Bless Me, Ultima

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Bless Me, Ultima Chapter 4 (Cuatro) Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ultima and Antonio gather herbs in the llano together every morning, and Ultima teaches him about the spirits of plants and tells stories of the ancient people. She is happy and at home in the llano.
Ultima continues to act as a mentor for both Antonio and the reader, explaining the history of the Chicano identity to pave the way for the future.
Themes
Knowledge Theme Icon
Language and Culture Theme Icon
One day they sit by the river and eat prickly pears. Antonio asks about his family and Ultima explains how the Márez are loud and wild like the ocean, while the Lunas are quiet like the moon (in Spanish luna means "moon" and mar means "sea"). Antonio wonders which side he will choose. For a moment he feels the presence of the river all around him. Ultima tells more stories of medicines and the ancient Indians.
Ultima explains fully the conflict in Antonio's blood. She often advocates both sides of an issue, or sees the bigger picture, and does not force Antonio to choose sides between his mother's and father's dreams. This will lead to her lesson that Antonio must embrace all his heritage and build upon it. The spirits in Nature come alive around her.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Language and Culture Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
María is pleased that they will soon be going to El Puerto to help her brothers with the harvest. After dinner they pray to the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Antonio's favorite saint. He imagines that she is a real person who is quiet and forgiving, as opposed to God, who is powerful but punishes those who break his rules. He imagines the Virgin pleading to God on people's behalf. That night Antonio dreams of the Virgin, and hears his mother's prayers for her sons. She wants her older sons to come home from the war and for Antonio to become a priest, but the Virgin stands draped in mourning for Antonio. Antonio cries out in his sleep and Ultima soothes him.
The Virgin of Guadalupe is a symbol of the blend of cultures that make up Anaya's vision of the Chicano identity. She is a traditionally Catholic figure, but for the vision in Guadalupe she appeared to a Native-American and spoke in his language, and so she represents a kind of resolution of the cultural conflict Antonio experiences. She also introduces the idea of forgiveness into Antonio's musings on punishment – the Virgin becomes a more human, compromising figure than the strict God – similar to Ultima seeing the big picture and refusing to judge. In the dream her mourning cloak could symbolize either Antonio's death or the fact that becoming a priest will not save him from losing innocence.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Language and Culture Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon