Bless Me Ultima - Character Analysis


The Man-Child

A child is much like a far-reaching scientific experiment. Both are expensive and in constant need of attention. Nevertheless, an experiment can be terminated at anytime. The experiment of child cannot be aborted, and sometimes the Experiment fails when he or she chooses the wrong path. However, for Rudolfo Anaya?s "Experiment Antonio" of Bless Me, Ultima, the results are promising. Antonio, as a child, already possesses traits that lead to a good and pure life. He is naturally a mature and wise man-child yearning for knowledge.
Antonio shows a startling maturity. Psychologically, a typical six-year old will suffer serious mental agonies if he or she witnesses the death of four other people. Tony, however, "[runs] the words of the Act of Contrition" (23) through his mind, praying to God promising that "[he] will sin no more." (170) Furthermore, the typical six year old child will not possess the mentality to question the flaws of a religion nor question why God "forgives all" (173), even murderers. This is not the case for Tony, who is bothered by the fact that God will "forgive Narciso?" only "?if [Tony] also asks [God] to forgive Tenorio." (173) In addition, Tony?s maturity leads him to order someone to "go get the lifeguard" (239) during the drowning of Florence. At the same time, Tony notices a "red spot on [Florence?s] forehead where he must have hit the edge of the culvert." (240) Death, to a six year old, is a mystery while religion is accepted just like the letters of the alphabet. However, Tony?s questions of religion and reactions to death reflect a mindset of someone far beyond his age group.
For someone of his age, Antonio has a strong yearning for knowledge. He is "driven by the desire to make [his] the magic of the letters and numbers" (64) and works hard, "eager to learn the secret of the magic." (76) At school, while others "cry?and wet [their] pants" (58), Antonio spends his time in the corner "writing [his] name over and over." (58) Even Ultima praises Tony?s willingness to study, saying, "[he] learns as much in one day as most do in a year." (81) However, Tony?s drive for knowledge is not restricted to books; he also "[seeks] more answers" (71) about God. He tries in vain to find the answers why people are made to "suffer [for] Old Eve?s sin," (196) why "?didn?t [God] make this earth [free] of evil things" (196), and of why "The Old Man?left [Florence] all alone" (195) with no family. By asking these questions, he subconsciously challenges the validity of the church, using the excuse that "[he] is not yet ready to understand" (187) to quell his heresy. Antonio hopes that "when [he] makes communion, [he] will understand." (187)
Antonio?s want for knowledge nurture a growing wisdom. Feeling only "emptiness?to the God within him," (221) the "?thousands of questions [that] push through [his] mind?" are still unanswered after his first communion. (221) God?s failure to answer Antonio?s questions allows Tony to realize the truths of religion and that his answers cannot be answered by God. "[Antonio] used to think everyone believed in God," but now understands that there are "many gods." (237) His final dream reveals the death of all the faiths and beliefs, and even the "magic of Ultima?dies in agony." (244) Now he understands that "if the old religion can no longer answer the questions of the children, then perhaps it was time to change it." (248) Furthermore, from his father, Antonio discovers "most of the things [people] call evil are not evil at all; it is just that [people] do not understand those things and [thus] call them evil." (248) Most importantly, Tony?s wisdom is complete once he is aware that "understanding comes with life" (248) and that he is "seeing only parts?and not looking beyond into the great cycle that binds us all." (121)
Antonio?s wisdom, desire for knowledge, and maturity transform him from a naïve child filled with questions to a young man filled with an understanding of life. It is this understanding of life at such a young age that promises Tony a good and pure life. Of all the Experiments occurring today, six billion and counting to be exact, there is little doubt that there is another Tony out there. However, as the news of children