Sometimes understanding life alone is difficult and you need someone to guide you and teach you around life. In Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, the novel portrays the reality of life and how every family has its own set of problems and difficulties. Anaya demonstrates how to gain knowledge and lose innocence by following someone’s footsteps. Throughout the novel, Antonio changes by losing innocence and gaining knowledge through the guidance of Ultima and the death of Florence, while also learning that despite family expectations and cultural differences, he can still find his identity.
Ultima, similar to a mother figure, shows the audience that Antonio is more connected to Ultima then his own mother, showing the way of life and guiding him throughout his rough childhood journey. When Antonio and Ultima are in the hills of the llano, Ultima tells Antonio about the time “‘long before [Antonio] [was] a dream, long before the train came to Las Pasturas, before the Lunas came to their valley, before the great Coronado built his bridge’” (Anaya 40). By introducing Antonio to the history of his ancestors, it helps him decide whose steps he will follow and whose legacy he will continue. A mentor in someone’s life can positively impact and alter a person’s thought process and emotion. In life there will always be the light and the dark side; it only matters about which side someone chooses and how to defeat the enemy. In Antonio’s grandfather’s house Ultima cures Uncle Lucas and demonstrates to Antonio that any evil can be stopped for “‘the smallest bit of good can stand against all the powers of evil in the world’” (Anaya 98). In the world, anything or anyone can be stopped at any moment, sometimes it may be a curse but either way anything evil can be stopped by righteousness. This helps Antonio understand how the world works and how unfair life can be sometimes, by experiencing it first hand alongside Ultima. Nonetheless, Ultima gives Antonio the choice of who to become when he grows up and who to look up to, despite all the negativity around them that both Ultima and Antonio are trying to constantly fight back.
The death of Florence helps Antonio lose innocence and gain knowledge by showing him the flaws of religion and the church. While Florence and Antonio was discussing about angelic ideals Florence stumbled upon “‘God is really as smart as the priest says, then he wouldn’t have needed any of that testing… how do you test a three-year old kid who doesn’t know anything’” (Anaya 196). Although different people have different perspectives on religion and the church, Florence was able to convince Antonio that the Catholic God is not as reliable and pure like everyone says he is. Slowly Antonio is gaining more knowledge that can help him when he grows up, especially because he is understanding so much at such an early stage of life. Antonio did not go to Florence’s funeral because he does not believe in the church anymore. After Florence passed away, “[Antonio] did not go to the funeral. The bells of the church kept ringing and calling, but [Antonio] did not go. The church had not given him communion with God and so he was doomed to his dream-wanderings, like Narciso and Lupito. I felt that there was nothing the church or I could give him now” (Anaya 245). Attending someone’s funeral shows the dead that an individual cares about them and that they will be remembered even if they are six feet under. Antonio has completely lost hope in God and even decides not attending Florence’s funeral.
Despite the family differences in Antonio’s family between his mother and his father, Antonio still manages to discover his true self. When Antonio was born, his family moved to the town of Guadalupe “the move lowered [Antonio’s] father in the esteem of his compadres, the other vaqueros of the llano who clung tenaciously to their way of life and freedom” (Anaya 2). The Marez have an awfully easy going life and any change in their life would give Antonio’s father shame among his friends. On the other hand, Antonio’s mother wants Antonio to have more opportunities when he grows up. The Luna family constantly pushes Antonio to become a priest “[Antonio] thought, that was her dream. [Antonio] was to hold mass on Sundays like father Byrnes” (Anaya 9). Antonio does not want to become a priest when he becomes older because he wants to follow his own destiny and fate and decide what he wants to do. On the other hand, it seems like Antonio’s life path has already been planned out by his own mother. When Antonio becomes older he realizes that he does not need to follow the path that his parents have set for him, and that he could follow his own religion and mindset of life. Although his parents have contrasting cultures, ‘“maybe [Antonio][does]not have to be just Marez, or Luna, perhaps [Antonio] can be both’” (Anaya 247). From the mix of two drastically different cultures Antonio is able to find his identity and be a mix of both. Antonio realizes that he can be a combination of his cultures and still be a version of himself.
Throughout the novel, Antonio changes by losing innocence and gaining knowledge through the guidance of Ultima and the death of Florence, while also learning that despite family expectations and cultural differences, he can still find his identity. Ultima leading Antonio is inspiring because some families do not have the luxury to have a caring mother around their life. Ultima teaches Antonio how life works and how sometimes it can be unfair but one can not do anything about it. Florence shows Antonio how to lose innocence and gain knowledge by showing Antonio the flaws and the faux of the church. When Florence passes away it makes Antonio lose complete hope in God and decides that there will be no good even if he attended the funeral. In spite of the family differences in Antonio’s family between his mother and father, Antonio finds his own path to discover his true self. From the mix of two cultures Antonio realizes that he can be a combination of both his mom and dad while becoming who he wants to be. In life there is a lot to overcome and understand, experiences mold a person’s personality and mindset. While Antonio matures throughout the novel, he receives answers from different people and undergoes a major transformation and losses innocence and gains knowledge.