Free Study Guide: Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya - Free BookNotes|
BLESS ME, ULTIMA BY RUDOLFO ANAYA: FREE BOOKNOTES
The minor theme of Anaya's novel concerns the combat between Ultima's vision of the interconnections between the land and the people, an interconnection that enables healing and health and the negative forces represented by the Trementina sisters, and their father, Tenorio, who represent death and separation. This theme is actually connected to many other parts of the novel. The contest between the proponent of good--Ultima--and the proponents of evil--has more to do with the simplistic Manichean divide of good and evil, God and the Devil than it has to do with the right use of the land and the kindly connection one feels to one’s neighbors. While Ultima is a healer who spends her life working to help her community, the Trementina sisters have separated themselves from community. Ultima uses the power of nature to help, while the Trementina sisters use the power of nature to hurt. The real contest though of the novel is between Ultima and Tenorio. Tenorio is actually part of the community. He owns a bar and a barber shop. He has little trouble getting together a posse against Ultima when he suspects her of having had a part in the death of his daughter. It is in this fact that the reader sees the ambiguous place of Ultima in her community. She is called both a woman who has never sinned and a witch. Her powers put her outside the norms of her community even as she uses her powers to help her community. The novel, however, insistently points out that Ultima stands for the good and that the good is always stronger than evil. Gabriel is more specific: Ultima is good because of her sympathy with the people.
Antonio learns from Ultima’s determined sympathy with people how to
deal with is theological questions. He learns that he must trust that
all is unified and whole even though he might not at present see it and
he must always keep his sense of rightness attached to the way he treats
people. Despite doctrine, Antonio will treat people according to his conscience
as he as seen Ultima do.
1. What are some of the major syncretic (blending of systems of religious
beliefs) moments in the novel?
2. How does Anaya represent the Roman Catholic Church in this novel? Does
it come across as a life-giving or life-denying institution?
3. Why does Anaya persistently satirize the ceremonies of the church with
the boys of Los Jaros? What function does it serve to bring down the seriousness
of sacred rites with the laughter of the body?
4. What is the role of women in the novel?
5. What are some of the forms of earth worship in the novel?
6. Examine the history of the region. Name the different histories represented
in the novel and determine how the novel shows that the past is still
7. Trace the conflict between Ultima and Tenorio.
8. What evidence is there that Ultima is more complex than the simple equation
good/evil that Tenorio’s posse wants to use for her?
9. What is the story of the golden carp? How is it connected to the Presence
of the River?
10. Antonio thinks in the end that the golden carp is not a judgmental god.
However, earlier in he novel, Samuel mentioned that the golden carp had
promised to flood the town if the people didn’t stop sinning. How do you
reconcile this contradiction?
11. At the first of the novel, the Virgin Mary is featured prominently. However,
she is not so important to the resolution of Antonio’s beliefs. Trace
the images of the Virgin Mary and account for this falling off.
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. 09 May 2017