidesBless Me UltimaChapter 22 Veintidós Summary

Bless Me, Ultima | Study Guide

Rudolfo A. Anaya

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Bless Me, Ultima | Chapter 22 (Veintidós) | Summary



Chapter 22 (Veintidós)

The night after Florence dies Antonio has a dream. He sees three figures to whom he's given Acts of Contrition: Narciso, Lupito, and Florence. Then he dreams of a gang of people fighting one another with deadly weapons. Antonio wonders why he must witness such violence, but a voice says creation comes from violence. Antonio has a vision of Florence who shows him the priest desecrating the church altar. Florence says there is no heaven and no hell. Antonio sees a vision of Ultima's spirit being killed by Tenorio, and her death. Antonio's pesadilla (nightmare) leaves him feeling forsaken.

Antonio must have cried out, for Ultima is there to soothe him. She makes him promise to spend the summer with his Luna uncles. She knows the sojourn at the Lunas' farm will be good for him. But she tells him to be prepared for things to be changed when he returns at summer's end.

Antonio reports he did not go to Florence's funeral. He fears not having received communion means Florence is condemned to an eternity of dream-wanderings.

It is time for Antonio to leave for the Luna farm. He feels slightly sad knowing everything will be changed when he gets back. Gabriel drives him to his uncles' farm. Gabriel says the summer away from home will help Antonio be an independent man. Gabriel reiterates the way in which his and Maria's traditions differ: he is wind, she is earth. Antonio asks his father why there is evil in the world. Gabriel replies sometimes what people see as evil is not really evil at all. These things are beyond human understanding, which comes with life experience, not simply with communion. Having understanding is having "sympathy for people" as Ultima does.

Antonio has a good summer. He becomes strong from working with the earth. The tragedies of the recent past recede. He comes to respect his uncles, who equaled Ultima "in respect for life in the plant" and for their silence, "the language of the earth." Antonio learns the phases of la luna (the moon) rule nearly every aspect of his uncles' lives. He thrives with his uncles but is still uncertain whether he wants to live their life. The Luna uncles tell Antonio he will always have a place with them. But Antonio says he is Márez as well as Luna, so he does not know what his future will be.

Uncle Juan hurries toward Antonio and Uncle Pedro and tells them Tenorio's daughter has died, and Tenorio has sworn vengeance against Ultima. Uncle Pedro says they owe Ultima for having saved Lucas. Pedro will drive to Guadalupe with Antonio that night, right after supper. He tells Antonio to pack his things. While Antonio packs, the uncles will finish the day's farm work. As Antonio walks near the raging river, a horseman approaches him, shouting. It's Tenorio; he tries to run Antonio down with his horse. Tenorio calls Antonio diablo (devil) as the boy avoids being killed by the horse. Tenorio and the horse are blocking the road back to the Lunas', so Antonio, who is on the other side of the bridge, runs in the opposite direction. Tenorio shouts he will kill Ultima's owl as a way of destroying her because he knows the owl is her spirit. Antonio is now very afraid of what Tenorio might do to Ultima.

Antonio decides he must run home immediately to warn and protect Ultima and her owl. He runs hard but his home is ten miles away. He runs for miles until he must stop and rest. When he catches his breath he takes off again. Night is coming, and this spurs him to keep running. He's almost caught in quicksand, but the sound of the grillos (crickets) gets him going again. Antonio recognizes how the owl has helped Ultima and his family. It is truly Ultima's spirit. Antonio runs "like the wind" to get home in time to save the owl. Eventually he sees the lights of his home. His home looks peaceful, and Antonio thinks he's arrived in time.

As he nears the house Antonio sees Tenorio lurking near the juniper tree. He cries out, and Tenorio points his rifle at him. Tenorio fires the rifle and then searches the ground to see if he hit his mark. Tenorio screams in triumph and lifts the body of Ultima's dead owl over his head. Tenorio shouts, "the witch is dead, my daughters are avenged." He then aims his rifle at Antonio, but before he can shoot, Uncle Pedro shoots and kills Tenorio with a pistol. Antonio bends down to remove the owl from Tenorio's grasp, hoping the bird is still alive—but it has died.

Antonio rushes into Ultima's room and sees her lying in bed. He puts the dead owl by her side and tells her it's dead. "Not dead," she says weakly, but flying "to a new place." Antonio sees "the ashen pallor of death" on Ultima's face and says she "cannot die." Ultima explains the nature of the owl. She talks of the good she's always done with her knowledge and white magic. She says her death and Tenorio's death will restore life's harmony. Antonio continues to urge her to live, but Ultima asks him for a favor: clean out her room, take all her herbs and potions to the river, and then burn them. Antonio promises he'll do so. Then Ultima asks Antonio to take the owl and bury it under a particular juniper tree. Antonio drops to his knees before Ultima and says, "Bless me, Ultima," which she does.

Antonio finds the juniper tree and buries the owl under it. He realizes soon he'll have to go back to school. He thinks about the church. But Antonio is determined he will "build [his] own dream" to guide his life. Antonio thinks about the funeral and wake for Ultima, which will happen in the next day or two. But he knows in reality Ultima is buried here, beneath the juniper tree.


Antonio's dream foreshadows some elements of the story resolved in this final chapter. Antonio is horrified by the violence in his dream, but a voice tells him, "The germ of creation lies in violence," which likely foreshadows the murder of Ultima's owl by Tenorio and the restored harmony reestablished by Ultima's and Tenorio's deaths. The dream shows Antonio what will happen when he sees how "Tenorio captured the night-spirit of Ultima and murdered it, and Ultima died in agony." The night-spirit is Ultima's owl, which Tenorio does kill later in the chapter.

To a great extent Antonio comes to terms with growing up and his identity. He accepts, albeit with some apprehension, the changes awaiting him when he returns from his summer with his uncles. And by the end of the book he embraces change. At several points in this chapter Antonio says this "was the last summer I was truly a child." Tenorio's killing of the owl further "shattered [his] childhood." Antonio is still unsure whether his life is to be as a Luna—a farmer—or a Márez—a wanderer—but he seems far more comfortable with the dichotomy. He calmly tells his uncle he is both, and his uncle wisely agrees. By the end of the chapter Antonio is ready to face "building [his] own dream, " incorporating elements of his childhood into his identity as a man.

Antonio's identity emerges from his parents' divergent traditions. Here again Antonio seems to have a more mature understanding of how these seemingly opposing forces affect who he is. He tells his father, "maybe I do not have to be just Márez, or Luna, perhaps I can be both." His father is proud of Antonio's mature and reasonable melding of the two traditional ways of life making up his identity. Ultima tells Antonio to accept change, saying, "you are growing, and growth is change. Accept the change, make it a part of your strength," which, by the end of the novel, he does.

Antonio also seems to gain a deeper understanding and acceptance of his identity and a greater knowledge of good and evil in the world. His father tells him that spiritual knowledge about how the world works and why evil exists does not come from taking communion but from lived experience. Gabriel reveals his own wisdom when he tells his son, "I think most of the things we call evil are not evil at all" but rather things "we don't understand." Ultima supports Gabriel's wisdom as she is dying. She knows the death of her owl is not evil because the owl "is winging its way to a new place, a new time—just as I am ready to fly." Throughout the book Ultima has referred to her magic or healing as meddling with fate. With her death she's no longer interfering "with the destiny of any man." Her death and Tenorio's death are not the result of evil, but they will bring good: "With the passing away of Tenorio and myself the meddling will be done with, harmony will be restored." As yet, Antonio cannot get past seeing Tenorio as evil, but it's likely he will come to see the wisdom in what his father told him. He will grow into spiritual knowledge to help him reassess the nature of good and evil. Finally, Antonio honors Ultima's spiritual knowledge by asking her to bless him. In her blessing Ultima may be passing on to Antonio some of her wisdom and spirituality.

Tenorio finally gets his revenge in this chapter by killing Ultima's spirit, the owl. Yet Tenorio's vengeance is not limited to the owl or to Ultima. Before killing the owl, Tenorio rides all the way to the Luna farm to kill Antonio, and he almost succeeds. Later, after he kills the owl, he holds it aloft for all to see and screams, "The witch is dead, my daughters are avenged." Yet Tenorio pays for his vengeance with his own life.

The owl is revealed as Ultima's spirit. Ultima cannot survive once her "protective spirit" is dead. Antonio recalls all the times and ways in which the owl has guided and helped him. "It had come with Ultima ... had hovered over us, protecting us. ... The owl had always been there." When Tenorio appears, Ultima calls out to the owl. The owl flies down from the tree to Tenorio, and its "swirling of wings engulfed [him]." When Tenorio manages to shoot and kill the owl, Ultima takes to her bed—now her deathbed. Antonio knows the owl is Ultima, so he takes it out of Tenorio's lifeless hands and brings it to her. Through the owl Ultima reveals her belief there's no such thing as death. Both she and the owl will fly to a new time and place. The oneness of Ultima and the owl is revealed when Antonio understands Ultima is not in the body at the wake. Ultima is there in the owl's grave under the juniper tree.

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