Bless Me, Ultima

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Antonio Juan Márez Character Analysis

The protagonist and narrator of the novel, a young Chicano boy growing up in Guadalupe, New Mexico. Antonio (or Tony) has a great desire for knowledge and wrestles with many difficult questions about life and religion. The novel follows his experiences facing tribulations and growing up, and also his relationship with Ultima. Tony sees death, has religious experiences, goes to school, and must choose between the conflicting dreams of his parents. The story is essentially Antonio building his own identity from life experiences, the cultures he comes from, and the beliefs he is exposed to.

Antonio Juan Márez Quotes in Bless Me, Ultima

The Bless Me, Ultima quotes below are all either spoken by Antonio Juan Márez or refer to Antonio Juan Márez. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Growing Up Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Warner Books edition of Bless Me, Ultima published in 1994.
Chapter 1 (Uno) Quotes

Ultima came to stay with us the summer I was almost seven. When she came the beauty of the llano unfolded before my eyes, and the gurgling waters of the river sang to the hum of the turning earth. The magical time of childhood stood still, and the pulse of the living earth pressed its mystery into my living blood.

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker), Ultima
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

These lines, which open the book, briefly introduce many of the novel's main themes, and do so in vivid, almost fantastical language. Antonio, the narrator, is looking back on his childhood from a vantage point of greater age and maturity, and he reflects on the summer he spent with Ultima while mentioning several themes that will come up again later: the power of the land and the connection of Chicano culture to the landscape, the "magical" qualities of both childhood innocence and nature itself, and the idea of growing up and accepting the unstoppable passage of time. This passage also is a reminder (important in hindsight) of just how young Antonio is when all these events are happening.

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Chapter 3 (Tres) Quotes

"Ay, how true," my mother said and clutched me tightly, "and what a sin it is for a boy to grow into a man--"
It was a sin to grow up and be a man.

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker), María Luna Márez (speaker)
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

It is the day after Antonio's first real traumatic experience—witnessing the death of Lupito. As the family prepares for Mass, Ultima calls Antonio a "man," only for María to contradict her and say that Antonio is still a "baby."

Throughout most of the book, Antonio is faced with conflicting forces pulling him in different directions, both regarding what he will grow up to be and whether he will grow up at all. María, as we see here, consistently clings to Antonio's childhood innocence, and wants to keep him from being corrupted by the world and becoming a man. She connects this innocence with the perceived innocence of the priesthood, and so (later) wants Antonio to become a priest when he gets older—she knows she can't keep him from aging and maturing, but she does want to keep him innocent. Here she explicitly connects "becoming a man" with "sin," and Antonio immediately internalizes the message by repeating it to himself. This particular worldview will later conflict with others Antonio experiences, and be the cause of much confusion and inner turmoil for him.

"But I want to know, there are so many things I want to know," I insisted.
"A curandera cannot give away her secrets," she said, "but if a person really wants to know, then he will listen and see and be patient. Knowledge comes slowly--"

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker), Ultima (speaker)
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

Antonio is very curious and eager for definite answers, at this point particularly about Lupito's death and the idea of the afterlife. While María, in her Catholic worldview, has associated gaining knowledge with sin, Antonio can't help but continue to want that knowledge—and in his immaturity he wants it now. Ultima, however, teaches Antonio that knowledge comes best with experience, and so one must be patient. This is a good example of Ultima's role as a mother figure and spiritual guide for Antonio—encouraging his growth but also protecting him, allowing him to experience the world for himself but also giving him the strength to endure it.

Chapter 4 (Cuatro) Quotes

God was not always forgiving. He made laws to follow and if you broke them you were punished. The Virgin always forgave.

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Virgin of Guadalupe
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Antonio ponders Catholicism and its tenets, as he understands them. Antonio still thinks with the simplicity and literalism of a child, but he is also, as usual, very perceptive and thoughtful. He knows that as a good Catholic, he is supposed to love God more than anything else, but Antonio can't help finding God harsh and unforgiving, an aloof figure who demands perfection and punishes those who break his laws. However, Antonio sees the Virgin Mary—particularly the Virgin of Guadalupe—as a kinder, more forgiving, and more relatable figure.

On one level this seems to be just the young, sensitive Antonio finding comfort in a loving mother-figure rather than a judgmental father-figure. But the Virgin of Guadalupe is also unique in her special connection to Antonio's Chicano identity. She is a Catholic figure, but also one intimately connected to the indigenous peoples of Mexico, and so not wholly connected to the religion of the white colonizers. In this way she symbolizes the kind of blend of cultures that make up Anaya's vision of Chicano identity.

Chapter 6 (Seis) Quotes

"Ay! My man of learning!" my mother smiled when I entered the kitchen. She swept me in her arms and before I knew it she was crying on my shoulder. "My baby will be gone today," she sobbed.
"He will be all right," Ultima said. "The sons must leave the sides of their mothers," she said almost sternly and pulled my mother gently.

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker), Ultima (speaker), María Luna Márez (speaker)
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

Again María makes it clear that she doesn't want Antonio to grow up and lose his innocence, but if he must, she wants him to be a "man of learning" and become a priest. This desire obviously comes from María's strong Catholic faith, but also from her family's tradition of priesthood and her idea that becoming a priest means staying innocent and avoiding the sin of "becoming a man." (This idea becomes confusing for Antonio later, as being a "man of learning" is associated with becoming a priest and receiving divine knowledge, but elsewhere knowledge is associated with sin, pride, and corruption.)

Ultima, then, again acts as a figure of gentle but firm wisdom, encouraging Antonio to grow up but also to make his own choices and grow up in the way that is best for him. It's also interesting to note that Ultima's quote at the end of the passage is seemingly a reference to a Bible verse from Ephesians: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." That verse refers to marriage, and so isn't wholly applicable in its entirety here, but it is surprising that Ultima—the figure usually most connected with the supernatural and paganism—seems to be so comfortable quoting from the Bible (if indeed she is).

Chapter 8 (Ocho) Quotes

"And, they still have Tony," Gene said and looked at me. "Tony will be her priest," he laughed.
"Tony will be her farmer," León added.
"And her dream will be complete and we will be free!" Gene shouted.

Related Characters: Eugene Márez (speaker), León Márez (speaker), Antonio Juan Márez, María Luna Márez
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

Antonio's brothers have returned home from the war, and they seem to have been greatly changed by their experiences. In this passage we see how they, too, have faced pressure from their parents about what kind of men they will be. Clearly María has given up on Eugene, León , or Andrew becoming a farmer or priest, and so she now pins all her hopes on Antonio—and in this scene, the brothers pin their hopes on him too, trying to rid themselves of responsibility and the pressure to please their mother (and their father, who wants to work alongside his sons and "be free" with them). In general, this passage shows Antonio being further weighed down by familial expectations and differing cultural and religious influences.

Chapter 9 (Nueve) Quotes

You are innocent until you understand, the priest of the church said, and you will understand good and evil when the communion is placed in your mouth and God fills your body.

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker)
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote comes from one of Antonio's vivid, sometimes prophetic dreams. This particular dream is very thematically important, as it brings up ideas of sexuality, the "corrupting" force of knowledge, and also the kind of divine knowledge that supposedly comes with one's First Communion (according to the dream-priest, at least). Anaya uses "dream logic" to connect ideas in a compelling manner, and here he makes an intriguing association—using language that typically describes Adam and Eve and the Biblical "Fall of Man" to instead describe Holy Communion.

Antonio looks forward to his First Communion, hoping that when he receives the wafer (the body of Christ, according to Catholic doctrine) he will get some answers to his many questions. Yet here the dream-priest compares this divine knowledge to a loss of innocence, and also uses the language of the Biblical book of Genesis, where Adam and Eve are cast out of Paradise because they ate the fruit that makes them "understand good and evil"—punished for seeking forbidden knowledge. This suggests that there is no way to gain any kind of knowledge or understanding and remain innocent, but also implies that an ignorant innocence is perhaps not something worth clinging to anyway.

"The golden carp," I said to myself, "a new god?" I could not believe this strange story, and yet I could not disbelieve Samuel. "Is the golden carp still here?"
"Yes," Samuel answered. His voice was strong with faith. It made me shiver, not because it was cold but because the roots of everything I had ever believed in seemed shaken. If the golden carp was a god, who was the man on the cross? The Virgin? Was my mother praying to the wrong God?

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker), Samuel (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Golden Carp, The Virgin of Guadalupe
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

Samuel has told Antonio about the golden carp, a kind of pagan god who supposedly lives in the river surrounding the town. The golden carp becomes a crucial symbol in the novel after this, representative of a kind of naturalistic, indigenous alternative to Catholicism, but also a god who shares many characteristics with the Christian God. (What Antonio first learns is that the god became a carp to protect his people, similar to Christ's sacrifice—but later Antonio will learn that the carp, too, plans to harshly punish all sinners just as the Christian God does.)

Antonio learning about the golden carp is a good example of how gaining knowledge shakes his innocence, making him more mature but also more troubled and confused. Antonio is learning that simplistic world-views rarely hold the entire truth, but he also suddenly has complex, seemingly contradictory information to process.

Chapter 11 (Once) Quotes

"The golden carp," I whispered in awe. I could not have been more entranced if I had seen the Virgin, or God Himself… I felt my body trembling as I saw the bright golden form disappear. I knew I had witnessed a miraculous thing, the appearance of a pagan god… And I thought, the power of God failed where Ultima's worked; and then a sudden illumination of beauty and understanding flashed through my mind. This is what I had expected God to do at my first holy communion!

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker), Ultima
Related Symbols: The Golden Carp, The Virgin of Guadalupe
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:

In the company of Cico, Antonio actually sees the golden carp: a magnificent, fantastical, and seemingly holy creature. Antonio is awed at the sight, but then he again feels conflicted, and wonders if he has sinned against the Christian God—while also wondering if the Christian God is the "wrong God" altogether. In this moment Antonio contrasts the seeming reality and power of the carp (and Ultima's magic, which is associated with the carp in his mind) against the seeming ineffectiveness and aloofness of Catholicism. Antonio is seeing things literally, observing life through the eyes of a child, but because of this literalism he draws perceptive conclusions: he has actually seen the carp, and has seen Ultima perform miracles, but he has yet to see any evidence of the power (or even existence) of the Christian God. The vision of the golden carp, then, is a kind of epiphany or granting of divine knowledge, but one that Antonio still feels is somehow improper or sinful.

"But it's not fair to those who don't sin!" I countered.
"Tony," Cico said softly, "all men sin."
I had no answer to that. My own mother had said that losing your innocence and becoming a man was learning to sin. I felt weak and powerless in the knowledge of the impending doom.

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker), Cico (speaker), María Luna Márez
Related Symbols: The Golden Carp
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:

Previously, the golden carp had seemed like an alternative to the Christian God, a more "natural" and forgiving deity (and also one more connected to the indigenous peoples of the region, instead of the white Christian colonizers of the past), but here Antonio learns that the carp, like God, plans on punishing all the sinners of the town with death—and everyone sins, so no one will escape punishment.

This passage, then, connects to Antonio's learned belief that growing up and gaining knowledge means losing one's innocence and sinning—and sin must always be punished. Furthermore, Antonio now learns that this isn't just a Catholic idea, or just his mother's idea, but is a pagan idea too.

Chapter 12 (Doce) Quotes

Ultima and I continued to search for plants and roots in the hills. I felt more attached to Ultima than to my own mother. Ultima told me the stories and legends of my ancestors. From her I learned the glory and tragedy of the history of my people, and I came to understand how that history stirred in my blood.

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker), Ultima, María Luna Márez
Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:

Ultima continues to act like a mother figure and guide for Antonio as he grows up, as here the narrative briefly speeds up to cover a time of idyllic peace and learning. The majority of Antonio's time spent with Ultima emphasizes the healthier parts of growing up for him—not always witnessing death or experiencing religious crises, but rather gaining knowledge of the land and his own heritage and culture. It is arguably this kind of knowledge—learning the "glory and tragedy of the history of my people"—that is most useful to Antonio as he matures, and that also informs Anaya's project in the novel itself.

Chapter 14 (Catorce) Quotes

And I remembered my dream. Andrew had said that he would not enter the house of the naked women until I had lost my innocence. Had I already lost my innocence? How? I had seen Lupito murdered… I had seen Ultima's cure… I had seen the men come to hang her… I had seen the awful fight just now… I had seen and reveled in the beauty of the golden carp!

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker), Ultima, Andrew Márez, Lupito
Related Symbols: The Golden Carp
Page Number: 165
Explanation and Analysis:

While following Narciso, Antonio sees his brother Andrew at Rosie's brothel. Antonio then remembers his dream (described in a previous quotation) about Andrew not entering the brothel until Antonio himself had lost his innocence. Thus Antonio is shocked to see his brother in such a "sinful" state, but is even more appalled at what this might mean for his own soul.

Antonio continues to connect "innocence" with both the idea of childish ignorance and Catholic doctrine, and so sees the loss of innocence as inherently being sorrowful and sinful. Furthermore, he then sees anything that seems to contradict Catholicism as perhaps being the cause of his loss of innocence—not just his tragic experiences of death (Lupito's murder and Ultima's near-murder), but notably his witnessing of Ultima's magic and the golden carp. Antonio is distraught, and fears that he has condemned himself with his actions—immediately looking past Andrew's perceived loss of innocence and worrying about his own possible sinfulness.

You foolish boy, God roared, don't you see you are caught in your own trap! You would have a God who forgives all, but when it comes to your personal whims you seek punishment for your vengeance. You would have my mother rule my heavens, you would send all sinners to her for forgiveness, but you would also have her taint her hands with the blood of vengeance
Vengeance is Mine! He shouted, not even your golden carp would give up that power as a god!

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Golden Carp, The Virgin of Guadalupe
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

Antonio has seen Tenorio kill Narciso, and, traumatized, he has fallen into a fever. In his feverish state Antonio has more vivid and fantastical dreams, and it is from his dreams that this quotation is taken.

Antonio wants God to forgive Narciso, as he knows that despite his flaws, Narciso was a good man at heart and certainly didn't deserve to die as he did. The God of Antonio's dream, however, calls Antonio out on his hypocrisy—if God forgives Narciso, then he must forgive Tenorio as well (something Antonio protests against). And if God punishes Tenorio, then he must punish Narciso as well. The dream-God then brings up the Virgin of Guadalupe, suggesting that his "mother" isn't the easy way out Antonio had hoped—she cannot be inconsistent either, forgiving those Antonio wants to be forgiven and punishing those he wants punished. The dream-God then goes further—even the golden carp, he says, who is an even more drastic alternative to Christianity, would not give up the power of punishing sinners.

In his dream, at least, it seems there is nowhere Antonio can turn to find the kind of understanding that he seeks. At the same time, he is starting to realize the more difficult aspects of a worldview based on empathy and forgiveness—if he is truly to embrace his instinctual beliefs, then Antonio must learn to forgive even people like Tenorio.

Chapter 16 (Dieciseis) Quotes

I could not understand why Narciso, who did good in trying to help Ultima, had lost his life; and why Tenorio, who was evil and had taken a life, was free and unpunished. It didn't seem fair. I thought a great deal about God and why he let such things happen.

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker), Ultima, Tenorio Trementina, Narciso
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:

Antonio is still troubled by Narciso's death, and with it the perceived unfairness of Catholicism and God's punishments and "forgiveness." In his feverish dreams Antonio recognized the difficulty of embracing either total forgiveness or total justice, yet here he still longs for a God who would better conform to his own experiences and new knowledge of life's complexity. By now Antonio has grown disillusioned with both the Christian God and the golden carp, and has only the Virgin of Guadalupe left as a last hope for an empathetic and understanding (but also just) deity.

At this point Antonio has also just returned to school after Christmas vacation, and he feels more removed from his peers than ever—because of the violence, death, and magic he has seen, but also because his intense questioning of life, death, and religion makes him an outsider.

Chapter 17 (Diecisiete) Quotes

There seemed to be so many pitfalls in the questions we asked. I wanted answers to the questions, but would the knowledge of the answers make me share in the original sin of Adam and Eve?
"And if we didn't have any knowledge?" I asked.
"Then we would be like the dumb animals of the fields," Florence replied.
Animals, I thought. Were the fish of the golden carp happier than we were? Was the golden carp a better God?

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker), Florence (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Golden Carp
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:

Antonio has been going to Catholic catechism class, preparing for his First Communion and hoping for answers to some of his existential questions, but he only feels more conflicted the more he learns. Here he talks with his friend Florence, who is an anomaly among Antonio's peers—he is an atheist.

In this passage knowledge is again associated with sin, and with the "sorrow" of growing up and losing one's innocence. This is also reinforced by the Adam and Eve story, in which their "original sin" was essentially seeking knowledge that was forbidden to them. Antonio wants to avoid sharing in this sin, but he is also insatiably curious, and furthermore wants to take Communion precisely so he can gain knowledge—but, presumably, knowledge of divine origin that is somehow not "sinful." This seeming contradiction is, of course, confusing to Antonio, and Florence's defiant defense of Adam and Eve's sin only adds to his inner conflict. Lastly, this conflict again makes Antonio consider the golden carp, and wonder whether it would be a "better god"—here not because the carp is more merciful or natural, but rather because the carp is a "dumb animal," neither offering nor forbidding any kind of knowledge at all.

Chapter 19 (Diecinueve) Quotes

I closed my eyes and concentrated. I had just swallowed Him, He must be in there! For a moment, on the altar railing, I thought I had felt His warmth, but then everything moved so fast. There wasn't time just to sit and discover Him, like I could do when I sat on the creek bank and watched the golden carp swim in the sun-filtered waters.
God! Why did Lupito die?
Why do you allow the evil of the Trementinas?
Why did you allow Narciso to be murdered when he was doing good?
Why do you punish Florence? Why doesn't he believe?
Will the golden carp rule - ?
A thousand questions pushed through my mind, but the Voice within me did not answer.

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker), Tenorio Trementina, Narciso, Florence, Lupito, The Trementina Sisters
Related Symbols: The Golden Carp
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Antonio finally receives his First Communion. He has been hoping that with the wafer will come divine knowledge and answers to his many questions about God, life, and death—but Antonio feels and hears nothing, and is devastatingly disappointed. According to Catholic doctrine, Jesus is actually physically present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, and so Antonio assumes that because he has eaten the wafer, "He must be in there"—God must be inside of him now, and thus he should be getting some answers. Antonio then gives a brief list of some of the questions that have been tormenting him the most, offering a good encapsulation of many of the book's plot points and themes up to now.

Ultimately, this moment creates an increased sense of disillusionment with Christianity for Antonio, but it also allows him to articulate some of the larger themes behind his questions—why sometimes good people are punished and bad ones "forgiven," how seemingly contradictory cultures and religions could be reconciled, and even why death itself exists in a world supposedly created by a benevolent God.

Chapter 21 (Veintiuno) Quotes

The lonely river was a sad place to be when one is a small boy who has just seen a friend die.

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker)
Page Number: 242
Explanation and Analysis:

Antonio has made the decision to tell Florence about the golden carp—assuming that his thoughtful, kind friend would be able to understand and properly appreciate the river deity—only to find that Florence has just tragically drowned.

Overwhelmed by this latest and most devastating tragedy, Antonio hides next to the river to cry and be alone, and the adult narrator-Antonio looks back on himself as a "small boy who has just seen a friend die"—a tragic moment of stepping back and simply describing the sad realities of life. For Antonio, growing up is about gaining knowledge and experience, but often it seems that it's mostly about death, sadness, and disappointment, and learning to accept the tragedy and unfairness of the world.

Chapter 22 (Veintidos) Quotes

"Ay, every generation, every man is a part of his past. He cannot escape it, but he may reform the old materials, make something new --"
"Take the llano and the river valley, the moon and the sea, God and the golden carp – and make something new," I said to myself. That is what Ultima meant by building strength from life. "Papá," I asked, "can a new religion be made?"

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker), Gabriel Márez (speaker), Ultima
Related Symbols: The Golden Carp
Page Number: 247
Explanation and Analysis:

As Gabriel drives Antonio to go stay with the Lunas, the father and son have an illuminating and important conversation. Gabriel seems worn out, and no longer has his old fierce desire to make his sons follow in his own footsteps—instead, he now recognizes that becoming a man means to "make something new." This, then, is exactly the lesson Antonio needs to hear, as he continues to struggle with inner conflicts within his own identity and the world-views of those around him.

Antonio's mental response to his father's statement then acts as a kind of thesis statement for Anaya's novel. Antonio must embrace all the seemingly disparate parts of his identity, culture, and religion, and use them to make something new and fundamentally his own. This means accepting at once Luna and Márez ("the moon and the sea"), God and the golden carp, Native American, Spanish, and English culture, curanderismo (Ultima's magic and knowledge) and Catholic priesthood, the "llano and the river valley," and using them to make a new, personal "religion"—a project arguably fulfilled in the writing of the novel itself.

And that is what Ultima tried to teach me, that the tragic consequences of life can be overcome by the magical strength that resides in the human heart.

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker), Ultima
Page Number: 249
Explanation and Analysis:

Gabriel and Antonio continue their conversation as they drive to the Lunas' farm. Gabriel expresses a relatively relativistic view of evil, similar to Ultima's—saying that most "evil" is just things people don't understand. Antonio (as narrator, looking back on his childhood) then makes a crucial point: that Ultima's "magic" is, in the end, primarily just understanding and empathy. This is not a belief system critically tied to either Christianity or paganism, but is instead about the "magical strength that resides in the human heart." This is a crucial lesson for Antonio as he grows up and tries to reconcile both his belief systems and the seeming unfairness of life—notably why Tenorio is still allowed to get away with his "evil."

The thundering report of the rifle followed the flash of fire. That shot destroyed the quiet, moonlit peace of the hill, and it shattered my childhood into a thousand fragments that long ago stopped falling and are now dusty relics gathered in distant memories.

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker)
Related Symbols: Ultima's Owl
Page Number: 258
Explanation and Analysis:

Tenorio has just shot Ultima's owl, having figured out that the bird is some sort of life force or "familiar" for her, and that killing it will ultimately kill Ultima as well. At this climactic moment, however, the narrator (adult Antonio) suddenly steps back, placing the present sound of the rifle shot in the larger context of Antonio's entire childhood history.

In a way, this narrative decision shows Antonio already acting on Ultima's and Gabriel's important advice—he is drawing strength from his memories and experiences, even the painful ones, and using them to create something new (the story itself). Antonio does not react to Tenorio's murderous act with rage, but neither does he offer forgiveness. Instead he simply offers understanding, and an acknowledgement that this act has deeply affected his entire life, including the very narrative he is relating now.

"Take them to their room," I said to my mother. It was the first time I had ever spoken to my mother as a man; she nodded and obeyed.

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker), María Luna Márez
Page Number: 259
Explanation and Analysis:

Tenorio has just killed Ultima's owl and tried to shoot Antonio, but then Pedro Luna has shot Tenorio and killed him. Everyone is confused by the scene, and Antonio here responds with authority, telling his mother to take his sisters inside—speaking "as a man." This shows Antonio growing up in a definitive way, strengthened by his past experiences of tragedy. He is now facing death yet again, but has learned to respond to it with courage and calm. It's also worth noting the nature of his "command"—he wants his mother to take his sisters inside so they don't have to witness the tragedy that he has seen. In a way, this shows Antonio trying to preserve his sisters' innocence while he can, despite the fact that his own innocence has been lost.

"Bless me, Ultima --"
Her hand touched my forehead and her last words were, "I bless you in the name of all that is good and strong and beautiful, Antonio. Always have the strength to live. Love life, and if despair enters your heart, look for me in the evening when the wind is gentle and the owls sing in the hills. I shall be with you --"

Related Characters: Antonio Juan Márez (speaker), Ultima (speaker)
Page Number: 260-261
Explanation and Analysis:

It is from this passage that the book takes its title, and the scene also acts as both a tragic climax and a kind of "moral" to the story. Ultima's final blessing echoes the many priestly blessings (whether fake or real) in the novel, but her blessing doesn't mention God at all, or even magic—instead it focuses only on Antonio's own inner strength, his memories and experiences and hardships, and the land itself. There is nothing explicitly supernatural or Christian about it, and the "power" Ultima invokes to bless Antonio is merely "all that is good and strong and beautiful." As Antonio has come to realize over the latter part of the book, Ultima's greatest power and wisdom is rooted in empathy, understanding, appreciation of nature, and inner strength.

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Antonio Juan Márez Character Timeline in Bless Me, Ultima

The timeline below shows where the character Antonio Juan Márez appears in Bless Me, Ultima. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 (Uno)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Language and Culture Theme Icon
Antonio Márez remembers when he was six years old and Ultima came to live with his... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Language and Culture Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
...how it is wrong for her to be alone on the llano at her age. Antonio has heard that she is a curandera, a magic healing woman with knowledge of herbs... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Language and Culture Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
Antonio starts to fall asleep and he prays to the Virgin Mary. María wants him to... (full context)
Antonio wakes up and thinks apprehensively about leaving his mother and going to school for the... (full context)
Language and Culture Theme Icon
Antonio goes to his friend Jasón's house, one of only three on their side of the... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
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Antonio leaves and goes to work in the garden. The land of the llano is too... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Knowledge Theme Icon
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Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
Ultima steps from the truck and the children greet her formally, but when Antonio takes her hand he feels a sudden whirlwind and a rush of the power of... (full context)
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Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
Ultima enters the house and Antonio smells the fragrance of many herbs surrounding her. An owl arrives that night and starts... (full context)
Chapter 2 (Dos)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Knowledge Theme Icon
Language and Culture Theme Icon
...cries when he thinks of how the war and the town have ruined his ambitions. Antonio walks through the llano with Ultima and learns about the beauty of the earth, and... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Language and Culture Theme Icon
...and they get their rifles and leave. María tries to lock the children in but Antonio slips out and follows the men. (full context)
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Men are gathered on the bridge and Antonio hides in some brush. He sees Lupito crouching at the edge of the river with... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Knowledge Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
...he is shooting at them, and they shoot together and kill him. Lupito looks at Antonio as he dies, and cries out for his blessing. (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
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Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
Antonio runs away through sharp branches that cut him, repeating the Acts of Contrition – the... (full context)
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Antonio enters the house and Ultima greets him gives him some medicine to drink. She tries... (full context)
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...want to gather around Gabriel and go west to build a castle in the hills. Antonio wants to go too, but they mock him for being too young and submitting to... (full context)
Chapter 3 (Tres)
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Antonio wakes up to the white sun and finds that Ultima's potion has healed his cuts.... (full context)
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...a priest, and she hopes that the people will turn back to the earth and Antonio will be their priest once more. Antonio wonders how such contradictory people got married, but... (full context)
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They get ready for church and Ultima asks how Antonio is doing. María scolds him for not greeting Ultima formally enough, but Ultima says that... (full context)
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Antonio asks Ultima about his father's soul and how he can take communion if he killed... (full context)
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Antonio goes around the side of the church to wait with some older boys from town.... (full context)
Chapter 4 (Cuatro)
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Ultima and Antonio gather herbs in the llano together every morning, and Ultima teaches him about the spirits... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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,... (full context)
Chapter 5 (Cinco)
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Antonio's favorite uncle Pedro arrives to take them to El Puerto, the home of the Lunas.... (full context)
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Antonio's grandfather is named Prudencio. María greets him excitedly and then Ultima hugs him like an... (full context)
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They work and cook and tell stories, and Antonio overhears his mother talking to her brother Juan about him. They hope he will choose... (full context)
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Antonio thinks about the brujas dancing with the devil across the river, but then he hears... (full context)
Chapter 6 (Seis)
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It is the first day of school that Antonio has been dreading. As they get ready, his father complains that he and María should... (full context)
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Antonio thinks of what Jasón told him about the magic in written letters, and how Ultima... (full context)
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...go and María asks Ultima to bless the children. When she places her hand on Antonio's head he again feels a whirlwind, and thinks about the dust devils of the llano,... (full context)
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Antonio starts walking and is comforted by the daytime singing of Ultima's owl. As he crosses... (full context)
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Antonio finds his teacher, Miss Maestas, and admits he can't speak English. He sits in the... (full context)
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Antonio leaves the room and starts to cry. He wants to go home but he knows... (full context)
Chapter 7 (Siete)
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Antonio dreams of his brothers as giants, and they tell him about the wide world they... (full context)
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...both California and the war. The house feels complete with everyone home. Meanwhile at school Antonio keeps learning his letters, and Miss Maestas sends a note home about his good progress,... (full context)
Chapter 8 (Ocho)
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Spring comes, and with it the restless blood awakens in Antonio's brothers. They are almost never around, and they ignore Gabriel's talk of California. The spend... (full context)
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The brothers decide to leave Antonio to be the farmer-priest for his mother, and then grow excited and wild at the... (full context)
Chapter 9 (Nueve)
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Antonio dreams about his brothers and Rosie's house of sin. Eugene and León enter, but Andrew... (full context)
...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... (full context)
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Antonio and Andrew race across the bridge but the Vitamin Kid beats them both. The Kid... (full context)
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Antonio learns to read and write that year, and the principal tells him that is skipping... (full context)
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They catch some catfish and Samuel asks Antonio if he has ever fished for carp. Antonio says no, because it is bad luck,... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Antonio gets home late and his mother is angry, but soon overjoyed that he has skipped... (full context)
Chapter 10 (Diez)
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Antonio tries to learn more about the golden carp but Samuel is gone for the summer.... (full context)
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Ultima gathers her herbs and declares her readiness, looking small but dignified. She says Antonio must go with her. He is "a Juan" (his middle name) and has strong Luna... (full context)
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...says she must speak to Tenorio first, and no one may come with her except Antonio. (full context)
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...dust storm and Tenorio tries to run them over with his horse, but Ultima pulls Antonio aside just in time. The mourning women hurry away from the Luna house and Ultima... (full context)
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Antonio wonders if Ultima can succeed where the Church failed. Ultima bathes Lucas and prepares an... (full context)
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Coyotes howl outside the house but than Ultima's owl appears and attacks them. Antonio slips into a dream state and Ultima feeds Lucas more medicine. Antonio feels he is... (full context)
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Antonio wakes up and Ultima says they have defeated the death spirit, but the evil spirit... (full context)
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When he wakes up Ultima feeds Antonio more atole, and says Lucas has been almost healed. Antonio vomits and then feels better.... (full context)
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...save her life one day. People whisper about her as she leaves, but one of Antonio's aunts defends her from the word "bruja." Ultima makes Pedro drive her to the grove... (full context)
Chapter 11 (Once)
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Some time later Antonio is fishing in the river, and he hears someone calling his name. Cico appears and... (full context)
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...carp except him and Samuel, and it is only a feeling that made them trust Antonio. The gang of town boys appears and makes fun of Ultima, and Horse puts Antonio... (full context)
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They walk to a place Antonio has never been before, to a secluded pond on a clear creek called El Rito.... (full context)
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Cico points and then salutes, and the golden carp appears. It is bigger than Antonio and covered in golden scales. Antonio feels like he is beholding the Virgin or God,... (full context)
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...only a game between him and the fish. They wait and the golden carp returns. Antonio worries that a fisherman will catch and kill the carp, but Cico says only a... (full context)
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Antonio is amazed at all the strange and magical things he has learned. Cico tells the... (full context)
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Antonio is distressed by this. It seems unfair to him, but Cico says that everyone knows... (full context)
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Antonio asks Ultima about the golden carp, and she smiles and says she cannot tell him... (full context)
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That night Antonio dreams of all the dead people in the waters of the golden carp. His parents... (full context)
Chapter 12 (Doce)
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Antonio spends the summer thinking of the golden carp and Ultima's cure of Lucas. Gabriel starts... (full context)
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One night Antonio asks about the three dolls on Ultima's shelf, especially one of them that seems twisted... (full context)
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...a witch. Tenorio claims to have found Ultima's bag of herbs under his daughter's bed. Antonio steps forward and reveals that he has the scapular around his neck. (full context)
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...guns arrive at the house and call for Gabriel to give up Ultima. Gabriel and Antonio step outside and face the mob. Gabriel asks who speaks but everyone is ashamed to... (full context)
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...pull him away and go. As the family recovers from the terror of the ordeal, Antonio notices that the crossed needles have fallen from the door, and he never discovers if... (full context)
Chapter 13 (Trece)
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...into the church for mass because she was a bruja. They drive through Guadalupe and Antonio thinks about the golden carp's punishment of water and God's punishment of fire. He wonders... (full context)
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As they drive Antonio asks his uncle Pedro why the Lunas did not warn them about Tenorio coming from... (full context)
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...Trementinas and the devilish "Black Mass" they will perform over the dead daughter. That night Antonio dreams of the same Black Mass, but then in the coffin he sees Ultima. The... (full context)
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...wailing, and Tenorio gives Ultima the evil eye. When the work for harvest is completed Antonio's family prepares to return to Guadalupe, but as they depart Juan Luna asks that Antonio... (full context)
Chapter 14 (Catorce)
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The first day of school arrives. As Antonio and Andrew walk to school, Andrew says that when he came back from the war... (full context)
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The other town boys are rowdy as usual, and make fun of Antonio's brother for "whoring," which Antonio doesn't understand. One of the boys, Ernie, calls Ultima a... (full context)
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...a Christmas play, but on the day of the play there is a huge blizzard. Antonio decides to go to school while his sisters stay home, and Andrew comes along to... (full context)
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...and quickly degenerates into a huge farce. Abel starts peeing on the stage, Horse punches Antonio (who is playing Joseph), and the head of the baby Jesus doll falls off. It... (full context)
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The town is empty and eerie as he walks, and Antonio comes upon Narciso and Tenorio fighting savagely and cursing each other outside a bar. Finally... (full context)
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Narciso is distressed and intends to go warn Ultima that she is in danger. Antonio is also worried, and he follows Narciso. Narciso looks for Andrew first, and turns towards... (full context)
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Rosie comes out and Antonio smells perfume and hears laughter from inside. She mocks Narciso but then Andrew emerges from... (full context)
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...have corrupted Andrew and that now he must travel on to the stormy llano alone. Antonio feels feverish but keeps following after Narciso. (full context)
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As he walks Antonio worries that he is no longer innocent, and his communion is still far away, and... (full context)
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Antonio is in shock, but he goes to Narciso. The juniper trees make a sort of... (full context)
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Antonio comes home with blood on his hands and tells what happened. His parents are in... (full context)
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In his dreams Antonio asks God to forgive Andrew, but God refuses. God says he will forgive Narciso, but... (full context)
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...in a river of Narciso and Lupito's blood, and then demand Ultima's blood as well. Antonio's brothers appears and ask him to bless and forgive them. Then the Trementina sisters cut... (full context)
Chapter 15 (Quince)
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...cares much about Narciso's death, as he was the town drunkard, and there is only Antonio's word to accuse Tenorio so the coroner declares it an accident. Antonio has pneumonia and... (full context)
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María arranges that Antonio will start his catechism in the spring, and then take communion and have knowledge of... (full context)
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...day all three brothers leave – Andrew goes too and drops out of high school. Antonio wonders if his brothers will always be lost to him. (full context)
Chapter 16 (Dieciseis)
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Antonio returns to school after Christmas vacation ends, but he feels he has changed and loses... (full context)
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One day on the way home from school Antonio sees Tenorio under the juniper tree where he killed Narciso. Tenorio sees Antonio and curses... (full context)
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When Antonio gets home and tells Ultima what happened, she makes sure Tenorio didn't hurt Antonio in... (full context)
Chapter 17 (Diecisiete)
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Antonio and the other children his age begin their catechism lessons with Father Byrnes that March.... (full context)
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When Antonio reports these rumors of the atomic bomb to Gabriel, he laughs and says the dust... (full context)
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On the day before catechism, Florence asks Antonio difficult questions about sin and fairness. When the other boys arrive, they ask why Florence... (full context)
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...a kinder place, and the only sin of Adam and Eve was wanting more knowledge. Antonio's faith is shaken, and he proposes that maybe God comes in cycles, and maybe when... (full context)
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Antonio and Florence are late to catechism class and Father Byrnes warns Antonio about talking to... (full context)
Chapter 18 (Dieciocho)
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It is Ash Wednesday, and Antonio thinks of his body's mortality and his soul's immortality. He finds school boring compared to... (full context)
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...day. The priest prays near them and his incense is suffocating. Horse passes out onto Antonio. (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Antonio realizes what he must do, and he declares no penance for Florence, and that he... (full context)
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Antonio waits outside the booth, praying and thinking of his sins in the darkness of the... (full context)
Chapter 19 (Diecinueve)
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It is Easter Sunday and Antonio is excited about his first communion. The other kids joke about eating God but Antonio... (full context)
Chapter 20 (Veinte)
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On the last day of school Antonio is still unsatisfied with communion and he still struggles to navigate between the different dreams... (full context)
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Antonio spends more time with Ultima and worries that Tenorio is still after her. Téllez, one... (full context)
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...to go banish the spirits if Gabriel will accept the responsibility for tampering with fate. Antonio comes too. (full context)
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...with juniper branches, and places three bundles onto it. They light it on fire and Antonio wonders if the bundles are the Indian spirits. Gabriel says that this is the way... (full context)
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That night, back in his bed at home, Antonio dreams of his brothers, and they beg him for relief from their restless Márez blood.... (full context)
Chapter 21 (Veintiuno)
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It gets warmer and Antonio and Cico go to see the golden carp again. Antonio is still unsure about God,... (full context)
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The golden carp appears and Antonio feels peaceful and happy at the sight of it. He wonders what god he will... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 22 (Veintidos)
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That night Antonio dreams of three people. At first he thinks that they are his brothers, but actually... (full context)
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Antonio wakes from the nightmare and Ultima gives him a potion. She says he has seen... (full context)
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Gabriel and Antonio talk on the drive to El Puerto. Gabriel says it is good for Antonio to... (full context)
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Antonio asks Gabriel about evil, to which Gabriel responds that most evil is just things people... (full context)
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Antonio has a good month working with his uncles and his nightmares do not bother him... (full context)
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As Pedro is speaking to Antonio, Juan approaches with the news that Tenorio's second daughter has died, and that Tenorio is... (full context)
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Antonio is walking Tenorio suddenly rides up, cursing, and tries to run him over with his... (full context)
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Antonio starts to run the ten miles to Guadalupe, and he thinks of Narciso's last rush... (full context)
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Antonio runs and thinks about the moments of beauty and grief he has experienced, and wonders... (full context)
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...up triumphantly, howling that he has had his revenge. Then he aims his gun at Antonio again, but Pedro shoots him in the stomach and he falls, dead. (full context)
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Antonio sees the owl is dead and looks frantically for Ultima. The others don't understand what... (full context)
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Antonio enters Ultima's room and sees she is dying. He pleads with her to live, but... (full context)
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Antonio kneels and requests a blessing. Ultima asks that he have "the strength to live," and... (full context)
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As he buries the owl, Antonio looks at the moonlit town and thinks about building his own, new dream out of... (full context)