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The Country: The Heart Of It All

1200 words - 5 pages

Where you grow up and how you live say a lot about you and your culture. In Bless Me, Ultima, the beauty of the open prairie is an essential part of the book. The country setting adds to the primitivism and ignorance of people because their belief in witchcraft. The country, however, adds to spiritualism of the book because the magnificent prairie is open to many spiritual interpretations. Most importantly, the country functions as a guide for Antonio to discover who he is.
The country setting adds to the ignorance of the people because many are uneducated and believe in witchcraft. The book is set in Guadalupe, New Mexico towards the end of the Second World War. The town is very isolated from Anglo-Saxon culture. As a result, most of the people in the town are illiterate and gullible. The people believe any superstition regarding witchcraft. Antonio remembers a story of a rancher who shot a witch, but wasn’t punished. “The rancher swore that he etched a cross on his bullet, and that proved that the old woman was a witch, and so he was let free, under the old law there was no penalty for killing a witch” (pg.87). Being accused of witchcraft is almost the equivalence of committing treason. Innocent people die and ridiculous tests are created to prove whether or not someone is a witch; it gets to the level of the Salem witch trials. For example, when Tenorio accused Ultima of being a witch, he and his gang of drunken rebels came charging with guns and torches. Then an outrageous test was created to prove whether Ultima was a witch. Narciso explained it as taking “the holy needles and [pining] them to the door” in the shape of a cross because a witch couldn’t walk through the door (pg133). Ultima passed the test, but Tenorio truly believed that Ultima was a bruja, and he would not rest until he killed her. When he did, he shouted “I win! I win! ... The witch is dead, my daughters are avenged” (pg.258). The ignorance of the characters is summed up best when Gabriel stated that “most of the things we call evil are not evil at all; it is just that we don’t understand those things and so we call the evil. And we fear evil only because we do not understand it” (pg.248). There are people like Tony, Gabriel and Ultima who understand; unfortunately most people don’t think like they do.
The country setting has a phenomenal effect of really capturing the spiritualism of the book because of the mixing of cultures and magnificent imagery. The town has a mixture of Indian and Catholic influences. Mixing the two views leads to a very open interpretation of the prairie. Ultima from the beginning taught Antonio about the beauty surrounding the llano. Antonio has stated that “I learned from her there was beauty in the time of day and in the night, and that there was peace in the river and in the hills. She taught me to listen to the mystery of the groaning earth and to feel complete in the fulfilment of its time.” (pg.15). She taught him that his spirit is...

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