Bless Me, Ultima

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Bless Me, Ultima Chapter 21 (Veintiuno) Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It gets warmer and Antonio and Cico go to see the golden carp again. Antonio is still unsure about God, as he failed to heal Lucas or help the Téllez family, and he still receives no inspiration at communion. Cico says he disbelieves but goes to church to please his mother. He says Antonio has to choose between God and the golden carp, "the beauty that is here and now." He says that there are many gods, but only the Christian God is jealous and refuses to have any equals.
Antonio starts to realize that he can accept multiple religions at once without invalidating any of them. This is an important part of his quest for a cultural identity. It is only the jealous Catholic God and doctrine that makes Antonio feel guilty for witnessing the golden carp or trusting Ultima more than a priest.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Knowledge Theme Icon
Language and Culture Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
The golden carp appears and Antonio feels peaceful and happy at the sight of it. He wonders what god he will choose to be the priest for, God or the golden carp. Cico decides to show Florence the carp, and Antonio is excited. They go to find Florence where the other boys are swimming, in the Blue Lake next to a huge concrete wall where swimming is forbidden.
Antonio's sense of peace in the presence of the golden carp is contrasted with his anticlimactic communion. It feels similar to Ultima in Nature, among the plants and animals, or Gabriel's love of the llano.
Themes
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
The kids wave at them frantically and look upset, and Horse says that Florence hasn't come up from the water. They are all afraid he has drowned. Cico is about to dive in when Florence's dead body floats to the surface. They pull him out, horrified. Antonio considers praying the Act of Contrition, but he knows Florence never believed so it would do no good.
Antonio reprises his role as priest once more in the most tragic situation he has experienced so far, but he has no hope in either the prayers or Florence's belief. Florence's death fulfills his portrayal as a Christ-figure earlier in the novel, which is significant as Florence is a non-believer. By making Florence a Christ figure the novel prioritizes Florence's goodness over his religious belief.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
The lifeguard arrives and is angry that they were swimming by the wall, which is not allowed, and that Florence has ruined his "perfect record." Horse and the other boys lie and say that they tried to stop Florence from swimming there. Antonio is in shock, and he watches two hawks circling in the distance. Suddenly he starts to run, crying, and hides in a thicket by the river as the church bells start to toll.
The moral depravity of the other boys and lifeguard is contrasted with Florence's graceful intellect and tragic death. Antonio experiences his worst trauma yet, and he reminds the reader (as the grownup that he is as he tells the story) that he is still a very young child to be experiencing such loss.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
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