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Bless me, Ultima - Gender Criticism

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Alondra Gonzalez

on 19 May 2015

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Transcript of Bless me, Ultima - Gender Criticism

Bless me, Ultima
The Chicano culture is dominated and controlled by men . Men are seen as the protectors who conduct the affairs outside the house.
Gender Roles in Bless me, Ultima

The Chicano society sees women as housewives who should only concern themselves with household responsibilities.

Throughout Bless me, Ultima one can notice that the Chicano culture highly values motherhood.
Gender Roles
"It was sad to see my father cry, but I understand it, because sometimes a man has to cry. Even if he is a man."
Gender Roles
Antonio's mom and sisters are the only ones who do household chores, like wash clothes and sweep the floor. While Antonio's chores are outside. like caring for the animals.
Gender Roles
"I had a vantage point into the heart of our home, my mother's kitchen.
Gender roles for both men and women are reinforced as the women are confined in the home yet Tony must have "masculine" chores outside the home.
Motherhood +La Virgen de Guadalupe
La virgen is considered to be the universal mother of mexicans. Thus the Chicano culture has much respect and love for mothers.
Antonio's mom is a devout Catholic who constantly prays.
"I loved none as dearly as the Virgen...the mother of our God."
"We must pray ... Then we prayed rosary after rosary. We prayed until our faith passed into exhaustion that numbed us to sleep.
To become a man in this society one must sacrifice their innocence. Tony a seven year old boy, learns that to be a man one must commit sin, as he watches the men drink, lie, sleep with prostitutes, and murder.
"... my mother clutched me tightly 'what a sin it is for a boy to grow into a man.'"
"It was a sin to grow up and be a man"
For instance instead of calling the authorities when the mentally ill Lupito shot a man, the men of the town gathered their riffles and hunted Lupito down.
"The men of the town had murdered Lupito."

"The men pull the trigger and the women pray."
Many are intimidated by Ultima's powers since they surpass the power of men and the church. Ultima had the power to save a man from certain death as well as the power to curse the three evil Trementina sisters
Ultima, the old and wise curandera is the only woman who breaks the gender restrictions in her society.
Women are seen gentle and forgiving while men are seen as aggressive and vengeful.
Antonio who throughout the novel grapples with God and faith comes to believe that if God was a woman she would be more forgiving and loving.
Perhaps that is why God cannot forgive, he is too much like a man.
Perhaps the best God would be like a woman, because only women really know how to forgive.
"Some women bowed their heads, others made the sign of the cross. 'Es una mujer que no ha pecado' another whispered 'hechicera bruja.'"
"Ay what courage that old woman has!"
"She is not a witch she is a good woman."
The men were so threatened by Ultima's power that the men of the town accused her of being a witch so that they can murder her.
Tony is growing up in a society that reinforces unreal male gender roles.
This Chicano society expects men to bottle up their emotions and never show the "weakness" of crying.
The mother in this novel is seen as the source of nurture, love , and compassion. She is also the holder of faith in the family
An aggressive sense for masculinity that includes sexual prowess, strength, and control.
Antonio Marez Luna, describes his parent's origins and how he came to live in a house built by his own father and isolated from the rest of the town.
The reader learns of how big the family is, eight people in total, and how Tony is stuck sleeping in a cubicle in the attic. The reader then understands that the book focuses on the lower econimic group of society.
The mother originates from a farming family know as the Lunas, the Lunas are set into the top position of society since they cultivate the food and everyone seems to depend on them, meaning that they have some power with respect of others.
The top social position is that of a priest, though it is not the most economical position.
The book follows the dominant ideology that woman should stay at home raising the children and doing household duties.
Another important character, Ultima, resists the common ideal that woman are helpless and dependent, the author Rudolfo Anaya makes Ultima as a character which everyone heavily depends on, and her death basically meant the end of the book.
Everyone in the town of Guadalulpe is poor but, not to the extent of being homeless or starving.
The only conflict that occurs is between two dominant groups, which is between the Lunas and the Marez. .
The protagonist is split between the wishes of both groups since the father wants him to be a free roaming person while his mother wishes for him to rise to the top.
The only technological advancement througout the book is the highway project which is undergone by Antonio's father. It does not do much in disturbing the social interactions or creates economical rigts.
The river that divides the plains and the town is the only object the creates a disturbance between the two types of people.
The protagonist, Antonio, shows no interest for the economical standpoint of his people, throughout the story his only focus is to make a decision of what to do in life. He pays no mind to roles of the other individuals around him since he is only afflicted by the desires of both his parents.
The author on the other hand, included the poor background and simpleness of the town to demonstrate the life style of a chicano. It is not an attempt to inspire change of the poor lifestyle but rather to state that no matter what, the people of his origins get through their ordeals.
Gender Criticism
Marxist Criticism
Social and Cultural Factor
Antonio's dad is a Marez, his family is.
"He is a Márez,"
the Vaqueros shouted.
"His forefathers were conquistadores, men as restless as the seas they sailed."
Antonio's mom is a Luna-
"I learned that the phases of the moon ruled not only the planting but almost every part of their lives. That is why they were the Lunas!"

New Mexico,
1940s= Clashing lifestyles and
cultures of Mexicans, Americans, and Native Americans.

A regional and worldly setting.
"The magical time of childhood stood still, and the pulse of the living earth pressed its mystery into my living blood."
Strictly Roman Catholic
Expectations of becoming a priest
Questions God- Samuel and Ultima influence his skepticism
About the author
He grew up in a small village called Pastura which was a plain.
His mother was a devout Catholic
is father used to be a cowboy.
At 16 he suffered an accident which gave him a lot of time to think about philosophical points.
He spent time in the Pecos River and encountered medicine women.
His brothers were sent to fight during WWII.
He has a Masters degree in Literature and another in guidance and counseling.
At the University of New Mexico he was
introduced to El Movimiento, the Chicano Civil
Rights Movement of the 1960s.
The movement inspired him to write about his heritage.
Antonio has three brothers: Andrew, Eugenio, and Leon.

When they come back from the war they are more adventurous.

They're like their father.

Curandera (Medicine Woman)
Ultima, the curandera, is mistaken as a witch.
The only one who knows Antonio's destiny.
At his birth she said, " Only I will know his destiny."

She teaches him how to respect and have a connection with Earth.

Antonio is bonded to the Earth in rare way only a few can experience: him, Ultima, and Samuel.
Aztec Mythology
Then and Now
Blessings and burials.
Blessings are common in the Catholicism.

Here, Antonio drops to his knees and asks Ultima to bless him before she dies
"Her hand touched my forehead and her last words were,' I bless you..." Antonio receives a pagan blessing
Ultima's real burial
happened under a
Juniper tree away
from holy land.
"But all that
would only be
the ceremony
that was
prescribed by custom.
Ultima was really buried here. Tonight."
Anaya is one of the first influential Chicano authors. He is now considered "One of the nations foremost Chicano literary artist."-
Denver Post
Modern Mexican culture is influenced by it.

One example of Aztec culture is Ultima's training as a
medicine woman.
Another is the Aztecs belief that
there were other worlds called suns before the
present world: "Tiger Sun," "Wind Sun," "Rain Sun,"
and "Water Sun." The "Water Sun," is where the
legend of the golden carp comes from, in that world
there was a flood and then all the people turned to fish.
The fifth world is known as "Nahui-Ollin," which means balance.

Ultima's death was necessary balance the evil from Tenorio's , the vengeful father of the witches, death.
The rivalry between Quetzalcoatl and

Texcatlipoca was a God of turbulent nature.

Quetzalcoatl represents the Lunas
because he is a god of agriculture.
Historical and Biographical
A human's dream
There is an emphasis on the meaning of dreams. This is because psychoanalytic theory asserts that it is in dreams that a person’s subconscious desires are revealed. What a person cannot express or do because of social rules will be expressed and accomplished in dreams, where there are no social rules. Most of the time, people are not even aware what it is they secretly desire until their subconscious goes unchecked in sleep.
Virgen de Guadalupe-forgiveness connects cultures that pull at Antonio

Golden Carp- there are always alternative religions
Owl- the spirit and soul of Ultima and violent and vengeful side, encouragement for Antonio
Internal Conflict
Antonio faces whether to honor his father or mother's heritage where he is left with a distinct option to either become a cowboy or a priest. He then faces the internal struggle of his parents obtaining dominion over him.
Antonio's search!
Experiences death which forces to question
Nature of god
Biographical relationship
Bless Me, Ultima is autobiographical in the sense that I use my hometown, the Pecos River, Highway 66, the church, the school, the little villages and ranches around the town. My parents were very much like Antonio's parents. My mother grew up in a farming family in Porta de Luna. My father grew up on the llano as a vaquero, as a cowboy, so as a child, I saw the tensions that a conflicting way of life created.
Antonio is taught that life's most difficult questions can never be answered by a single religion. Only he himself can answer them. He is also taught that he must think for himself and arrive at his own conclusions if he ever want a true answer.
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