Antonio, from Bless Me, Ultima, lives stuck in a world of in-betweens, a world of borders. He must navigate this world and find his place within it, all while trying to please his parents. Tony’s surroundings and cultural background lead to this in between world and force him to pick a side before he even has an opportunity to mature. In Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima, Antonio is constantly searching for answers about his future and the world around him; he finds these answers through his family, environment, religion, and family friend, Ultima. Antonio must find a balance in these divided forces, which tug at him from opposite direction, and forge his own path.
The binary opposition of Antonio’s mother and father are one of the major central conflicts. Antonio resides between the Lunas and the Márez tradition, two families that see no common ground. His passage into maturity is one that forces him to decide between his mother and his father, the moon and the sea. During one of Antonio’s dreams he sees his births. This birth shows him the Lunas and the Márez arguing over his future and the presents they bring represent that. The Lunas bring fruit from their farm, they expect Antonio to respect his mother’s side and honor either the land or the heavens by becoming a farmer or priest. The Márez, who expect him to become a cowboy, smash the Lunas offering and present their own emblematic gifts. This profession is represented by his father’s dream of moving to California when becoming a vaquero is no longer a real option (Novoa, 4). Antonio’s dream ends with Ultima solving the problem, and becoming the bridge between the two worlds, something she frequently becomes for Tony. Antonio feels that he must choose one of the traditional paths his parents followed, and his brothers become another conflict when the come home from the war.
Antonio’s three brothers return and no longer fit in with society. The two older brothers feel the need to relocate to California to adjust with the changing times and Tony greatly fears this relocation. When Antonio is talking to his brother, Andrew, he says “sometimes I get the feeling that I will come home, and it will all be changed. It won’t be the same any more” (Anaya 149). Change frightens Antonio, yet he also wants the way people see life to change. He wishes his God would be more compassionate. He wants his parents to agree on how to live. He wants so much out of life, but the idea that change will not produce the results that he’s looking for alarms him. Part of a Bildungsroman novel is the battle of your inner emotions and the loss of innocence. Antonio must battle the forces around him and discover his own path; one of these forces resides in his environment.
Tony’s environment is one that is centered around the Spanish culture. His family inhabits an in-between space from which they believe Antonio will choose one of two directions. He is constantly being torn between his school and his home, between...