Bless Me, Ultima

Discuss the family structure in the novel

in the book bless me ultima

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Antonio’s relationships with his brothers, his parents, and his uncles are extremely significant throughout the novel. Because Antonio comes from such a tightly-knit family, he feels a great deal of pressure coming from every side when it comes to determining his future. While his mother and his Luna uncles want him to become a farmer priest like their side of the family, his father and Marez uncles want him to become a vaquero like them. Antonio feels an obligation correspond to these desires, but he also wants to follow in the footsteps of his older brothers, all of whom he views in an idealized way. Antonio is especially willing to model himself off of the example of Andrew, and he is hopelessly disappointed to discover that his favorite brother is not actually worthy of such veneration. While Antonio strives to emulate his brothers, his brothers in turn have their own expectations for him. Because they chose to follow the lifestyle of the Marez, they have decided that Antonio must follow the Luna side of the family, simply to maintain the balance and fairness between the two families.

It is only after Ultima arrives that Antonio is able to gain some independence from the obligations he feels in his family. This freedom is largely due to the fact that Ultima is not an actual member of the family: she brings a freeing outside perspective to his future and does not have any ulterior motives when it comes to aiding his development as an individual. With Ultima’s help, Antonio is able to extricate himself from the oppressive expectations of his family and make his own decisions about his path in life.

Throughout the book, Antonio’s father hopes to fulfill his dream of moving to California with his sons. Because he had to give up his vaquero lifestyle to move to Guadalupe, Gabriel views this dream as his last remaining hope for contentment in life. Ever since his sons were children, Antonio’s father has expected them to follow his dream as well. When Antonio’s brothers return from war, Gabriel believes that the time for his dream is finally at hand, but he is dismayed to discover that his sons have no interest in California and wish to pursue their own dreams. This conflict must come to a breaking point when Leon, Eugene, and eventually Andrew abandon their father's dream in order to move to Las Vegas and seek their fortune.

Similarly, Antonio’s mother dreams that Antonio will be a priest to lead her Luna people back to the stability that they had once known. As a woman, Antonio’s mother could never hope to take this position herself, and she must see her dreams realized through her youngest son. Moreover, Maria chooses to shape her dream as she sees fit: instead of telling Antonio that the Luna priest was also the father, she creates a holier vision of a priest who remains physically pure. Although Maria’s dream is not rejected to the extent that Gabriel’s dream is, it still comes into conflict with Antonio’s eventual decision to pursue his own dreams. By the end of the novel, we are still unclear as to what path Antonio will follow in life; as a man of learning, he could be a priest to the Lunas or he could be something else. Either way, it is clear that Maria will be forced to acknowledge Antonio's independence at some point later in his life.

In both cases, the children in the Marez family are forced to grow up under the shadow of their parents’ dreams. Neither parent intends to oppress their children with their expectations, but both Gabriel and Maria have a difficult time accepting that Antonio and his brothers must lead independent lives.

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