AP English Literature
August 3, 2012
Anaya’s Representation of Childhood in Bless Me, Ultima
When we think of childhood, most of us have an image embedded in our minds of a place blessed with ceaseless joy and happiness. It’s a time in our life during which an individual is free of responsibilities but subsequently begins to learn right from wrong. Bless Me, Ultima by Ruldolfo Anaya, however, offers a differing viewpoint on childhood and adolescence; one denoted by an inauguration into adulthood and maturity. Antonio Márez, the protagonist of Bless Me, Ultima, is a six year old boy whose childhood is marked by many conflicts and events that administer a lasting impact on his life. Ruldolfo Anaya, through the character of Antonio and his brothers, presents to the reader a childhood marked by a loss of innocence and progression into adulthood through the development of moral independence, expectations from family and culture of what one has to become in the future, and development of the judgment of what is good and what is evil/or a sin. Through the culmination of these three factors, we can see how Anaya’s representation of childhood contributes to the meaning of this fine piece of literature, which is one of a transition from innocence to experience through moral independence.
A childhood in Rudolfo Anaya’s perspective is portrayed as one that requires a child to effectively face the loss of his/her innocence in order to progress into adulthood. In Bless Me, Ultima, Antonio loses a great deal of his innocence in response to contact with the harsh realities of his surroundings. However, before talking about our main character, Antonio, let’s take a quick look at the impact of the ordeals faced by his brothers into their progression into mature individuals. Leon, Eugene, and Andrew had gone into the battlefields of World War II in order to fight for their country and explore the world beyond their horizons. As they sought to discover what was outside their own worlds, they progressively began to lose their innocence. For instance, after they return back from the war and spend the winter with their family in Guadalupe, Eugene comments that “He [their dad] doesn’t realize we’re grown men now… we fought a war!” to the other brothers (Anaya 70). As we see here, when placed under unrelenting situations of demolition and casualties, the brothers gained a great deal of knowledge and had made the transition from young, naive adolescents to mature men who could now make their own decisions.
Whilst seeing all this, Antonio is also the subject of the author’s portrayal of childhood existing as a stage in one’s life when one begins to mature. Antonio faces many tragedies that begin to chip away at his innocence such as the murder of Lupito right before his eyes. In addition to Lupito’s death, the murder of Narciso is another key moment in Antonio’s life as he has to witness yet another death. This is a crucial part in his transition because he assumes the position of a priest as he prays for Narciso and “knelt [kneels] by his side for a long time” in spite of the fact that he could have gone home (Anaya 179). Here, he initiates the development of his moral independence as he willingly chooses to stay however long he pleases. Although the deaths of Lupito and Narciso progress him farther and farther into matureness, Antonio’s loss of innocence is incomplete without the accidental drowning of Florence. Being one of Antonio’s closest friends, the death of Florence strikes a tough blow to his morale as he begins to question whether or not he can believe in God, but realizes death is just a mystery bound to occur. This coming-of-age gives Antonio a lot of self-confidence which is used to face upcoming struggles. Both Antonio and his brothers faced the trials of losing their innocence and stepped into adulthood. Although this representation of childhood by Anaya may be criticized by many who see it as a...