Bless Me Ultima – Tony
Blood becomes the river. The human race dies and only the “she-goats and the he-goats” remain (176). The lake “cracked with laughter of madness” and the “ghosts stood and walked upon the shore” (120). Who dares dream such gruesome images? Only Antonio Marez. He argues with God and the Virgin Mary. He commutes with the dead; the dead asks him for blessings. Just who is this Tony person! You might not believe that this is only a seven year old kid, but he is the hero of Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima. Tony is valiant, and this courage sometimes reflects his curiously precocious nature. Precocious he is, he still is in constant mental ambivalence.
When I say Tony is brave, I don’t mean that he fights demons or kill dragons, but rather that he stands for what he believe is right and he is not afraid to go to extreme measures to protect the people he love. He shows that he is a “man of the llano” when he “doesn’t run from a fight” even when confronted with Horse, the notorious bully (37). Tony also stands up against a mob for Florence; everyone wants to punish Florence for “not believing in God” (214) and Tony pushes the crowd away and refuses to give Florence the penance that Florence does not deserve. Although Tony knows that he will be given the “Indian torture” (214), he still speaks up for his friend. Anaya often presents Tony as a dependent character, never wanting to “be away from the protection of his mother” (51); in fact, he’s so close to his mother that it seems that he’s going through Oedipus’s Complex. Anaya actually does this to increase the impact of Tony’s bravery. One might expect Tony to stay in his undercover bushes when Tenorio is standing so close; however, when Tony hears that Tenorio knows the way to kill Ultima, the thought to warn Ultima supercedes his fear and encourages his legs to pick up and run home (255). At trying times, he “stood by Ultima” and “would have slashed out to protect Ultima” (138).
Oftentimes, Tony’s bravery reflects his curious and precocious nature. For example, he runs to the bridge where the criminal Lupito hides because he is curious about Lupito’s situation (22). The first thing he wonders about when he witnesses Lupito’s death is “where was Lupito’s soul?” (26) , and this shows how deep Tony’s thoughts are. Already at age seven, he thinks on a spiritual level. Usually, young kids do not desire to understand religious meanings and moral values, but Tony is different. Most of his thoughts reflect high mental development. Even his dreams are witnesses to his spirituality. Adults do not dream of God saying “Vengeance is Mine!” (173) or whether the baptism water is really holy water (120). The inclusion of dreams is actually magical realism, a stylistic device that Anaya uses to overwhelm the readers with the themes and to express the meanings of the themes in a more impacted manner. Tony’s dreams shows not only his acumen but also his religious conflicts.
Perhaps the most interesting trait of Tony is his ambivalence towards everything. It seems as if he is always in confusion. His first dream portrays his insecurity about his identity. Is he a “fine vaquero” or a “farmer-priest” (5)? On one side is his mother and on the other is his father. Who should he become? He is also confused about which God to believe in-the Golden Carp or the Catholic God? He marvels at the “bright golden-pagan god” (114), but at the same time fears the “God who could not forgive” sinners” (138). At the same time he does not understand evil and good. He does not understand why God cannot forgive the good Narciso while the Virgin Mary can forgive the evil Tenorio (173). To further confuse him, Tony sees Andrew in Rosie’s (166) and remembers that Andrew has once told him in Tony’s dream that “he will wait and not enter until Tony loses his innocence” (71). Tony’s belief that “innocence is forever” (71) is shattered, but on the other side, his mother also says to him that he is still innocent because “you are innocent when you do not know” (71) and the priest says “you are innocent until you understand” (71). So, is he innocent or not? He does not know whether to lose or keep his self-esteem.
Tony’s three characteristics are clearly displayed in the novel. He is brave, precocious, and oftentimes confused. It is interesting that these traits do not apply to young children usually. Tony is a unique character, and is born to be a learner or a curandura like Ultima. However, Tony is an important person to study because he touches upon many profound mundane ideas that apply to social issues.