Bless Me, Ultima Theme of The Supernatural
Bless Me, Ultima is full of witches, healers, god-fish, ghosts, and soul-owls. The supernatural leaves ectoplasmic residue all over this novel. That's what happens when authors delve into what is often called Magical Realism. In Magical Realism, the supernatural often simply becomes a part of everyday life. It's treated no differently than the natural. Magic, in this case, is a part of existence, and while it might frighten some people in the novel, it is not treated as being a figment of one's imagination or something that has been faked.
Questions About The Supernatural
- Antonio's dreams often turn out to be more like prophecy. Does Antonio possess supernatural gifts?
- What role does the natural world play in Ultima's supernatural practices?
- Is there any proof that Tenorio's daughters were, in fact, witches? If so, is their fate justified?
- What's up with Ultima's owl? Seriously, what's up with it? Is it Ultima? Is it her familiar? Is it just a really awesome bird that's really in tune with its owner?
Chew on This
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
Antonio never knows how the cross fell from the door when Ultima walked through it, and the Tenorio daughters do suffer after Ultima comes to cure Lucas, so while Ultima clearly represents the power of Good, she is more closely linked to the brujas than might first be obvious.
While in our modern workaday world, we often leave the supernatural to cleverly titled TV shows like Supernatural, in the novel, the powers of Ultima and the miracles of God or the Virgin di Guadalupe are accepted by the most devout characters, as well as those who question their faith.
Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.
The Importance of Moral Independence
An emphasis on thinking independently about moral decisions pervades Bless Me, Ultima. Antonio’s progress toward moral independence is the main marker of his maturity and development throughout the novel. Antonio’s struggle to reconcile the complexities of his experience with his religion leads him to conclude that he must make his own decisions. He becomes increasingly frustrated by the failure of the church to explain the most pressing questions about morality and human experience.
Ultima acts as Antonio’s guide as he learns the importance of moral independence. Ultima teaches him that the most difficult questions about life can never be answered entirely by a single religion or cultural tradition. Antonio has questions about evil, forgiveness, truth, and the soul, questions he can answer only for himself. Antonio once believed that the Communion ritual would answer all his questions, but Ultima teaches him that he must think for himself and arrive at his own conclusions.
The Influence of Culture on Identity
Bless Me, Ultima explores the difficulty of reconciling conflicting cultural traditions. In the end, Anaya suggests that a person can draw from several cultural traditions to forge a more complex and adaptable identity. Antonio is so eager to find a single, definitive answer to the questions that haunt him because he has been influenced by many conflicting cultures. The first major conflict involves his parents. His Luna mother wishes for him to become a priest, while his vaquero father wishes for him to ride the llano. Each parent has deeply rooted cultural convictions. Next is the conflict within his town between its Spanish and indigenous cultures. We see evidence of this conflict in the pronounced tension between Ultima’s mystical folklore and the Catholic church. Another conflict takes place at Antonio’s school between Spanish and English speakers.
Anaya uses these conflicts to explore the influence of culture on identity. Many characters in the book are limited by their cultural prejudices and never learn to look beyond their own assumptions. For example, the townspeople condemn Narciso for being a drunk and refuse to acknowledge that his traumatic experience in the war might play a part in his psychological state. Ultima teaches Antonio to avoid the limitations inherent in abiding by one culture, one religion, or one creed. Instead, Ultima encourages Antonio to embrace all of the cultural influences in his life to become a better person.
More main ideas from Bless Me, Ultima