Bless Me, Ultima

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Bless Me, Ultima Chapter 18 (Dieciocho) Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is Ash Wednesday, and Antonio thinks of his body's mortality and his soul's immortality. He finds school boring compared to catechism class, although the knowledge he gains about hell in catechism is terrifying. He begs Florence to confess and take communion so he will be saved from hell, but Florence refuses. Samuel thinks the golden carp might be a better god for Florence, and he and Antonio decide to show the carp to Florence when summer comes.
Antonio fears for the safety of Florence's soul and wants him to have some hope in a god, so he is excited by Samuel's suggestion. Florence would not have to choose between gods like Antonio must do, since he already doesn't believe in the Catholic god. Knowledge of such intense subjects as they discuss in catechism class is both exciting and scary for Antonio.
Themes
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Knowledge Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
One Friday the catechism class attends the Stations of the Cross. The other boys make jokes again, but they are worried about the catechism test the next day. The priest prays near them and his incense is suffocating. Horse passes out onto Antonio.
The boys undercut the solemnity of the church again. The priest's incense recalls Ultima's herbs, but his is suffocating instead of comforting.
Themes
Language and Culture Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
As the boys wait to give their first confession they start to make fun of Antonio for wanting to be a priest. They suddenly grow cruel and hit him and drape him in sweaters and make him pretend to be a priest and hear their confessions. Horse confesses to peeping through a hole into the girls' bathroom. Antonio feels sick under the coats and thinks of the sins weighing down the land.
The scene is a grotesque parody of Antonio as a priest. This time he must tend to his rowdy "congregation" instead of to dying souls. The children keep robbing Catholicism of its purity and power in Antonio's mind. He realizes for the first time that he might not like being a priest, feeling the "weight" of all those confessed sins.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
Bones is excited that he has a bigger sin, which is watching a couple having sex by the lake. The kids make Florence confess next, but he says he doesn't have any sins. This enrages the rest of the group. Florence says it is God who has sinned against him by making life so unfair. The other kids are shocked and ask Antonio to give him a terrible penance, and say they will even stone or kill him for his blasphemy.
The other kids do not fear sin and punishment like Antonio does, but instead find it exciting and treat the false "confessional booth" as a sort of voyeuristic activity. Florence again appears as a Christ-figure, threatened and persecuted by the judgmental other boys.
Themes
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
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Antonio realizes what he must do, and he declares no penance for Florence, and that he is absolved. The children turn their rage towards Antonio and beat him up pitilessly. Then they run off when the priest calls them in. Florence says he is not going to confession, but Antonio covers up his bruises and goes on. Florence says Antonio could never be the priest for that group.
Antonio accepts the punishment for another like a true priest or savior would. Florence implies that it is not some fault in Antonio that makes him unable to be a priest for the group, but that the kids would not understand the kind of priest Antonio would be.
Themes
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
Antonio waits outside the booth, praying and thinking of his sins in the darkness of the church. He goes in and thinks of all the sins revealed in this place, and makes his first confession.
The confessional booth recalls Narciso beneath the junipers. This too is a kind of initiation rite for Antonio.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon