Bless Me, Ultima

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The Atomic Bomb Symbol Icon
The atomic bomb is discussed only briefly, but it resonates with the punishing apocalypses of the different religions – the Catholic Hell and the golden carp's destructive flood. That humans could create such a weapon is seen as a sign that they have acquired knowledge meant only for God, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The mention of the bomb also seems to bring the outside world into the small, isolated communities where the novel takes place, and so symbolizes the ominously encroaching modern world.

The Atomic Bomb Quotes in Bless Me, Ultima

The Bless Me, Ultima quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Atomic Bomb. 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 17 (Diecisiete) Quotes

"The atomic bomb," they whispered, "a ball of white heat beyond the imagination, beyond hell - " And they pointed south, beyond the green valley of El Puerto. "Man was not made to know so much," the old ladies cried in hushed, hoarse voices. "They compete with God, they disturb the seasons, they seek to know more than God Himself. In the end, that knowledge they seek will destroy us all - "

Related Symbols: The Atomic Bomb
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:

The atomic bomb appears only briefly in the novel (indeed, only in this passage), but it still acts as an important symbol. Here the people of Guadalupe discuss the rumored testing of atomic bombs in the New Mexican desert—part of the U.S. war effort during World War II (when the novel is set). On one level, this is a rare reminder of the larger outside world beyond the borders of Antonio's home region, and the ominous kind of cultural encroachment that is associated with that world—it is a place of war and danger. The idea of the bomb also connects to the book's common motif of apocalyptic punishment, like the Hell of the Christian God and the flood of the golden carp—a kind of universal punishment from which no one can escape. Lastly, the way the "old ladies" discuss the bomb testing ties it to the theme of forbidden knowledge, especially within a religious context. The scientists developing the bomb are seen as "competing with God" and pursuing knowledge that "man was not made to know." This is a direct echo of the Biblical Adam and Eve story, and the idea Antonio has often heard reinforced, that gaining too much knowledge can only mean sinfulness and punishment.


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The Atomic Bomb Symbol Timeline in Bless Me, Ultima

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Atomic Bomb appears in Bless Me, Ultima. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 17 (Diecisiete)
Punishment and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Knowledge Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
...storms on the llano and the townspeople suspect that they are caused by the hellish atomic bomb , which is being tested out in the desert. The people condemn the bomb as... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Christianity vs. the Supernatural Theme Icon
When Antonio reports these rumors of the atomic bomb to Gabriel, he laughs and says the dust storms are just the way of the... (full context)