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The Impact of Rites of Passage on Antonio in Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

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In the novel Bless Me Ultima, Antonio experiences rite of passage issues. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a rite of passage is “a ceremony or event marking an important stage in someone’s life, especially birth, puberty, marriage, and death.” Throughout the book, Antonio experiences moments that marks a rite of passage, but there are moments when things do not go as planned which caused complications for him. Although Antonio is very young, he has witnessed the death of four people, had problems with his first confession and first Holy Communion, and had lost his innocence.

Antonio had witnessed the death of Lupito, Narciso, Florence, and Ultima. Lupito was the first death that Antonio witnessed at the young age of only six years old. It wasn’t just a death he witnessed, more so the fact that he witnessed everything that happened that night. On page 22 Antonio mentioned, “Many shots found their mark…He made a strange gurgling sound in his throat, then he was still”. Antonio as a six-year-old had just experienced the death of a man. Narciso was the second death he witnessed. Antonio had also seen everything that happened with Narciso. Tenorio had shot him and Narciso was slowly dying. Antonio was holding Narciso, Narciso gave his last confession, and was there for his last breath. This is an issue because Antonio was there when they were shot, he was there for their last words, and he was there for their last breath.

Florence was the third death he witnessed, and then Ultima. Florence had drowned in the river from diving in and getting stuck on barbed wire. When the boys pulled him out, he had already been dead. Antonio had witnessed the death of a friend. Now for Ultima, Tenorio shot her pet owl. The owl is Ultima’s spirit, so if that owl dies, she dies too. Antonio saw when Tenorio shot the owl and how Ultima was slowly dying. He was there for her last breath and last words. On page 261, Ultima blessed Antonio as her last words telling him, “I bless you in the name of all that is good and strong and beautiful, Antonio. Always have the strength to live. Love life, and if the despair enters your heart, look for me in the evenings when the wind is gentle and the owls sing in the hills. I shall be with you”. These events caused complications for Antonio because no one at such a young age should have to witness the deaths of his friends.

In addition, Antonio had come upon some complications during his first confession and his First Communion. On the day of his first confession, his friends had made him act as a priest so they can practice saying their confessions to him. Moments before his confession he was beaten up because he didn’t want to give a bigger punishment to Florence. On page 214 Antonio says, “I kicked and wiggled and struggled to get free from the incessant beating, but they held me tight and I could not throw them off”. Before every event marking a stage of his life, there is always a complication to go along with it. The day of his first Holy Communion he had been excited because he thought the communion was going to give him all the knowledge, all the answers to his questions, but when he took the communion, he got nothing. Something that was supposed to mark a big event, marking something important was ruined by his disappointment and curiosity. On page 221 Antonio says, “A thousand questions rushed through my mind, but the Voice within me did not answer…I called again to the God that was within me, but there was no answer. Only emptiness”. His experiences arise as an issue because these events were supposed to be marking an important stage in his life and were bombarded by kids beating him and his disappointment in the communion.

Throughout all his experiences Antonio has lost his innocence. He had fully witnessed the death of 4 people. He questioned his beliefs, he questioned everything at such a young age. For example the death of Lupito, he questioned good, evil, sin, and death. At a young age, he began to question what his destiny should be. Antonio started to notice that things are not fair, that sometimes bad things happen to good people. An example that shows Antonio noticing is on page 170, “…rage and protest filled me. I wanted to cry out into the storm that it was not fair that Narciso died for doing good, that it was not fair for a mere boy to be at the dying of a man.. This is a complication because Antonio losing his innocence was forced onto him, and taken from him rather than him being able to choose when.

Although Antonio was very young, he witnessed the death of four people, had problems with his first confession and First Communion and lost his innocence at such a young age. Antonio’s navigates rite of passage complications due to his experiences. Throughout the book, we see Antonio go through things that have negative outcomes. We’ve seen how the deaths he witnessed, his disappointments, his beatings have affected him. We see him lose his innocence throughout the book due to the negative experiences he witnesses through rite of passages.

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