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Free Study Guide: Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya - Free BookNotes

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BLESS ME, ULTIMA: FREE ONLINE BOOK SUMMARY

CHAPTER 2

Summary

Ultima fits into the routine of the family. She helps María with breakfast and other housework. María is very happy to have someone to talk to. Usually, María has to wait until Sunday when her women friends from town come to visit. Deborah and Theresa are also happy because Ultima helps with the household chores. They have more time to cut out paper dolls and make them act out scenes. Gabriel is pleased because he can tell Ultima his dream of moving west to California. His dream had been thwarted by the war which took his sons. On Saturday nights he drinks and rages against age, the town "on the opposite side of the river which drained a man of his freedom," and then he cries about the war that had ruined his dream. Antonio is sad to see his father cry, but he knows that even men must sometimes cry.

Antonio is also happy to have Ultima living in his house. He walks with her on the llano and along the river to gather herbs and roots. She teaches him the names of plants and flowers, trees and bushes, birds and animals. He learns about the beauty in the time of day and the time of night. He learns about the peace in the river and in the hills. She teaches Antonio to "listen to the mystery of the groaning earth and to feel complete in the fulfillment of its time." He feels his soul grow under her guidance. Before Ultima, he had felt afraid of the presence he feels in the river, which is the soul of the river. Ultima teaches him that his spirit shares in the spirit of all things. Nevertheless, the innocence of this time is short-lived. The town's affairs begin to encroach upon them. Ultima's owl warns them that their peace is almost over.

On Saturday night, everyone has gone to bed, when Antonio hears the owl's warning. A man bangs on the door and calls Gabriel. It is Chávez calling out urgently that his brother has been killed. María mistakenly believes it is news of her sons' deaths. Chávez repeats over and over that a man has killed his brother. Antonio knows that Chávez's brother was the sheriff of the town. Chávez says it was Lupito. Gabriel sighs about Lupito who returned from the war insane. Chávez tells Gabriel to get his rifle and come down to the bridge where Lupito has gone. Gabriel loads his rifle while Chávez tells him the story. His brother had finished his rounds and was having a cup of coffee in a cafe when Lupito came up to him and shot him in the head without warning. The two men leave.

Antonio sneaks out to follow the men to the bridge. His mother is in the sala (parlor) praying before her altar. Antonio cuts off to the right when they near the bridge. He hides in the brush beside the river. He pushes through the thick woods until he comes to the river where he can see the floodlights of the men on the bridge. He catches sight of Lupito nearby crouched in the reeds of the river. He sees that Lupito holds a pistol. He makes a sound and Lupito looks directly at him, but just then the floodlight blinds him.


Lupito cries out in rage and pain. Antonio knows that the presence of the river watches Lupito. Lupito calls out "Japanese sol'jer!" several times. He says he is wounded and needs help. Suddenly, Lupito leaps up and runs through the water toward Antonio. Then he returns to the reeds. The lights lose track of him. He screams again. Antonio feels that Lupito has become a wild animal.

Vigil, a state policeman, drives onto the bridge. The men tell him of Chávez's murder. Jasón's father says they should kill Lupito. Chávez says Lupito is an animal and must be shot. The men agree. Gabriel Márez, however, urges caution. Antonio can see Lupito forty feet away from him. Antonio feels paralyzed and unable to move, "like a chained spectator." Antonio hears Narciso say that Márez is right. Narciso is from Las Pasturas and drinks with Gabriel. He tells the men to act like men. He says Lupito is a man, not an animal. The men dismiss what Narciso says because his is an alcoholic. Narciso begs them to try to talk to Lupito. Chávez shoots into the river. Narciso says he will talk to Lupito.

Narciso calls down to Lupito that he is a friend and he wants to help. He reminds him of times before the war. Antonio sees Lupito crying, torn between surrendering and fleeing. Then Lupito jumps up and shoots into the air. The men on the bridge think he fired at them. Only Antonio knows Lupito is not shooting at them, but is only trying to draw their fire. The men on the bridge shoot. Lupito is shot many times. He gets up and runs to the bank of the river close to Antonio. Antonio thinks he hears Lupito say "Bless me-" Antonio hears the men on the bridge running toward Lupito.

He turns and runs. He feels horrified by the darkness as he runs. He prays over and over the Act of Contrition. His mother had taught him the words to be said after a person made confession to a priest and as the last prayer before death. He wonders if God will hear him. He wonders where Lupito's soul is going, if it is rising or "if it was washing down the river to the fertile valley of my uncles' farms." He knows a priest would have saved Lupito. He wishes his mother did not want him to be a priest. He does not know how he will ever "wash the stain of blood from the sweet waters of my river!" He sobs.

Then he hears the owl. He stops and listens and he realizes the owl had been with him the whole time. He suddenly loses his fear. He looks at his house. The moon is the horned moon of the Virgin, the moon of the Lunas. He hears the owl sing again and "Ultima's spirit bathed me with its strong resolution." He looks back over the river and beyond it to the town. He knows the "river's brown waters would be stained with blood, forever and ever and ever . . ."

He knows he will be going to school in the autumn and then to catechism at the church. His body hurts from the wounds of his run through the brush and he hurts more for having witnessed a man die. He knows his father does not like the town. When they had first moved to the area, they had rented a house in town. Then, Gabriel had bought some land and built the house. Everyone said he was crazy to build on a barren spot of land. María wanted him to build on the fertile land by the river. Gabriel won the fight. Their land is the beginning of the llano.

Antonio tries to understand why the men had killed Lupito. He feels sick. He slips into the house and as he climbs the stairs he feels a hand take his. It is Ultima. He falls. Ultima takes him to her room and mixes herbs for him to drink. Then she prepares another potion for his cuts. He asks her questions and she soothes him. He hears her say, "The ways of men are strange, and hard to learn." Antonio feels safe in her room. He dreams of his three brothers before they went away to war.

They stand beside the rented house in town and look at the hills of the llano. In his dream, he hears León, his eldest brother, repeat Gabriel's idea that the town steals their freedom and Gabriel's idea to build a castle on the other side of the river on "the lonely hill of the mockingbirds." Andrew, his second eldest brother, speaks of their forefathers who came from the sea, the conquistadors. Eugene repeats Gabriel's idea that the freedom of the wild horses is in the Márez blood and the Márez always look westward. Gabriel's ancestors were vaqueros and he expects his sons to be men of the llano.

Antonio speaks and says they must gather around their father. He tells his brothers of his father's new dream to ride westward in search of new adventure. "He builds highways that stretch into the sun and we must travel that road with him." Antonio's brothers frown and tell him he is a Luna and must be a farmer-priest for their mother. The doves come to drink in the river and Antonio hears their mournful cries. His brothers laugh at him and say he is their mother's dream. They tell him to stay and sleep to the doves' call while they cross the River of the Carp to build their father's castle. Antonio calls out to them that he must go with them. He must bless their new home with the waters of the river.

Along the river, he hears the "tormented cry of a lonely goddess." Antonio's brothers call out fearfully that it is the call of la llorona (the sorrowful woman). They say she is an old witch who seeks the blood of boys and men to drink. They say she seeks Antonio's soul. Then they cry out that it is the soul of Lupito wandering around because the river washed his soul away. Antonio says the call is neither la llorona nor Lupito. Antonio swings a priest's robe over his shoulders and says it is the presence of the river. His brothers call for him to save them. Antonio peaks to the presence of the river and it allows his brothers to cross it to build the castle on the hill. He hears their mother cry because her son is growing older.

Notes

Ultima begins her mentoring of Antonio in this chapter. She teaches him the names of the flora and fauna of the llano and the river. She also teaches him sympathy with the rhythms of the earth. Ultima's wisdom is the oneness of the person and the earth. Closely linked to this sense of oneness is the presence of the river. Ultima tells him the river and he share the same spirit.

Antonio refers to the presence or the soul of the river. He believes the river is animated by an ancient soul that watches out for the people that come to it. This belief comes from the religion of the Aztecs. He learns more about it from Jasón and from Ultima. When he thinks he hears Lupito asking him to bless him before he dies, Antonio repeats the Act of Contrition, but he despairs of anyone's ability to wash the blood of murder from the river. Here again, Anaya describes a syncretism between Catholicism and Native American religion. Antonio begins his path toward becoming a priest, whether it will be a priest of the Catholic Church is yet to be seen.

That night he has his second dream. This one involves his three brothers. It also relates to Antonio's destiny, but it brings in a third element. It combines the pull between the Lunas and the Márezes with the pull of the river's presence. Antonio has been learning of the spirit of the land from Ultima. He puts the dark priest's robe on, but he speaks of a power that is outside the doctrine of Catholicism. Perhaps this dream suggests that Antonio will be a priest of the River of the Carp.


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