Bless Me, Ultima: Novel Summary: Chapter 12

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One day in late summer Narciso bursts into the Marez family home. He has come to warn Ultima that Tenorio's daughter has died and that Tenorio blames Ultima and is coming to kill her. Tenorio is calling her a witch. Tony's mother says they must all flee, but Ultima says they should not run from the truth.

There is the sound of a gunshot and several men carrying burning torches surround the house. Tenorio appears, but Gabriel, Antonio's father, stands his ground and pushes Tenorio away. But the other men still advance, saying they have proof that Ultima's curse killed Tenorio's daughter. Narciso intervenes, telling the men that they are shaming their good names by acting in this way and associating with Tenorio. Narciso acknowledges they have a right to charge someone with witchcraft, and says there is a very simple test to discover whether the charges are true. He takes needles from the lip of one of the men (who has placed them there to protect him against a curse). He establishes that they are "holy needles," blessed by a priest. Then he pins them to the door in the form of a cross. A witch will not be able to walk past them. The men agree to abide by the test. As Ultima comes forward and Tenorio directly accuses her of being a witch, Ultima's owl swoops down on Tenorio and plucks out one of his eyes. Ultima steps past the door. She has passed the test. Tenorio curses her and says he will see her dead. He also vows to kill Narciso.

Analysis

As in previous chapters, there is here an intermingling of ancient superstitions and Christianity: the "holy" needles pinned to the door, which a witch cannot pass; the owl that defends Ultima. The chapter also shows the author's schematic method of characterization. Some characters, such as Tenorio, are completely bad; there is no redeeming quality in them. Others are completely good. In the latter category is Narciso, who acts in this chapter with courage and integrity. The enmity between these two characters is the vehicle that carries one of the main themes of the novel, good versus evil.

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