Bless Me, Ultima

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Bless Me, Ultima Chapter 9 (Nueve) Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Antonio dreams about his brothers and Rosie's house of sin. Eugene and León enter, but Andrew says he will wait to enter until Antonio loses his innocence. Antonio wants to keep his innocence, but his mother and the priest say innocence only lasts until one gains knowledge, and when he takes communion Antonio will know about good and evil. Then Ultima appears and says that innocence exists in the llano, among nature.
This dream encapsulates a lot – the idea that growing up, gaining knowledge, and disappointing María's dreams are all inherently sinful, and the idea of communion as a receiving of divine knowledge. The Márez brothers represent lost innocence and the kind of adult knowledge that Antonio both desires and is afraid to gain. Ultima again offers an alternative to the strict Catholic rules Antonio fears.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Knowledge Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
The brothers argue with their parents about leaving. Gabriel wants them to help him go to California, and María wants them to stay and farm, but they insist that they are men now and must lead their own lives. Gabriel realizes his own restless Márez blood has turned against him and defeated his dream.
The Márez brothers respond to their parents' conflicting dreams and their confusing society by running away – this then appears as one alternative for Antonio, but for now he is still young and bound to his parents.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Language and Culture Theme Icon
Eugene and León leave the next day, but Andrew stays to finish school, and he gets a job at a market. Antonio asks if he wants to become a farmer or a priest, but Andrew says it is too late for him, the war made him grow up too fast. Antonio worries that he is also growing up too fast, and wonders how he can please both his father and mother when their dreams for him are so contradictory. He hopes taking communion will give him wisdom.
Andrew has moved beyond the narrow ideals of Márez and Luna, but Antonio still sees his own future as divided between these two paths. Antonio again fears growing up and losing his innocence, but at the same time he desires the knowledge that he hopes will come to him at his first communion.
Themes
Antonio and Andrew race across the bridge but the Vitamin Kid beats them both. The Kid calls Antonio a "giant killer," which makes him remember his dream about his brothers as giants. Samuel crosses the bridge after them, and Antonio asks him where the Vitamin Kid lives. Samuel says the Kid is his brother.
Samuel appears as a wiser, kinder figure than the rest of the rowdy town boys. Antonio fears that he is a "giant killer" in that he has made his brothers leave home.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
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That year the children at school hear that the world will end on a certain day, and they wait for it, arguing about whether it will be by fire or water. They are disappointed when the day passes and nothing happens.
This childish rumor reflects Antonio's later religious struggle – the harsh apocalypses of the gods and the different punishments devised for sinful mankind.
Themes
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
Antonio learns to read and write that year, and the principal tells him that is skipping to third grade next year. He is pleased to have learned the magic in letters. School ends for the summer and all the kids leave joyfully. As he walks home Antonio sees Samuel on the bridge, and Samuel asks him to go fishing. Antonio agrees even though he knows his mother will worry.
Antonio still finds his greatest pleasure in learning, and Anaya portrays learning to read and write as a kind of "magic," connecting it to Ultima's mysterious knowledge, and the general dreamlike tone of the book and early childhood itself. In going fishing instead of coming home, Antonio makes a rebellious decision.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Knowledge Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
They catch some catfish and Samuel asks Antonio if he has ever fished for carp. Antonio says no, because it is bad luck, though he doesn't know why. Samuel tells him a story of the ancient people which he heard from Jasón's Indian. The gods gave the people good land with only one rule – to never eat the carp. Then a great famine came, and finally the people ate the carp. The gods were going to kill them all, but one god argued for leniency, so they turned all the people into carp and made them live in the river.
Samuel introduces an alternate belief system for Antonio, opposing the Catholic worldview he has grown up with. The story of the carp comes to represent the indigenous culture that is a strong part of Antonio's (and Chicano) identity. The interceding, forgiving god who argues against destruction also mirrors the Virgin Mary.
Themes
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Language and Culture Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
Samuel whispers the next part of the story, and tells how the one god who had loved the people transformed himself into a carp so he could take care of them. He became a huge golden carp, and he still lives in the river. Antonio is shaken by Samuel's faith in the golden carp, and wonders if he himself has been worshipping the wrong god. Samuel says sometime soon a boy named Cico will show Antonio the golden carp.
The golden carp represents both a sort of Christ-figure (sacrificing himself as one of his people) and also an opposing god to the Catholic God. This is one of the major revelations for Antonio – the religion of his mother could be wrong, and he must therefore choose what to believe and make his own decisions.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Knowledge Theme Icon
Language and Culture Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
Antonio gets home late and his mother is angry, but soon overjoyed that he has skipped a grade. She is sure he will become a priest, and immediately prays to the Virgin.
María is oblivious to Antonio's inner doubts and continues in her faith that he will be a scholar and Catholic priest.
Themes
Language and Culture Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon