Free Study Guide: Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya - Free BookNotes|
Downloadable / Printable Version
BLESS ME, ULTIMA: FREE ONLINE STUDY GUIDE DOWNLOAD
The rest of the school day the children are restless for it to be over. When the bell rings, Antonio runs home toward the freedom of the summer. He starts across the bridge and begins to talk to it for the first time. He sings a song in his mind about the beautiful bridge. He sees Vitamin Kid and finds out he passed the first grade. He sees Samuel and finds the same news. Samuel says the teachers keep passing them. Samuel invites him to go fishing. Antonio thinks of his mother, but thinks he is now becoming a man who can make decisions, so he agrees to go.
Samuel takes him in a direction he has never gone. He tells Antonio there is evil under the railroad bridge. He points out a used condom on the trail, but Antonio does not know what it is. He hears frightening wild laughter and fears that it is la Llorona, but Samuel says it is only the Kid on the bridge. Samuel tells Antonio he has always been a fisherman.
They catch plenty of fish. The river is full of big, brown carp. It is called the River of the Carp. It is bad luck to fish for the big carp that get pushed downstream by the flood and that fight to return upstream. The waters would subside quickly after the floods and the carp would be visible as they struggled to get back upstream. The people often came to watch them. Some of the town kids would be unaware of the bad luck of catching these fish. They would scoop them out and throw them onto the sand bars where they would die. Some townspeople even ate the fish. Antonio knows that is very bad, but he does not know why. It is beautiful to see the carp make this struggle to return upstream. Every year the drama is repeated.
Samuel tells him a story that was told to his father by Jasón's Indian. Long ago when the earth was young, only wandering tribes lived in the region. A strange people arrived in the land; they were sent to the valley by their gods. They had wandered lost for many years but they had retained their faith in their gods all the while. Finally they were rewarded with this fertile valley as a home. When Antonio asks if they were Indians, Samuel just replies that they were "the people." He says only one thing was withheld from the people: the carp. The fish lived in the river and was sacred to the gods. The people were happy for years and then there were forty years of the "sun-without-rain" and the crops died, the game was killed, and the people were hungry, so they caught the carp and ate them.
The gods became enraged and wanted to kill the people when one kind god argued against it. The other gods relented. They did not kill the people, but instead, turned them into carp and made them live forever in the river. Samuel says it is a sin to catch the carp and it is worse to eat them. "They are a part of the people." Antonio says if anyone eats a carp, that person might be punished as the people were punished.
Samuel tells Antonio about the golden carp. He says that when the gods turned the people into carp, the kind god became sad. He asked the other gods if he could become a carp and swim in the river so he could take care of his people. They agreed, but made him very big and colored him gold. He became the lord of the waters of the valley. Antonio is surprised to hear about a new god. He can neither believe the story nor disbelieve Samuel. He asks if the golden carp is still here. Samuel says it is.
Antonio feels the roots of his belief shaken. "If the golden carp was a god, who was the man on the cross? The Virgin? Was my mother praying to the wrong God?" He asks where the carp is and Samuel says it is too late in the day and he has already learned enough for one day. He promises that Cico will take him to the golden carp later in the summer. Antonio knows Cico is a town boy who does not hang out with the others. He spends all his time along the river fishing.
He starts home. He hears someone calling him and he runs until he reaches
home. His mother is very angry that he is so late. He shows her his promotion
from the school and she becomes happy. She gathers everyone around the
Virgin to pray. When Gabriel returns home he is angry that dinner is not
Antonio tackles some of the toughest theological questions of all time. He wonders about the meaning of innocence and understanding and their relationship to one another. If he understands, he loses innocence, but he cannot receive his first communion without understanding. For María, who represents the most devoted Catholic in the novel, even though she is devoted with a particular, local folk belief, Antonio will inevitably lose his innocence as he becomes a man. However, in María's mind, Antonio can be saved from that loss of innocence by becoming a priest. Andrew tells him that when he was exposed to the horrors of war, he became a man and lost his dreams. Antonio does not want to gain understanding if it means losing his dreams. Ultima tells him that in the land he is innocent. There, gaining understanding does not equate with losing his innocence. This question will stay with Antonio throughout the novel.
Along with the powers of Ultima and the presence of the river, the Golden
Carp is the third magical element in Bless Me, Ultima. It is a myth related
to the Aztec cosmogony which features five suns. The Aztec calendar reveals
Atonatiuh, the sun of water. Atonatiuh is the forth epoch at the end of
which everything on earth was killed by a great flood. The gods changed
people into fishes to save them from the flood. Anaya provides a variation
on this belief in the history of the golden carp. Here, people are turned
into carp because of disobedience. The legend is part of the collective
memory of the community: some know it, some only know it is bad luck to
catch or eat carp, and some do not know anything. The story upsets Antonio
who has been raised under Roman Catholicism, a monotheistic religion.
He cannot reject the golden carp because he feels drawn to believe it,
but in accepting it, he has to reject Catholicism.
All Content Copyright©TheBestNotes. All Rights Reserved.
No further distribution without written consent.
153 Users Online | This page has been viewed 3041 times
This page was last updated on 5/9/2017 8:50:07 AM
Cite this page:
TheBestNotes.com Staff. "TheBestNotes on Bless Me, Ultima".
. 09 May 2017