Bless Me, Ultima

The events of Bless Me, Ultima take place in the middle 1940s, during and immediately after World War II. How, if at all, is the war or this particular moment in history significant to the story the novel tells?


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Although World War II does not play a large role in the events of the novel, it is extremely significant in the way that it shapes certain characters. As the novel opens, the Marez family is incomplete because Leon, Eugene, and Andrew are all fighting overseas. As a six year old, Antonio does not understand the political issues that perpetuated World War II, but he does recognize the strain that his brothers’ absence places on the family. When the brothers return and the family is once more complete, things have still changed from the way that they were. All three men are suffering from post-traumatic stress from their experiences during the war. Because of the horrors that they experienced in the war, none of Antonio’s brothers are able to integrate themselves back into the quiet life of Guadalupe; Antonio describes them as “dying giants” because they can no longer cope with the life that they left behind when they went to war. Their decision to leave Guadalupe is indirectly linked to their experiences in the war. The war also appears indirectly in one of the very first traumatic experiences described in the book: Lupito’s death. Like Antonio’s brothers, Lupito is also a veteran of the war, and he has a much more severe case of the “war sickness.” His war sickness becomes so overwhelming that he murders the sheriff of Guadalupe and ends up with a standoff at the bridge. As Antonio’s close observation of Lupito shows, Lupito does not intend to kill any of the men of the bridge; instead of firing at them, he shoots in the air to draw their fire. Lupito is so hopeless from his experiences in the war that he essentially chooses to commit suicide, placing himself in a position to be shot by the men on the bridge. This particular incident is Antonio's first step to discovering the horrors of the world, and because of it, Antonio’s innocence is also a victim of the war sickness and World War II.