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Bless Me Ultima 2

Oct 08, 1999 1723 Words
Children believe what their parents tell them but as they get older they start to question that which used to be unquestionable. Bless Me, Ultima is a novel by Rudolfo Anaya about a young Chicano boy, Antonio Juan Marez y Luna, who is growing up and seeing the world for how cruel it really is. A wise old curandera, or faith healer, Ultima, arrives just before Tony receives his first glimpse into the world of men. Ultima gives Tony spiritual healing throughout the book, as well as advice to keep him in harmony with nature and his spirit. The more Tony sees of death in the little town of Guadalupe, New Mexico, the more he questions the Christian God and turns towards the golden carp, a pagan god of the river. Rudolfo Anaya is indicating that each man must choose his own religion and destiny, by depicting the changes Tony feels after the deaths of Lupito, Narciso and Florence. Beforehand, Tony never questioned his faith but as each person died Tony turned farther and farther away from Catholicism and eventually even away from the pagan religion. Tony questioned his destiny and effectiveness as a priest, had doubts of the Catholic God and eventually of everything he had ever believed in, as Anaya shows that one strict religion isn’t always the right way or the only way. The first step in Tony’s spiritual journey is when he questions his family’s long-standing belief in the Catholic religion and his own destiny to follow their dreams of him becoming a priest. Tony doubts his abilities as a priest, even though he is not one, because his mother dreams for him to become a priest. Subsequently, he believes that he should have been able to save Lupito’s soul from wandering the river, because he will one day be required to. Whereas, “A priest could have saved Lupito.” (23), Tony feels guilty that he wasn’t able to fulfill his duty even though it wasn’t his. This shows that the destiny at first laid out by Catholicism may not be the one that is best suited to Tony. By not saving Lupito or his soul, the town Tony lives in is no longer pure in his eyes. The river is the lifeline of the town and once it is stained then the town will also be tainted with the murder of Lupito. Tony asks, “How would I ever wash away the stain of blood from the sweet waters of my river!” (23), and in doing so also questions why God puts such obstacles in the paths of innocent people. The Catholic God, it seems, is cruel and not as perfect as possibly believed. By growing up and becoming a man, boys witness acts of sin and commit a few acts themselves. Tony has witnessed sin but he is not a man because he has not committed any sins or seen enough to really understand the world he is living in. Tony is taught that, “It was a sin to grow up and be a man.” (31), by listening to his mother, and realizes that one day he would be grown up and lose his innocence to become a man. Because of this Tony sees how cruel God can be by putting boys on earth to grow up and become men. Tony asks whether his destiny and faith are the ones he wants to believe in and begins his journey towards changing his spiritual beliefs, and the golden carp only reinforces these doubts that Tony is just beginning to realize.

The next step in Tony’s spiritual journey begins when Tony sees another god and wonders whether this god is any kinder to his people than God. Tony believed that God should have forgiven Narciso for his sins and not Tenorio because Tony was partial to Narciso. God is not partial and when he gives forgiveness to one man he must also give it to another, but Tony does not like this. God’s response was “I will...if you also ask me to forgive Tenorio.” (173) Tony can’t believe that his God would think of forgiving an evil man like Tenorio. Once Narciso dies and Tony sees the beauty of the golden carp Tony starts to wonder even more whether God is really as good and wonderful as Tony has been taught he is. Tony starts to doubt and question the God that before had been unquestionable, showing that maybe what is first believed isn’t always right. Tony has “...doubted the Lord!” (174) because he starts to think that maybe the golden carp is a better god. Tony starts to see the golden carp as a new god, and a way to bring goodness to the people by shining its light upon the earth. The sun is a symbol of God because the sun brings life and joy to everything and can also be cruel and harsh. When there is a new sun, there is a new god that will shine a light upon the people and hopefully enlighten them to what they’re doing wrong, but it will also bring with it new cruelty’s that Tony does not foresee. With “A new sun to shine its good light upon a new earth.” (176) comes an ending and a new beginning for Tony to show that all things must come to an end, even beliefs. As Tony is jolted by the death of Narciso he doubts whether God exists and in doing so questions whether his beliefs of God have ever been justified. Tony’s final spiritual step has him questioning whether there really is a God because the religions he knows seem to be based on gods who don’t reply. Tony’s faith is being destroyed by the realization that the old gods and their religions are dying. God and the golden carp are both old gods and when they are gone Tony has nothing left to believe in because there will be no god. In Tony’s dream, he believes “The old gods are dying...” (244) because he sees Cico kill the golden carp, whereas in real life Cico was like a preacher of the golden carp. The death of the gods confirms the idea that religions come and go and therefore no religion is right. Also, if there is no God in heaven to bear Tony’s burden then Tony must bear it himself and he cannot live with the thought of what men do. Men, while powerless and insignificant, create so many problems that they can’t solve and, like Tony, they need a God to help bear the burden. If there is “ ... no God in heaven to bear my burden...” (243) then Tony must bear the weight of the towns sins on his shoulders. As a result any religion that would put such weight on one person can’t be the right religion. Tony once believed in the powers of God and he then learned that God did not always forgive and he could be cruel and mean. Narciso’s death showed Tony that God could not forgive because then he would have to forgive everyone and Tony could not accept that. After seeing the golden carp Tony believed in the carp as a possible god, but Florence’s drowning in the home of that god shattered that perfect vision. The golden carp should have been able to save Florence, but he didn’t, so Tony no longer could believe in the golden carp as a shining example of a god. The destruction of Tony’s faith in those religions resulted in him confessing, “Everything I believed in was destroyed.” (244). Anaya shows that no religion is perfect in the obliteration of all of Tony’s faiths. There is nothing left that Tony believes in so he sees that he must believe in the magic and power of Ultima, because it has always been true to him. In life people go through many different changes but spiritual changes are often the hardest on the person themself because it changes their whole belief system. Tony went through several changes spiritually in such a short time that at the end of the novel he doesn’t believe in anything. Anaya shows that the religion at first thought to be perfect may not be, because there are so many different religions to choose from and not one of them is completely correct. Tony was introduced to a curandera and was trained by her as well, which leads the reader to believe that a new religion may come out of the dust and ashes of the old beliefs, following in the teachings of a curandera. Tony could not accept the fact that God was cruel and harsh, or that the golden carp could not have saved Florence even though the river was its home, in spite of the fact that his parents and friends believed deeply in these powers and still put all their faith in them. Ultima, it seems, is all that is left to believe in, because she has always been truthful, and protective. The vengeance that Tony wants on Tenorio is God’s alone; however, with a new religion following in Ultima’s practices Tony could punish Tenorio if he was still alive, and have vengeance for the deaths of his friends and not be punished for it because Tony would only be killing a witch. All humans must change and because they must, the world they live in, including their religions, must change with them or be lost in time. The Catholic religion failed to change into what Tony needed, and so did the pagan religion, so he stopped belieiving in them; however he saw Ultima’s religion as a new unchartered way that he could create himself. At the end of Tony’s spiritual journey he finds himself lost in a world that is prophesied to end and without a true belief in anything.

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