The role of cultural identity and the moral independence are significant in human life. Those who managed to agree personal moral independence with the cultural identity are lucky people as they should not live in constant struggle between personal considerations and social demands. Even though the novel Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya does not show the direct conflict between inner considerations and social beliefs, Antonio appears in a very complicated situation.
Searching for his place in the world, trying to understand his personal significance and role he meets Ultima, a person who becomes his teacher. The death of Ultima influences Antonio greatly as being guided by this person he appears in the situation when he has to understand that his future life depends only on him and it is his personal responsibility to search for his future path in this world.
Antonio is a six-year-old boy who appears the witness of several deaths. Each of the deaths is significant in Antonios’ life even though Ultima’s death plays the greatest part in Antonio’s understanding of the future life. Having witnessed several deaths Antonio tries to understand and questions himself,
God! Why did Lupito die? Why do you allow the evil of the Trementinas? Why did you allow Narciso to be murdered when he was doing good? . . . A thousand questions pushed through my mind, but the Voice within me did not answer. . . . The mass was ending, the fleeting mystery was already vanishing (Anaya 22).
The boy tries to understand why God allows such cases, why good people have to die. These are the first notes, the first signs of Antonio’s understanding of the lack of ideality in Catholicism.
Therefore, having become the witness of several deaths Antonio becomes doubt the religion of Christianity and the God’s abilities “Did God listen? Would he hear?” (Anaya 21). Therefore, considering the role of deaths in Antonio’s life, it may be concluded that these events impacted Antonio’s vision of social culture and negative attitude to Catholicism as religion.
To understand the role of Ultima in the formation of Antonio’s perception of the world, it is better to consider the final Ultima’s words, “I bless you in the name of all that is good and strong and beautiful, Antonio. Always have the strength to live. Love life, and if despair enters your heart, look for me in the evenings when the wind is gentle and the owls sing in the hills. I shall be with you…” (Anaya 247).
These words are considered to be most important in the novel as they this shows that the Ultima played significant role in Antonio’s life. Ultima was Antonio’s teachers, he helped him make choices which Antonio cold not make himself, as he believed.
After Lupito’s death Antonio became to question the nature of God and such notions as sin, innocence, and forgiveness appeared as the most questionable and doubtful. The place of Ultima in Antonio’s life may be characterized as the teaching. Ultima helped Antonio make decisions and choices individually, without referencing to the point of view of others.
It was really important for Antonio to have such a friend as having appeared in the situation when he was unsure in the personal identity he managed to find someone who helped. However, it is possible to question whether Ultima helped to Antonio to make choices as it seems that she entrusted her beliefs into a small boy who appeared on the way of personality formation.
What was significant in Uitima’s death for Antonio? Why is this situation considered as the most crucial in the novel? It is possible to state that after the death of the teacher Antonio understands that he has to choose his way himself. Having a teacher, Antonio did not understand how influential she was and how she influenced his mind. Only being left alone, Antonio had an opportunity to realize the place of religion in his life,
In two days we would celebrate the mass of the dead, and after mass we would take her body to the cemetery in Las Pasturas for burial. But all that would only be the ceremony that was prescribed by custom. Ultima was really buried here. Tonight (Anaya 248).
Therefore, right at this place, at the moment of Ultima’s death Antonio understands that he is to make decisions himself, that his is his life and there are no people who will guide them through the whole their lives. The burial of the owl represents the burial of Ultima but not in accordance with the Catholic rules, but corresponding to mystical burial which is closer for a boy.
Reading the scene when Ultima dies, her words are remembered, “The tragic consequences of life can be overcome by the magical strength that resides in the human heart” (Anaya 237). This phrase reflects the main idea of the whole story, that only the power of the human heart is significant.
Anaya, Rudolfo. Bless Me, Ultima. Wheeler Pub Inc, 2008. Print.