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Free Study Guide-Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER 14

Summary (continued)

In the kitchen, his mother embraces him. Ultima notices he has blood on him. He tells them Narciso is dead. Ultima carries him out of the room. He tells Ultima Narciso was coming to warn her about Tenorio. He tells her he gave confession. He shouts the scene of the murder over and over, thinking he will purge the fever by doing so. He loses track of time. At one point, he sees the doctor from town. At another point, he sees Andrew. Ultima is always near him. "It was a long night, during which the nightmares, like a herd of wild horses, trampled through my dreams. Strange scenes whirled in my ocean of pesadilla (nightmare), and each one seemed to drown me with its awful power."

Antonio dreams he sees Andrew and the woman at Rosie's holding each other and dancing while Narciso knocks on the door. She is naked and her long hair envelopes Andrew and keeps him from getting to the door. He calls out Andrew's name. He asks God to forgive him. God answers, "I am not a God of forgiveness!" Antonio begs God to hear him and God says he will not hear anyone who has not communed with Him. He adds that Andrew has sinned with whores and will go to hell for eternity.

Antonio objects that he will be God's priest. God says He has no priests who have golden idols before Him. Antonio sees Narciso's face among flames. He calls out to God to forgive Narciso. God replies that He will do so only if Antonio also asks Him to forgive Tenorio. Antonio objects that Tenorio has done evil and God laughs. Then he hears the soft voice of the Virgin saying she will forgive Tenorio. Antonio objects that she should intercede for Narciso instead. She smiles and says she forgives all. He wants her to punish Tenorio. He hears the laughter again. God calls him a fool who is caught in his own trap. He adds that Antonio wants a god who will forgive all, but then when his personal whims dictate it, he wants punishment for his vengeance. Antonio asks for forgiveness for his sins.

The flames part and he sees the blood of Narciso flow into a river and mix with the blood of Lupito. The people of the town are drawn by the sweet smell of the blood which they say is a cure-all. The mob chants, "taste but one drop of the blood of la curandera and the key to heaven is assured." They call for Ultima's blood. They form a caravan across the bridge and walk toward the hill. At the head of the caravan three men are led by three women who drive them with whips. They call him like his brothers always did. They ask for his help. They tell him they followed neither God nor the pagan god and did not believe in the magic of Ultima. They ask for his blessing and forgiveness. He is helpless. He tells them he is not a priest and that he too has sinned in doubting God. They persist and so he holds his bloodied hands out to touch them.


He feels the cloven hoofs of animals and when he looks up he sees the three Trementina sisters. They say the spell that cured Lucas went through his body. They add the his name lent strength to the curse that killed one of them. They vow revenge on him. They cut his hair with rusty scissors and mix it with bats' blood. They pour the mixture along with the insides of a toad into a bowl. The toad is the animal that opposes Antonio in life. Its touch makes him sick. They drink the mixture.

Antonio sees his body withering away. His mother begins her mourning wail. Ultima sits by powerless. A priest rubs holy oil on him and prays. "A long dark night came upon me in which I sought the face of God, but I could not find Him." The Virgin and Saint Anthony will not look at him. He has died without the Eucharist and is cursed. He stands in front of the doors of Purgatory and his bleached bones are laid to rest.

The Trementina sisters lead the caravan onto the hill of the Maréz house. The kids of the gang try run but are captured an put in chains. The girls--Rita, Agnes, Lydia, Ida, and June--are also caught and put in chains. The young faces get wrinkled and grow old. The people burn the house. His father, mother, and sisters die in the flames. The Trementinas kill the owl and make Ultima powerless. They behead her and drink her blood. They tie her to a post and drive stake through her heart and then burn her. They catch the carp and cook it in the fires of Ultima's ashes and eat it.

There is thunder and an earthquake. The church building crumbles and the school collapses and the whole town disappears. The people are afraid. The Trementinas tell them not to be afraid because they are on the holy hill land and are saved. The people laugh and keep eating the carp. The wind blows and the sun turns red. The people's skin begins to rot and fall off. The rotting smell fills the air.

In the end, no one is left. The goats "look in innocence at the death camp of the people." The farmers of El Puerto come and stir the ashes. They gather them and bury them in the holy ground of their fields in El Puerto. Evening comes and the stars come out. The golden carp appears in the lake. He has seen everything that has happened and he has decided that everyone should survive, but in a new form. He opens his mouth and swallows everything there is, both good and evil. He swims into the blue velvet of the night. The moon guides him. He becomes the new sun in the heavens. "A new sun to shine its good light upon a new earth."

Notes

A great deal happens in this chapter: Antonio participates in a carnival version of the nativity drama, he sees his brother Andrew has been visiting prostitutes, he watches Tenorio kill Narciso, he survives being killed himself by chance, and he has a dream vision of the end of the world and the beginning of the new world. It represents a turning point in the book. Antonio's faith is tested and, in his dream at least, he resolves to believe in a new kind of god, one which encompasses all the elements of both systems of belief but which does not punish the people for sinning.

One of Antonio's preoccupations in his growing up years has been how to be a man. He learns this by watching and emulating those he admires. For instance, he emulates his father and Narciso who stood their ground to defend Ultima before the lynch party when he stands his ground before the boys at school who call her a witch. Aside from standing one's ground, Antonio also gets mixed messages about what a man should do. Samuel tells him his father's theory of how a man handles revenge. According to him, it is in the blood. To be complete, a man has to take revenge. Andrew considers arguing a trait of women. The men of the novel often refer to other men as women when they want to call them weak and cowardly. Samuel sees that men remain men when they get drunk and argue. The Luna men do not take revenge. They attempt to live in harmony with the good and the bad. Antonio will have to choose which path he wants to take towards manhood.

The school play becomes a sort of carnival of the real thing. The carnival turns everything upside down: what is serious becomes comic, girls' parts become boys' parts, the body's functions are no longer hidden away, the lowest of the boys--Bones--gets the highest spot in the play, the reverence toward the founding of Christianity is mocked by the jubilant cries of children yelling "Merry Christmas! ¡Chingada!" Anaya often uses the boys to carnivalize the seriousness of the church. They do not take it seriously. They mock it and recognize its blind spots.

Antonio notices the division between the town and the llano at the bridge. The town contains all that is sinful and all that departs from reverence toward truth and beauty. Even the religion of the town is degraded. It has become codified and rigidified so that it lacks true answers to Antonio's questions. Its main spokespeople are Ernie and Floyd who make a habit of pronouncing who is sinning and who will be punished but have no love or understanding in their hearts. The town intrudes upon the llano when Lupito is murdered, when the men attempt to lynch Ultima, and now when Tenorio threatens her again. Antonio wonders if it is futile to attempt to hold it back.

In this chapter, Antonio makes his second confession. He confesses Narciso, however, much more fully than he did Lupito, because he hears Narciso's sins and he recites the Act of Contrition over him. What Antonio does here would be considered a sin by the church since it is a sacrament that only a priest can perform. He is using the consolations of the church when he needs them, but he is not conforming to orthodoxy, a practice that will help him if he is to be the priest of a new sort of religion.

Antonio's dream contains all his fears and so can be read as a resolution or a manifestation of his waking thoughts, but it is also a prophetic dream. It is his dark night of the soul, a time of great doubt when the saint or prophet must face the pain of temptation and doubt. In his dream, he sees his brothers led by the Trementina sisters. In this image, he collapses the idea of that his brothers were entrapped by prostitutes into sinning with the idea that the Trementinas are feminine forces of evil. They ask Antonio to act as a priest on their behalf and he cannot help them. The procession made up of all the people of the town who Antonio has been told are sinners invade the llano, which Antonio sees as pure and innocent. In this invasion, the logic of Antonio's dream writes the invasion of adult knowledge into Antonio's child's mind.

The dream's prophecy has Ultima dying along with everyone else. She is killed in all the ways Antonio has heard of witches being killed: beheaded, staked through the heart, and burned. Before she is killed, her owl is killed. Its death shows on her since they are linked to each other. Her blood becomes something like the blood of Christ, a purifying and healing agent.

It is an apocalypse followed by a new order. The new order is ruled by Atonatiuh (sun of water) who accepts both good and evil and forgives all.

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