Bless Me, Ultima

how is religion protrayeed so far in the novel from chapeters 1-6? how will this affect antonio throughout the course of the novel?

ch.1-6 in bless me, ultima

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In Chapter One, the first introduction of Ultima as a significant character in the novel and the dichotomy that exists between pagan beliefs and Catholicism. In New Mexican culture, Christianity is tied closely to the pagan beliefs and myths that defined the native communities before the arrival of the Spanish colonists. Although Ultima is a curandera with the knowledge of herbs and plants, she is also a Catholic who adheres to Catholic holidays and expectations. Yet, her Catholicism does not overshadow or even necessarily equal the scope of her other power.

After witnessing the murder in Chapter two, Antonio becomes preoccupied with Lupito’s fate and questions of sin and punishment. He does not know how to reconcile Lupito’s madness and death with Catholic ideas of God. Although Lupito’s actions as a murderer make him doomed to Hell, Antonio realizes that his actions were caused by his war sickness, and Lupito cannot be blamed for what happened. Yet, he knows that the God of Christianity is not forgiving or compassionate and thus, not likely to release Lupito from the horrors of Hell. Moreover, although Lupito murdered the sheriff, the men of the town also murdered him. Will they not be punished for murder as well? For the first time, Antonio is unable to reconcile what he knows is right with the expectations of his religion.

In Chapters Four through Six, Antonio is still extremely preoccupied with Lupito’s death and his questions of sin and punishment. The Virgin of Guadalupe is his favorite saint because he associates her with forgiveness and purity. Yet, Antonio is unable to understand how the Virgin could coexist with God if she always forgives sinners and He always punishes sinners. When Antonio dreams of the Virgin wearing mourning for him, he is expressing his own fear that he is sinful instead of good. Indeed, Antonio, as a child, embraces the literalism of religion, finding himself trapped in its inherent contradictions, while still attempting to be faithful to it. Anaya's tone here is neither judgmental nor satiric - simply reflective of a young child's exploratory confusion.

At this point in the novel, Antonio also begins to develop a spiritual relationship with the plants and herbs through Ultima’s help. His relationship with her strengthens, and he begins to strive to imitate her walk and wisdom. Not only does Ultima teach Antonio about the local plant life, but she introduces him to the cultures and beliefs that defined earlier people, such as the Aztecs and the Moors. Ultima is trying to help Antonio to become grounded in his past and other cultures in an effort to help him forge his own identity. Only if this identity is strong will he be able to survive the gulf in expectations between his own innate desires and those of his family for him.