A great deal happens in this chapter: Antonio participates in a carnival version of the nativity drama, he sees his brother Andrew has been visiting prostitutes, he watches Tenorio kill Narciso, he survives being killed himself by chance, and he has a dream vision of the end of the world and the beginning of the new world. It represents a turning point in the book. Antonio's faith is tested and, in his dream at least, he resolves to believe in a new kind of god, one which encompasses all the elements of both systems of belief but which does not punish the people for sinning.

One of Antonio's preoccupations in his growing up years has been how to be a man. He learns this by watching and emulating those he admires. For instance, he emulates his father and Narciso who stood their ground to defend Ultima before the lynch party when he stands his ground before the boys at school who call her a witch. Aside from standing one's ground, Antonio also gets mixed messages about what a man should do. Samuel tells him his father's theory of how a man handles revenge. According to him, it is in the blood. To be complete, a man has to take revenge. Andrew considers arguing a trait of women. The men of the novel often refer to other men as women when they want to call them weak and cowardly. Samuel sees that men remain men when they get drunk and argue. The Luna men do not take revenge. They attempt to live in harmony with the good and the bad. Antonio will have to choose which path he wants to take towards manhood.

The school play becomes a sort of carnival of the real thing. The carnival turns everything upside down: what is serious becomes comic, girls' parts become boys' parts, the body's functions are no longer hidden away, the lowest of the boys-Bones--gets the highest spot in the play, the reverence toward the founding of Christianity is mocked by the jubilant cries of children yelling "Merry Christmas! and "Chingada!" Anaya often uses the boys to make light of the seriousness of the church. They do not take it seriously. They mock it and recognize its blind spots.

Antonio notices the division between the town and the llano at the bridge. The town contains all that is sinful and all that departs from reverence toward truth and beauty. Even the religion of the town is degraded. It has become codified and rigidified and it lacks true answers to Antonio's questions. Its main spokespeople are Ernie and Floyd who make a habit of pronouncing who is sinning and who will be punished but have no love or understanding in their hearts. The town intrudes upon the llano when Lupito is murdered, when the men attempt to lynch Ultima, and now when Tenorio threatens her again. Antonio wonders if it is futile to attempt to hold it back.

In this chapter, Antonio makes his second confession. He confesses Narciso, however, much more fully than he did Lupito, because he hears Narciso's sins and he recites the Act of Contrition over him. What Antonio does here would be considered a sin by the church since it is a sacrament that only a priest can perform. He is using the consolations of the church when he needs them, but he is not conforming to orthodoxy, a practice that will help him if he is to be the priest of a new sort of religion.

Antonio's dream contains all his fears and so can be read as a resolution or a manifestation of his waking thoughts, but it is also a prophetic dream. It is his dark night of the soul, a time of great doubt when the saint or prophet must face the pain of temptation and doubt. In his dream, he sees his brothers led by the Trementina sisters. In this image, he collapses the idea of that his brothers were entrapped by prostitutes into sinning with the idea that the Trementinas are feminine forces of evil. They ask Antonio to act as a priest on their behalf and he cannot help them. The procession made up of all the people of the town who Antonio has been told are sinners invade the llano, which Antonio sees as pure and innocent. In this invasion, the logic of Antonio's dream writes the invasion of adult knowledge into Antonio's child's mind.

The dream's prophecy has Ultima dying along with everyone else. She is killed in all the ways Antonio has heard of witches being killed: beheaded, staked through the heart, and burned. Before she is killed, her owl is killed. Its death shows on her since they are linked to each other. Her blood becomes something like the blood of Christ, a purifying and healing agent.

It is an apocalypse followed by a new order. The new order is ruled by Atonatiuh (sun of water) who accepts both good and evil and forgives all.

Cite this page:

Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on A Long Way Gone".