Bless Me Ultima Essay Conclusion Structure

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Bless Me, Ultima by James Brunelle
Instructor:  Jackie Kogan
Write a 3-4 page essay in response to the novel, Bless Me, Ultima, by Rodolfo Anaya.  Discuss the novel in terms of one of its characters.
Rhetorical Elements
 Process Analysis
 Point of View
 Opposing View

Structural Elements
 Thesis statement
 Thesis development
    Supporting Details
 Topic Sentence
 In-text citations
MLA Works Cited

Stylistic Elements
 Word Choice
 Sentence Variety
 Active/Passive Voice
 Effective Repetition
 Figures of Speech
     Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya, is a coming-of-age story that revolves around a young boy named Antonio. In this story, Antonio is torn between three destinies. His mother wants him to become a priest while his father wants him to explore and be free; then along comes Ultima. Ultima, an old woman who works with herbs and magical powers, comes to visit Antonio and hisfamily on the Ilano. With her, she brings her magic, her views, and her perspectives on life--and she has chosen to pass these things down to Antonio before she dies.
     It is clear throughout the story that both Ultima and Antonio have magical powers. It is unclear, however, if Antonio's powers have been given to him or lent to him from Ultima, or if he has had the magic inside of him from the very beginning. Antonio's dreams seem to foretell the future. From the very beginning, Antonio sees Ultima by his mother's side while he was being bom in a dream. Antonio's dreams seem to foreshadow several events in this novel.
     Up to the point where Ultima visits, Antonio has it in his mind that it is his destiny to become a priest. He is to follow his mother's belief system, which consists of strict, traditional rules; Antonio's mother is Catholic, and she practices her religion very strictly. This belief system is shaken when Antonio not only witnesses, but becomes a part of, Ultima's cure for Uncle Lucas. Uncle Lucas is dying, and the Priest's past attempts to save him had failed. So, the family turns to Ultima as a last resort. Ultima agrees to treat him, but requests Antonio come with her. During the cure, Antonio experiences weird feelings, most of these feelings painful and unpleasant. It is like he has taken some of the burden of the pain off of Uncle Lucas, helping him overcome his illness. Ultima's cure ends up saving Lucas' life, and Antonio isn't only there to witness it, but actually becomes a part of it. Because the Priest failed where Ultima did not, this really shakes Antonio's whole belief system: "The power of the doctors and the power of the church had failed to cure my uncle. Now everyone depended on Ultima's magic. Was it possible that there was more power in Ultima's magic than in the priest? "(103). At this point, Antonio begins to doubt his destiny of becoming a priest.
     Later on, Antonio learns the story about the golden carp from another boy his own age. Antonio sees the golden carp, which means he is one of the magical people in the town. Not everyone can see the golden carp; the golden carp is considered a pagan god:  "The golden carp is my god, Tony. He will rule the new waters. I will be happy to be with my god. It was unbelievable, and yet it made a wild kind of sense!  All the pieces fitted! "(124).
     At this point in time, Antonio is searching for answers to his many questions about life and what happens afterwards. So far, the church is not providing answers to his questions, but Antonio thinks his First Communion will cause him to know the answers to all of his questions. The carp seems to make more sense to Antonio, but he is not ready to believe in that yet; he will wait for his First Communion. Antonio knows that he is special since he can see the golden carp, and that is it going against his church and his entire destiny if he chooses this path. He cannot both become a priest and believe in the golden carp.
     When Antonio receives his First Holy Communion, and his questions are not answered, he is extremely disappointed: "After Easter I went to confession every Saturday and on Sunday morning I took communion, but I was not satisfied.  The God I so eagerly sought was not there, and the understanding I thought to gain was not there " (235). This is the last nail in the coffin for his future priesthood. At this point, Antonio is looking to the belief system involved with the golden carp.
     So, what does all of this have to do with Ultima passing her powers down to Antonio before she dies? In every instance mentioned here, Ultima moves Antonio one step closer to her belief system, and it is necessary for Antonio to accept Ultima's belief system in order for him to receive her powers. When Antonio becomes part of Uncle Lucas' cure, his absolute certainty that he will become a priest goes away since the Priest failed where Ultima had not. When Antonio learns about the golden carp, this presents a new idea about religion into his life.
     The fact that his First Holy Communion failed to bring about answers to his questions further weakens his ties to the church and further strengthens his belief in the golden carp. Ultima then has Antonio exactly where she wants him. Ultima sees the big picture; she recognizes that all the belief systems have the same thing in common and that you need to approach problems in life with an open mind. You cannot work with Ultima's magic with a closed mind or a fixed belief system. She has to break Antonio's strong ties with the church and introduce something new in his life in order for her to achieve this.
     Antonio will carry on Ultima's work. Antonio will see the entire picture, instead of just the blinded, closed-minded views of a particular religion, which will allow him to use Ultima's magic. Antonio will always have more questions than answers. Antonio will become Ultima's successor.

Anaya, Rudolfo. Bless Me Ultima. New York: Warner Books, 1972.

Writing Task

Essay 1 "Bless Me Ultima" by James Brunelle

1.    In the opening paragraph, Brunelle states: “Antonio is torn between three destinies.”  In your own words, describe these “three destinies.”

2.    How many times is the “golden carp” mentioned in the essay?  What is a “golden carp”?

3.    What does Brunelle mean when he says: “He [Antonio] cannot become a priest and believe in the golden carp” (paragraph 2)?

4.    In what way could Ultima’s magic be considered similar to Christianity?  In what way is it different?

5.    What do you think the name “Ultima” implies?

Long before J.K. Rowling sent Harry Potter off to Hogwarts, Rudolfo Anaya penned a novel about magic, witches, ghosts, a young boy growing up, and an awesome pet owl.

Published in 1972, Bless Me, Ultima follows the trials and tribulations of Antonio "Tony" Márez as he tries to find his way in the world. He is about to start school, learn a new language (English), meet a whole new group of children, and begin his religious studies as he moves towards taking his First Holy Communion. He's guided on his journey by Ultima, a wise curandera—think part medicine woman, part Episode IV-era Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Bless Me, Ultima delves deep into the family life, religious beliefs, and conflicting pasts of Chicano culture. In the novel, we see the struggle between Spanish heritage and Native American heritage; the desire for the younger generation to be a part of America, while the older generation struggles to hold onto traditions of the past; and a universal story of a young boy taking his first steps towards manhood. Add to that the fact that it stars characters you can relate to, incredibly funny moments mixed with heartbreaking tragedy, and all the magic you could hope for, and you'll see why many consider it to be one of the most important works of Chicano literature ever written. Ever.

While it stands out as a major work of fiction, Bless Me, Ultima is only one in a long line of big-time novels from Anaya, who has won multiple awards including the Premio Quinto Sol National Chicano literary award, the 2007 Notable New Mexican Award, and the PEN Center USA West Award for Fiction (source).

So why is Rudolfo racking up all these accolades? A lot of reasons, we think. For one thing, there's just something about landscapes and the Southwest, don't you think? Many of the best novels dealing with that region of the country manage to make the surrounding land a character in the book, and Bless Me, Ultima rivals any in that regard. The llano lives and breathes and shapes the culture that springs up around it. This has made the Bless Me, Ultima a mainstay in Southwestern Literature courses.

But, this isn't just a regional novel. People from all over can tap into that time in their youth when they saw their lives stretching out in front of them, and for the first time they knew they wanted to choose their own direction, take charge of their own fate. Bless Me Ultima's ability to hit on themes and moments that ring true for so many people is why it shows up on must-read lists and why it hit the silver screen in 2012.

Lists and films aside, though, it's just plain old good reading that touches on the struggles of a young boy, an entire culture, and anybody who has ever tried to find their own way in the world. Pick it up, and Shmoop guarantees you won't be disappointed.

You ever get tired of people telling you what to do? Parents, teachers, and that annoying guy at work who thinks he knows everything all seem to want to plan your life for you—or at the very least your next fifteen minutes. Even if they mean well, you know that you've reached the point when you want to start making some of your own decisions. Well, that very issue rests at the center of Bless Me, Ultima.

Antonio finds himself torn between his mother's dreams of his becoming a farmer-priest and his father's desire for his sons to wander to the West with him, between Catholicism and the old gods, between Spanish and English, between his heritage and his future, and a whole lot of other stuff. There are major forces pulling at Antonio and trying to send him down a particular path, but deep down he wants to find answers on his own and choose his own course life.

Which he can totally do—it just might not be as simple a task as he'd like. Even though he's quite young, he's advanced for his age. He has major questions that he wants answers to, but he soon discovers that sometimes the answers simply don't exist. It's something we all face as we start to make our way through life. It's like that first time you realize that not everything adults say is true. It shakes you up, but it makes you realize that you can start to figure things out on your own. That just because they don't have the answers doesn't mean you don't.

Once you connect with Antonio's struggle to grow up and find a little independence, you'll get the added bonus of magic, witchcraft, revenge, and the dreaded first day of school. You also get to witness an exorcism that would give Emily Rose and Linda Blair a run for their money. Plus there's that owl that will rip out a man's eye if he's unjust. Bonus!


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