Bless Me Ultima, a book by Rudolfo A. Anaya, is about a young boy named Antoniowho comes of age through troubling ordeals throughout the book.
He is aided in this journey bya curandera named Ultima, who teaches Tony many life lessons. Anaya uses animals to symbolizeintangible attributes such as good and evil. Representing Ultima, he uses the owl, which serves asthe good character, while the coyote represents evil, portrayed by Tenorio. The Golden Carp is asymbol of Tonys uncertainty toward religion and morality.
Anayas portrayal of these mysticalcharacteristics shapes Tonys ascent into manhood.The need for good is represented by the owl, which symbolizes Ultima. The symbolicvalue of the owl is seen early in the story when Tony calls it Ultimas owl (12).Tony is awareof the presence of the owl because he heard the owl cry its warning before the death of Lupito(14).
This foreshadowing of events occurs throughout the book, and shows the magical powersTony believed to belong to the owl / Ultima. Because of these powers Tonys life is veryconfusing and unstable. The owl also proves to be a savior to Antonios family when it pouncedon the coyotes while Ultima and Tony are helping Uncle Lucas (92). Tony realizes that in orderto be successful, he must heed the warnings that come to him through nature, and his dreams. Helearns that he must put himself in vulnerable positions, like the owl who risks its life, to helpothers.
Evil, on the other hand, is symbolized by coyotes and the character of Tenorio. BeforeTenorio is involved in the story, there is no mention of the wickedness of the coyotes, but once heshows up, theyre constantly on the side of evil. Tony refers to Tenorios friends as a ring ofcoyotes around him (83).
A unique perspective differentiates Tony from the other characters inthe story. Once an idea is implanted into his mind, it remains there in his subconscious. Later inthe story he even calls the coyotes Tenorios — He ran to find refuge behind two of his coyotes(124).
In times of death Tony also mentions the circling of hawks (104, 231). Even if this isjust coincidence, Tony finds it important that scavengers be associated to the evil deedscommitted. The connection that Tony makes between animals that live off the misfortune ofothers, and Tenorio, who holds vengeance toward others, is another step towards his realizationof the world.The Golden Carp represents all the questions Tony has about religion and morality.Tonys confusion is due to conflicting forces in both these aspects of life. When Cico firstintroduces the Carp to Tony, he is forced to make a tough decision — Do you believe the GoldenCarp is a god? — which he skillfully evades until he has the information he wants to make hisdecision (99).
After the emergence of the Carp, Tony begins to question his Catholic upbringing,and he wonders why God punishes people. Florence, his atheist friend, explains his philosophytoward religion, and this pulls Tony even farther away from priesthood, which he desired at theoutset of the story. Tonys exclamation Seeing him made questions and worries evaporate… isa good example of how his beliefs shifted drastically in this short period due to his coming of age(227). By the end of the book Tony is interested in not which is the right god, rather how hemust live his life to satisfy his own beliefs.
Anaya uses animals to help Tony ease through the process of maturing, which Tony isforced to do in a short period. The animals help young Tony express his feelings through amedium that relates to both the reader and Tony. Because of all the violence and death, Tonysperspective is different, as a young child, then other children his age. Symbolism is the key tounderstanding the thoughts occurring in Tonys mind, while he is experiencing things for the firsttime in his own unique way.