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Bless Me, Ultima | Study Guide

Rudolfo A. Anaya

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Bless Me, Ultima | Quotes


The silent, magic powers she possessed made beauty from the raw, sun-baked llano.

Antonio Márez, Chapter 1 (Uno)

In the novel's first paragraph, Antonio describes Ultima's profound spiritual powers, which affect him as soon as she takes his hand. Through her touch Antonio feels and sees the earth's beauty as he never has before. This description introduces the deep connection Antonio will have with Ultima.


Through [Ultima] I learned that my spirit shared in the spirit of all things.

Antonio Márez, Chapter 2 (Dos)

Antonio becomes Ultima's constant companion and comes to love all things on earth and the earth itself. Ultima teaches Antonio everything is part of one spirit; therefore he is a spiritual part of everything. This realization, wonderful though it is, becomes a stumbling block for Antonio as he attempts to believe in the God of the Church.


The prayers for Lupito mixed into prayers for my brothers.

Antonio Márez, Chapter 2 (Dos)

Men of the town murdered Lupito after he killed the town sheriff in a fit of rage and insanity. Lupito's madness stemmed from his traumatic war experience. When Antonio prays for Lupito, he includes prayers for his three brothers, who are fighting in World War II. Antonio prays the war traumas that deranged Lupito will not affect his brothers.


It was a sin to grow up and be a man.

Antonio Márez, Chapter 3 (Tres)

Antonio is thinking about what his mother, Maria, has told him: she believes adulthood is the embodiment of sinfulness. Maria wants Antonio to become a priest, but he wonders how he can do so if he is destined to be a sinner when he grows up. The problem haunts him.


I wonder which life I will choose?

Antonio Márez, Chapter 4 (Cuatro)

Antonio is reflecting on the two traditions in his ancestry. On his mother's side are settled farmers, living by the river, who love the earth. Antonio, too, loves the earth, but he is also his father's son and as such has the wanderlust of a vaquero of the plains (llano). Antonio ponders his identity and wonders which way of life he will choose when he grows up. It is a real problem since the two traditions are incompatible.


God was not always forgiving. ... The Virgin always forgave.

Antonio Márez, Chapter 4 (Cuatro)

Antonio constantly asks himself questions about God. He knows some people suffer unfairly, but the Church says this suffering comes from God. In this quote Antonio seems to reject the Christian God because He is unforgiving and hands out unfair punishment. The Virgin of Guadalupe, on the other hand, is merciful and understanding and forgives people's sins. For this reason Antonio feels much closer to the Virgin than to God.


We can't build our lives on their dreams.

Eugene Márez, Chapter 8 (Ocho)

After seeing the world during their military service, Antonio's three brothers are discontent with life in their hometown. They reject the farming their mother wants for them; nor do they want to follow their father to work in California. As Eugene points out, the brothers need to follow their own dreams and build their own lives—even if it means going against their parents' wishes. Their desire to escape tradition affects Antonio's ideas about what to do with his own life.


If the golden carp was a god, who was the man on the cross?

Antonio Márez, Chapter 9 (Nueve)

Antonio has been told about the "new god," the golden carp. He wonders how there can be more than one god. If the golden carp is a true god, can the God of the Church also be a true god? The existence of the divine golden carp makes Antonio question the divinity of Christ—the "man on the cross." Antonio must figure out whether both the golden carp and Christ can be God. Or, is it possible for people to worship more than one god?


He must know that those who tamper with fate are often swallowed by their own contrivance.

Ultima, Chapter 10 (Diez)

Ultima knows putting a curse on people—and even removing a curse from people—interferes with their destiny. Here Ultima wonders if the evil Tenorio realizes his witch daughters' evil activities and curses will likely have dire and unpredictable consequences. She says interfering with fate often backfires on those who do so—in this case, Tenorio and his daughters.


I want to believe ... It's just that I have to believe in Him?

Antonio Márez, Chapter 11 (Once)

Antonio wants to believe in the divinity of the golden carp, with whom he had a spiritual experience of beauty and oneness. Yet he feels he must believe in the Christian God as well, and he thinks believing in one necessarily negates belief in the other. Again he struggles with the question of which God/god he should believe in, or whether he can believe in both.


The power of God failed where Ultima's worked.

Antonio Márez, Chapter 11 (Once)

After Tenorio's witch daughters put a curse on Lucas Luna, Lucas's brothers called the priest to lift the curse. He couldn't do it. Instead, Ultima lifted the curse and cured Lucas. Here Antonio reflects on the relative power of the Church and the supernatural, embodied by Ultima, and sees Ultima's spirituality as the more powerful of the two.


How can God let this happen to a kid. He ... puts me here to punish me.

Florence, Chapter 17 (Diecisiete)

This quote explains, at least in part, why Antonio's friend Florence is an atheist. Florence says he never asked to be born, but God put him on Earth anyway, to punish him. Florence has never committed a sin, yet from infancy on he has suffered. His mother died when he was a baby, and other relatives became ill and crippled or had their lives ruined in other ways. Because of his terrible life experiences, Florence rejects God.


I had just swallowed Him ... [but] there was only silence.

Antonio Márez, Chapter 19 (Diecinueve)

Antonio has just taken his first Holy Communion, expecting God will fill him with knowledge of his inscrutable ways—but no. He swallows the communion wafer and experiences only the silence of a distant and unknowable God. Antonio's communion experience further alienates him from the God of the Church.


The golden carp accepts all magic that is good, but your God ... is a jealous God.

Cico, Chapter 21 (Veintiuno)

Cico, who revealed the golden carp to Antonio, says the carp accepts the existence of many gods on Earth and in the spiritual realm. The golden carp doesn't mind being one of many gods, as long as these gods practice a benevolent magic. On the other hand, Cico notes, the God of the Church is a jealous God who will not accept other gods; He will punish anyone who admits to believing in any god but Him. Here again Antonio is attracted to the more open, reasonable, and forgiving god rather than the unforgiving and rigid Christian God of the Church.


Every man is part of his past ... he may reform the old materials, make something new.

Ultima, Chapter 22 (Veintidós)

Ultima advises Antonio to use his childhood experiences to build his own belief system and his own life as an independent adult. She is helping Antonio solve his dilemma about which side of his family he should follow and which god/God he should accept. At the end of the book Antonio says he will "build [his] own dream" out of things he learned as a child.

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