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

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CHAPTER 11

Summary

Cico tells Antonio that the town is sitting over an underground lake. He draws a map in the sand. The town is surrounded by water. Cico says the golden carp has warned the people that the land cannot take the weight of their sins. It will sink. Cico says he is not afraid because the golden carp is his god and so he will be happy. Antonio wants to know if the people of the town know. Cico says they know and yet they keep sinning. Antonio thinks it is unfair to those who do not sin. Cico tells him all people sin. Cico tells him the end could come at any time. Antonio asks "What can we do?" Cico replies, "Sin against no one."

Antonio leaves feeling sad. He has learned something that burdens him with responsibility. He wants to tell everyone in town to stop sinning, but he knows they will not believe him. He tells Ultima the story and she smiles. She says she did not tell him because it was better to hear the legend from someone his age. He wants to know if he should believe it. Ultima tells him she cannot tell him what to believe. She tells him that as he "grows into manhood, he will find his own truths."

That night he dreams of walking by the shore of a huge lake. He hears a melody, the song of the mer-woman. He sees the golden carp in the lake. People it has saved are all around it. On the shores the corpses of sinners rot. A moon comes out and settles on the water. He looks toward it expecting to see the Virgin of Guadalupe, but he sees his own mother. He calls out to her, "You are saved! We are all saved!" She tells him he was "baptized in the water of the moon which was made holy by our Holy Mother the Church" and was saved.


He suddenly hears his father yell that they are lying. He says Antonio was baptized in the salt water of the sea. He sees his father standing on the shore with all the corpses. Antonio feels a searing pain in his body. He calls out for someone to tell him which water runs in his veins. His mother answers that it is the water of the moon and the water that it is the holy water of the Church. His father says it is the water of the oceans, the "water that binds him to the pagan god of Cico, the golden carp." Antonio cries out in agony for an answer. "The excruciating pain broke and I sweated blood." He hears a wind blowing as the moon rises. Thunder and lightning burst from the sky. The hosts stand and walk on the shore. The lake "cracked with the laughter of madness as it inflicted death upon the people." Antonio thinks it is the end. He thinks "the cosmic struggle of the two forces would destroy everything."

He tries to pray and then he hears Ultima's voice above the storm. She says, "Cease!" and the power of the heavens and earth obey her; the storm stops. She tells Antonio to stand up. She tells María and Gabriel that "the sweet water of the moon which falls as rain is the same water that gathers into rivers and flows to fill the seas." She adds that if not for the water of the moon replenishing the oceans, there would be no oceans. She adds that the salt waters of oceans evaporate and rise up to turn again into the water of the moon. Without the sun, the water would not rise to rain on the earth. She tells Antonio that the waters are one. Antonio looks at her and understands the truth. She tells him he has only seen parts and not the whole cycle that binds everyone together. Antonio's dream ends and he feels peace. He rests.

Notes

The reader has probably noticed the continual opposition of good and bad in the novel. Here is revealed in the opposition between the golden carp and the black bass. What is interesting in this instance of the opposition is that Cico calls it a game to try to kill the black bass. He does not have anything of the urgency of the Christian desire to vanquish the devil, their opposite of God.

In chapter 11, Antonio learns of the pagan god, the golden carp. This legend has several striking parallels to the stories of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Anthropologists have found such parallels in most of the religions of the world. For instance, a great many of them have stories of a deluge brought down as a punishment for sinning people. Several significant parallels between the legend of the golden carp of the Judeo-Christian Bible are: the threatened return of the god to rule at the end of the world; the idea that only a few faithful will be saved; and the fact that people know the rules and sin anyway. Another striking parallel is in the question Antonio asks Cico when he realizes the importance of the threat to the town. He asks: "What do we do?" and Cico replies, "sin against no one." This exchange is highly reminiscent of the Christian New Testament in which the woman at the well asks the same question and is told to sin no more.

Antonio becomes a sort of Christ figure in his dreams. He is wracked with the pain of the separate forces of his mother and father. Like Christ, he sweats blood. However, Ultima is also a Christ figure here. Like Christ, she commands the storm to cease and it obeys her. She is a unifying figure. She understands that in the cycle of the earth's replenishment-rainfall flowing to rivers flowing to oceans, and evaporation from oceans producing more rainfall--lies the unity of all life. The forces that have been competing for Antonio's allegiance up to this point in the novel have actually been different stages in the same cycle of life.

Anaya seems to be connecting this idea of oneness to the confusion Antonio feels upon finding more than one deity. If Antonio can accept that all is one, he can accept that Ultima's power comes from the same source as the priest's and the medical doctors and he can also accept the more threatening concept that God's power is the same as the golden carp's power. Such is the basis for the syncretism (the combination of two or more seemingly contradictory traditions) of the novel.


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