Jason's Reviews > Bless Me, Ultima

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
May 06, 2012

Rudolpho Anaya’s, Bless Me, Ultima, is considered a classic of Chicano literature. The book is set in New Mexico in the 1940’s during World War II. The story is told from the point of view of a six-year-old boy. The book is a coming of age story of Antonio, as he struggles with identity issues, direction for the future, and tragedies in his life. Tony is torn between two worlds – the world of his mother and the world of his father. His mother wants him to grow up and be an educated priest – something none of his three older brothers have done. His father values the freedom of the land and would rather have all of his sons helping him work the land. Torn between these competing voices, Tony finds solace with an elderly lady who comes to live with them. She is the hero of the novel and the main adult who mentors Tony. Her name is Ultima, and her true identity is an element of suspense for the novel.

The main story line for the novel is that Tony is about to begin school – the first grade. As he goes to school, he associates with other boys, he learns to read, and gains more experience. The main dramatic story line involves Ultima. One of Tony’s uncles is sick from a curse, and none of the leaders including the priest can heal him. Ultima goes, along with Tony, to cure this man from his disease. Once she does, the chain of dramatic events unfolds, as Ultima gains friends and enemies from her deed. Tony is caught in the middle of the events. The storylines alternate between Tony’s schooling and the dramatic events involving Ultima. This alternative gives a good pacing to the novel.

Throughout the novel, Tony experiences several dramatic events including five witnessed deaths. As he gets older he has many questions about religion including questions about justice, death, and punishment. One of Tony’s main goals is to have his first communion. He hopes by having communion that many of his questions will be answered. He eventually begins his catechism lessons and goes to mass, but the outcome is not what he wanted.

The protagonist of the story is Tony. He is a young boy who is visibly different from the other boys in school. First of all, he is a Latino while most of the other boys are Anglo. So he does not fit in well. But for the boys he is with most of the time, they act ridiculous like young boys would act. Tony is a precocious boy and mature for his age. He has deep questions that are more advanced than a normal child’s curious nature. The character of Tony borders on being unrealistic for his age since most children are not so eloquent to be able to narrate a first person novel and ask questions beyond his age. But as the story unfolds and as Tony comes in contact with these other boys his age, it becomes clear that Tony is special. The events Tony encounters in this novel have a great impact on him. And as he deals with these events, he struggles to find his true identity. He leans on Ultima who blesses him in the end. But whether or not Tony will be a priest is left for the reader to decide based on events in the novel. For a coming of age story filled with drama and childhood issues, this story is first rate.
2 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Bless Me, Ultima.
Sign In »

No comments have been added yet.