Bless Me, Ultima is a novel that observes a young boy, Antonio, growing up and being torn in different directions by cultural conflicts. Ultima, a curandera that has come to live with the family, helps guide Antonio through these conflicts. Through the analysis of the way symbolism, allusions, repetition, and structure are used in the novel Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya, it becomes evident that when religions are in conflict, one religion must be chosen in order for an individual to find peace.
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When an individual is torn between religions, one can’t be at peace. This is shown during one of Antonio’s dreams, which is a symbol for his subconscious thoughts. In one of Antonio’s dreams, figures are talking to him by the River of the Carp when they say, “but you have the power of the church, you are the boy-priest! they cried. Or choose from the power of the golden carp or the magic of your Ultima. Grant us rest!” (235). Antonio has to make the decision on which religion to follow. Because he can’t make the decision, he isn’t at peace. In the quote, “grant us rest” is really a symbol for Antonio’s conscience. Antonio is in pain from being caught in the middle of this cultural conflict. In another one of Antonio’s dreams, after three figures in the dream had told Antonio of the falseness of his religions, he exclaims, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” (244). This is an allusion to Christianity, when Jesus was dying on the cross. During this brutal execution, Jesus shouted this quote because he thought his God had turned on him, which would be similar to Antonio’s cultural conflict because Antonio once believed in the Christian God, but feels that he may not be real after all. This conflict of religions causes Antonio much pain. Not being able to choose a religion causes Antonio to feel left out and alone. This is shown when Antonio tries to talk to God and Antonio says, “A thousand questions pushed through my mind, but the Voice within me did not answer” (221). In this passage, “Voice” is capitalized in the same way that God is. This is symbolizing that the voice within oneself is God. Antonio is waiting for an answer from the Voice, but because he can’t choose a religion, the voice never comes. In general, one cannot be at peace when they do not know what they believe in.
One will be at peace if they have found and chosen to believe in the religion best suited for them. A religion must answer questions. Whenever Antonio tries to talk to the Christian God, he never responds. The Golden Carp is a better religion for Tony because it fits his personal needs for knowledge. He doesn’t have any questions when he sees the Golden Carp, unlike the Christian God. This is shown when Cico brings him to the waters of the golden carp. When Antonio sees the carp, he says that “he was beautiful; he was truly a godâ€¦ Seeing him made questions and worries evaporate” (237). Antonio says that the golden carp can eliminate questions. This is what a god was meant to do. Antonio is at peace while believing that this carp is a god. A follower is supposed to be able to look to their god as a caring, forgiving power. When Antonio believes in the carp, that is exactly the case. After watching the golden carp with Cico and suggesting that he and Cico tell Florence of the carp, Antonio says that he could almost hear Florence say, “at last, a god who does not punish, a god who can bring beauty into my life” (238). This shows how Antonio really believed that the carp can bring beauty into one’s life, as a god can. If he is willing to tell Florence about this, Antonio really believed in the carp being a god. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t try to tell Florence that it was. Antonio has peace when he believes in the golden carp, which shows that when one religion is chosen, a person can be at peace. When he is torn between religions, he does not have peace. Generally, when one has a religion to firmly believe in, they are at peace.
If no religion exists that meets ones needs and has the same morals, one must be created. This is necessary because one must choose a religion to be at peace, but there isn’t always a religion to pick. It would be beneficial to create a new religion in these situations. This is shown in another one of Antonio’s dreams. After the world was destroyed in his dream, there was still the golden carp. The golden carp recreates the world while “The moon smiled on him and guided him, and his golden body burned with such beautiful brilliance that he became a new sun in the heavens. A new sun to shine its good light upon the new earth” (176). The carp destroyed all evil and created a new, good earth. The benefits of creating a religion based off of the carp are shown here by saying that the earth is now “good” and there is “good light”. This repetition of the word “good” when talking about new things, signifies that a new religion would be a good thing. A god should be able to rid the world of sins. This is what the golden carp does. While Antonio is following Narciso, it is stated that the “sins of the town would be washed in the waters of the golden carp” (167). Creating a new religion could rid Antonio of his sins, without being punished. This better suits Antonio than the Christian god, allowing Antonio to find peace. When there is no religion meeting one’s needs, one has to be created in order for the individual to find peace.
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Antonio faces these religious conflicts at such a young age, it is hard for him to fully comprehend and understand them fully and make the decision. He must make a decision to find peace. One may argue that one can compromise and combine religions and find peace. This is not true because in one of Antonio’s dreams, the figures clearly state that Antonio must “choose from the power of the golden carp or the magic of your Ultima” (235). This shows that a middle ground or compromise cannot be reached, so one isn’t at peace. When there is a conflict of religions, one must choose a religion to believe in to find peace.
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