Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima

I think that the most important change that Antonio undergoes in Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima is maturation. He leaves his childhood behind and becomes a man. I don’t think that it is important that he actually becomes a man in the eyes of society or the world at large but rather that he becomes a man in his own eyes. He notices the change by stating that, “It was the first time I had ever spoken to my mother as a man.” Here, he realizes that he’s no longer a child. One of the things that facilitates this process is his ability to listen to himself. Antonio is no longer torn between what others wish for him but begins to consider his own wishes and what he wants for himself. This is what every adult needs to do and this power comes with a lot of responsibility. Therefore, it is indicative of manhood (or adulthood in general).

Novels should only be criticized on their effectiveness as works of fiction. It is not fair to impart the character’s views on to the author because once the work is created the character is separate from the author. This is a problem that Flaubert and many other writers have encountered and assuming that a work of fiction is a criticism of a race, a religion, etc is a great disservice to literature. A derogatory Jewish character is not proof that the author is anti-Semitic. The author might just want to create a Jewish character and explore his bad qualities. The same is true of portrayals of Christians/Christianity. An individual who happens to be a good Catholic should not be offended by depictions of bad people who happen to be Catholic and depictions of bad people who happen to be Catholic does not mean that the novel at large is anti-catholic. (I would argue that no novel is anti-anything, only the characters are).

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Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima and Sense of Place

Bless Me Ultima is based on a sense of place. Anaya uses his childhood experiences in New Mexico to invite the readers into his world. Like a lot of people throughout the world, Antonio is in search of his own identity. Instead of going along with what his mother or father want for him, he feels conflicted and struggles with making his choice. The factors that guide his development are New Mexico, Catholicism, poverty, and his family’s heritage. All of these factors interact with one another and construct a unique dynamic environment that is as much of a character in the story as any of the people.

Guadalupe is a small town with dirt roads and poor people. The population is mainly Hispanic. The people are both religious and transgressive in that the town both has a Catholic Church, one of its largest buildings, and a brothel and saloons. Both the church and the brothel seem to represent two extremes and make me wonder if maybe the influence of both can be diminished if there were only more opportunities for education. Having grown up relatively poor (first generation immigrant but in the inner-city), I always felt shielded from poverty. Growing up, I never understood why being poor was supposed to be so bad and why everyone complained about it all the time. (And I grew up and lived much of my adult life below poverty level). But now I realize that it was because all I ever wanted to do was read and books at libraries were free. I think that religion tries to fill that gap for people, by bringing them spirituality, but if it just expands its book collection, so to speak, to more than one book it would be much more effective at filling the void.