As children grow older, their minds are filled with many questions. A large
portion of these questions are difficult, complicated, and often times unanswerable.
Children are left to struggle with them throughout life. They look for answers to these
questions anywhere possible, and often they turn to the guidance that adults provide.
Adults can provide a foundation from which children can grow, but they can provide only
a certain amount of advice to help children deal with life’s basic issues; the rest is left for
the child to find for themself. Such is the case in the final chapter of Bless Me, Ultima, a
novel by Rudolfo Anaya. In this chapter Tony, the main character, recieves important
insight and very wise advice from his elders. The story shadows Tony as he seeks
understanding to his many questions, we follow his spiritual awakening, and follow his
search for identity throughout his childhood. Already he has learned much. He has
started school, been initiated into the Catholic church through catechism, and has learned
much about many of the local native beliefs. But he has also learned of death, hatred,
curses, cures, and most importantly he has learned of the supernatural forces behind it all.
As children grow, they must develop strength, both a physical strength and an
inner strength. An undeveloped child may not have the ability to deal with the
challenges that life may throw at them. This strength is gained through experience,
knowledge, and the many things that you learn day to day in the process of growing
older. In Bless Me, Ultima, Ultima reminds Tony of the importance of strength again and
again, reinforcing its importance in his mind. On one of these occasions, Ultima tells
Tony that “life is filled with sadness when a boy grows to be a man. But as you grow
into manhood you must not despair of life, but gather strength to sustain you.” From this
Tony learns that it is possible to gain this strength, which is vital in the process of
growing older, from all situations, even situations that are possibly thought of as “bad”.
Ultima is telling Tony that in order to get the most from every situation, you must seize
the many things that can be learned from it, instead of looking at it passively. You grow
and gain strength with all experiences that you go through. This is evident when Ultima
tells Tony “You are growing, and growth is change. Accept the change, make it a part of
your strength” and “ take life’s experiences and build strength from them, not weakness.”
You cannot learn anything just by simply being told; you must experience things
firsthand in order to gain the most from them. How else could you know the taste of
chocolate without actually taking a bite of it and feeling it melt in your mouth?
Though Tony learned many things from Ultima about strength, he turned to his
father, Gabriel, when dealing with questions about his own...