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Bless Me, Ultima | Study Guide

Rudolfo A. Anaya

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Bless Me, Ultima | Symbols


Ultima's Owl

Ultima's owl represents the power of nature and the supernatural to protect and defend Ultima and those whom she values and helps. The owl seems to be Ultima's guardian spirit, following her everywhere she goes. The owl is able to see the future and to know the intent of the humans it watches so keenly. It acts to protect and defend the good by harming those who do evil when they threaten good people, especially Ultima.

At first Antonio is afraid of the owl because it is so mysterious. But as the book progresses Antonio comes to understand the valuable role the owl plays in his and Ultima's life. This is especially true when the owl warns of impending danger or attacks those who have come to harm others, such as Tenorio.

By the end of the novel the reader learns the owl is Ultima's spirit. When the owl dies Ultima dies. Yet its spiritual connection to Ultima and its supernatural power remain largely a mystery throughout.

The Golden Carp

The golden carp is the supernatural, magical nature god living in the river, whose waters represent the giving and sustaining of life. The golden carp represents the wisdom of the original, native inhabitants of the land. It is the merciful, forgiving, and life-affirming alternative to the strict and unforgiving God of the Church.

When Antonio sees the golden carp he feels an immediate oneness with it. He can feel its compassion and gentleness. For Antonio these qualities stand in stark contrast to the fire and brimstone threats of a fear-inspiring Church.

The golden carp also represents spiritual knowledge. Antonio feels the golden carp passing its deep spiritual understanding to him, and though he may not be able to put it into words, the knowledge of life Antonio gets from the golden carp helps him grow spiritually. Antonio becomes calmer and more mature through his experience and understanding of the golden carp.

The Virgin of Guadalupe

The Virgin of Guadalupe (or Our Lady of Guadalupe) is the patron saint of Mexico. She represents the forgiving and compassionate side of the Roman Catholic faith.

The Virgin of Guadalupe stands in sharp contrast to the Roman Catholic priest in the novel. When Antonio is confused or disturbed by the rigid, punishing harshness of Father Byrne and of the God of the Old Testament, the boy frequently turns to the Virgin of Guadalupe to find understanding and forgiveness. Although she does not symbolize spiritual knowledge in the book—for example, as the golden carp certainly does—she does provide a counterpoint to the grimmer aspects of Christianity.

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