Bless Me, Ultima: Novel Summary: Chapter 22

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Shortly after Florence's death, Tony dreams of the three people he has seen die: Lupito, Narciso, and Florence. He asks why he must be a witness to such violence. Florence gives him some answers that shake his faith. When he awakes, Ultima comforts him. She suggests to his parents that he should go to stay with his uncles at El Puerto for a rest. Throughout August he works in the fields and orchards, alongside his uncles and cousins. At night they sit out in the open and listen to stories. Tony becomes stronger inside, and his uncles are pleased with him.

One day his uncle Juan brings news of trouble. Tenorio's second daughter has died, and he is calling for vengeance on Ultima. Uncle Pedro decides to go with Tony to Guadalupe immediately. He sends Tony to his grandfather's to pack some clothes. On his way there, Tony is attacked by Tenorio who is on horseback. He manages to escape, but Tenorio shouts that he will get his vengeance that night. He says he will kill the owl that is the protective spirit of Ultima. Tony runs to warn her of the danger. He runs for miles and reaches home. Tenorio is already there, in the shadows. Ultima gives her owl a command, and it swoops on Tenorio, who manages to shoot and kill it.  He then aims the gun at Tony, but before he can shoot, he is himself shot and killed by Uncle Pedro. Tony takes the dead owl to Ultima, who is lying on the bed. She is dying peacefully. She tells him to take the owl west to a forked juniper tree and bury it there. Tony asks for her blessing, and she blesses him. Then he follows the instructions she gave him and buries the owl.

Analysis

Tony's long quest for understanding reaches some kind of fulfilment in this final chapter. He learns from his father that understanding can only come with experience. God is not simply going to provide him with all the answers. He has grown stronger from his experiences over the previous two years, and this enables him to cope with the shock of Ultima's death. He also decides that he does not want to reject any of the religious teachings he has learned about, and nor does he wish to choose one side of his family heritage over the other. Instead, he envisions a new religion that would be a synthesis of everything that he knows, including the pagan golden carp as well as the Christian God, as well as the llano (his heritage from his father) and the river valley (his heritage from his mother).

When the final confrontation between good and evil that has been brewing for a long time finally takes place, the scene resembles the episode in chapter 14, in which Tony also races to warn Ultima of the danger from Tenorio.  

The novel ends on a thoroughly mystical note, as the owl is revealed to be Ultima's spiritual guardian. This suggests the interpenetration of all things, even of the human and the nonhuman worlds.

It might appear as if evil triumphs, since Tenorio, although he is himself killed, succeeds in his desire to destroy Ultima. But Ultima knows that it is her time to die, so in that sense Tenorio has only helped to bring about the inevitable. Perhaps Tony can now meditate on the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Romans in the New Testament: "All things work together for good to them that love God?(Romans 8:28; King James version). This may be part of the wisdom toward which Tony is striving.

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