Gender Roles in Bless Me, Ultima
In Bless Me, Ultima Antonio understands gender as a very black and white issue. Just as he struggles with the ideas of religion, good and evil, death, and nature. Antonio struggles with how gender affects his life, and how he eventually must become a man.
The most obvious example of Antonio’s perspective on gender roles comes with his view of the Virgin and God. “God was not always forgiving. He made laws to follow and if you broke them you were punished. The Virgin always forgave…The Virgin was full of a quiet, peaceful love…she was a woman…Her voice was sweet and gentle…” (44). Antonio believes firmly that The Virgin is the most pure form of woman. He prays at her feet every night in his living room. At one point, he notices that the paint on the statue is chipping, revealing a layer of white underneath. He uses this to indicate that she is pure in every form. Whenever Antonio thinks about religion, he thinks about the Virgin, and how forgiving she is, and how kind she is. Later on in the book, as he is considering if there can be other types of Gods, Antonia wonders if The Virgin is her own kind of God, and that is better because she is a woman and will understand more easily.
Antonio is constantly reminded of the fact that he must become a man. His mother is worried, and his father is counting down the days. But no one seems to be giving him much of a choice. He will be educated, he will be a priest, he will be a farmer, he will be a Luna, he will be a Márez… “My man of learning!... 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.” (53). Antonio is never allowed to be anything but a man of learning. Even in his times of struggle with the issue of becoming a man, Ultima is there to help him. She has no doubt that he will become a good man...