Bless Me, Ultima
In Rodolfo Anaya’s novel, Bless Me, Ultima the author uses different settings in order to develop Antonio’s sense of good and evil.
An example of this would be Rosie’s, the local whorehouse. To Antonio, Rosie’s tempted his brothers and was the cause of their sins. In one of Antonio’s dreams, three figures “silently beckoned” (pg. 65) Antonio into the “house of the sinful women” (pg. 156). Antonio saw his brothers entering and he told Andrew, the last of the three to go in, not to enter. Andrew told Tony that he would wait until Tony lost his innocence and only then would Andrew go into the bordelo. So , to Antonio, seeing Andrew in the “evil house” (pg. 156) was a confirmation of Tony’s lost innocence and Tony wanted to stay innocent forever.
Another example of the evolution of Tony’s sense of good and evil through the utilisation of setting is Tony’s own home. To him, his home provided him with warmth and safety. This was due to the people who lived in the house. Antonio’s father creates a sense of protection in the home. When Tenorio and his men come to he house to take Ultima away, Tony’s father “would let no man invade his home” (pg 123). This gave Tony faith that as long as his father was around, he would be protected. Antonio’s mother made home a loving and caring place to be. She would always baby Antonio and give him the affection he needed whenever he needed it. The morning after Tony had seen Lupito killed, Ultima tells Tony’s mother not to be too hard on Antonio; he had a hard night last night. His mother puts her arms around Tony and holds him saying he “is only a boy, a baby yet” (Pg.28). The Virgin also makes the atmosphere of Antonio’s home peaceful and protected. Tony loves the Virgin Mary because “she always forgave” (Pg. 42). Tony thought she was “full of a quiet, peaceful love” (Pg.42) which she filled the home with. The most important person who contributed to the goodness of Antonio’s home was Ultima. She made Antonio feel as though her presence filled the home with safety, love, and a sense of security. When Tony saw Lupito get killed, it was Ultima who calmed him. Whenever he had a nightmare, Ultima was there to comfort Antonio and “he could sleep again” (Pg. 34). Ultima’s fearlessness against Tenorio and his three bruja daughters made Antonio feel as though he would be safe wherever Ultima was and since Ultima was always at his house, she made his home feel safe.
Another place used to develop Antonio’s sense of good and evil is the witch’s bosque in the forest. Antonio knows this place to be evil because it is a forbidden place where witches practice the “Black Mass in honor of the devil” (Pg. 81). This is the place where the Trementina sisters placed a curse on Tony’s uncle Lucas and so Tony knows it to be a place of evil and of evil-doing.
The garden of Narciso and the pond of the golden carp aided in the development of Antonio’s sense of good rather than evil. He knew Narciso’s garden was a place of good because it was the home of Narciso, a friend of the family, and a person who had tried to protect Ultima. He was also able to sense the goodness of the garden by it’s beauty — “the fragrance of sun-dazzling flowers was deep, and soft, and beautiful” (Pg. 100) – and by it’s “fruit-laden trees and rows and rows of fruits and vegetables” (Pg.100). He thought that any place where things could grow in such abundance and with such beauty must be a place of good. Antonio knew that the pond of the golden carp was a place of good just because it was the home of the golden carp. Tony thought the golden carp was “miraculous thing” (Pg. 105) because he “accepts all magic that is good” (Pg. 228). Since Antonio thought the golden carp was good, he also thought that any place where the golden carp lived or spent his time must be a place of goodness.
The concrete wall with the spillway on the lake helped the development of Antonio’s sense of evil. It was prohibited for anyone to swim there because the water was “very thick, and full of weeds” (Pg.228) and the lifegaurd was on the other side. This, however, was not the reason it was a place of evil; it was a place of evil because it had killed Florence. It had taken away one of Tony’s good friends and added one more death to the already many that Antonio had suffered through.
Without the different settings mentioned throughout the book, Tony’s sense of good and evil would not have been able to develop. This is because for one to be able to differentiate between good and evil, especially one so young, one must first learn how to do so, and in order to learn to do such, one must experience both aspects of good and aspects of evil, which is exactly what happened to Antonio.