“Of all things I took with me [from my childhood on the prairie], I value most a kind of double vision: Antonio’s double vision of his life is always questioned throughout the novel Bless Me Ultima. Maynard’s life on the prairie in Canada and Antonio’s life in Guadalupe, New Mexico were in some ways similar and others different. They both have altered ways of responding to life and cultural visions that influence the culture on identity in Bless Me Ultima. The novel examines the difficulty of adjusting to conflicting cultural traditions.
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As Antonio grows he matures more and after a few teachings with Ultima, Tony learns about the conflicting cultures. Anaya suggests that a person can draw from several different cultural traditions to merge into one more complex and adaptable cultural of identity. “I had been afraid of the awful presence of the river, which was the soul of the river, but through her I learned that my spirit shared in the spirit of all things. ” The first major conflict involves his parents.
His Luna mother wishes for him to become a priest, while his Marez father wishes for him to ride the llano. Each parent has deeply rooted cultural convictions. Antonio himself can relate to the certain knowledge that is beyond human control as he learns to deal with many circumstances growing up. For example, the barbarous murder of Lupito, and he must learn to bear them as does Maynard growing up Jewish in Christian towns in Canada. “‘Hell, Andy,’ Gene said softly, ‘we can’t build our lives on their dreams. We’re men, Andy; we’re not boys any longer.
We can’t be tied down to old dreams-” This was said as Antonio wakes up in the morning to the murder of Lupito, the effect on the reader is as Antonio is maturing his thoughts and visions on different matters of life mature as well. Blessings come to those who search for them and Antonio spends the duration of the novel, Bless Me Ultima, and longer to determine his true destiny. Antonio is so eager to find a single, definitive answer to the questions that haunt him because he has been influenced by many conflicting cultures.
Many characters in the book are bound by their cultural prejudices and never learn to look beyond their own assumptions. For example, Narciso being the town drunk they refuse to acknowledge his traumatic disease of alcoholism that might play a part in his psychological state of mind. Narciso is not always respected because has a reputation for being the town drunk, yet he is the voice of reason and moderation when the townsmen pursue to murder Lupito.
Antonio and Maynard both appreciate their outlooks on life, religion, and culture, and of all the things Antonio takes with him throughout his journey in Bless Me Ultima, the most valued is Antonio’s knowledge of what Ultima has exposed to him, the various aspects of nature leading to a better understanding of the world around him, the people surrounding him, and most importantly, his culture and religious understandings of who Antonio is as a man. Maynard in Canada and Antonio in Guadalupe can both relate to feeling like a “fish out of water” compared with Antonio’s Catholic town.
Antonio cannot dare to be narrow, he must be open-minded about different belief systems such as the Golden Carp, a magical religious order not connected to Catholicism, the Catholic Church dominated by female imagery, by concentrating on the Virgin Mary, or instead choose through his relationship with Ultima, a oneness with nature, with no value judgments. Maynard also growing up a small Jewish girl in Christian towns in Canada cannot be narrow and instead must be open-minded to the different thought and belief systems in her surrounding environment.
Upon Ultima’s passing, Antonio learns a great deal from his teachings with Ultima about a man’s destiny and his dreams as Antonio was talking to his third grade teacher Miss. Violet he speaks to her and he said “There are so many dreams to be fulfilled, but Ultima says a man’s destiny must unfold itself like a flower, with only the sun and the earth and water making it blossom, and no one else meddling in it-” The effect on the reader is that as Antonio’s destiny cannot be controlled, and as Maynards or any man or woman’s destiny cannot be controlled they still must fight for their dreams and their destiny and must learn to fulfill it.
The things that “must be borne” are the events in Maynard’s and Antonio’s life that were not under their control. Maynard and Antonio both being of conflicting religions was a great aspect of both their lives that was not under their control, and must learn to choose and make decisions for themselves, as to where they choose their destiny to lie. Ultima, although she comes from an indigenous mystical tradition, she openly acknowledges the value of the Catholic faith. She also encourages Antonio to draw from the conflicting sets of idea’s that define his outlook. Learning the importance f tolerance marks Antonio’s growth, especially as he begins to realize that some religions may be better suited to some people than to others, as Florence is seemingly better suited toward the faith of the golden carp than to Catholicism. In conclusion, Antonio was Catholic; however, he was exposed to many things throughout his life, all leaving him with questions, as does Maynard must have lived with questions throughout her life. Her journey and Antonio’s can be paralleled in various aspects of both of their lives, such as their upbringing and the fact that they both appreciated much of the same things throughout their lives.
Towards the end of Bless Me Ultima Antonio realizes after the passing of Ultima that “Sometime in the future I would have to build my own dream out of those things that were so much a part of my childhood. ” The effect on the reader is that not only Antonio but even Maynard will also have to build her dreams as she chooses her own destiny, to build her own life. A sense of a double vision is what they both underwent. They both had to deal with different stages and events in their lives that were beyond their control but, searched for the answers as blessings are only given to those who delve for it.