The religious and spiritual symbolism in Anaya's book, Bless Me, Ultima blend beautifully with the powerfully described New Mexican setting and culture that surround the novel's main character, Antonio, and place him at the center of a series of thematic struggles including the classic struggle of good vs. evil, the difficult decision of choosing between one's apparent destiny and giving in to one's choices, and the intense discovery and formation of alternate beliefs in a higher being.
Anaya places Antonio in a Catholic household of Mexican descent in the rural setting of Las Pastures, New Mexico. Tony's mother is a faithful and passionate Catholic, believing in the importance of direct prayer to God and the adoration of the Virgin Mary. She sees and feels the holiness that surrounds Tony's being from his birth, and raises him in hopes that he will some day become a priest. The characterization of Tony's father provides a nice contrast that lends an insight into the formation of Tony.
His father is a man of the land, using it respectfully and living in symbiance with it to ensure the healthy lifespans of both his family, and his family's land or llano. The contrast in Tony's parental upbringing sets the stage for his future conflicts concerning the true existence of a God, and the reasons for the existence of good and evil that he witnesses in life.
Symbolism is a central tool that Anaya uses to artistically convey Tony's journey and his discoveries, amazements, and disappointments along the way. Perhaps most finely crafted is Anaya's creation of the golden carp, used to represent the startling effect of peace and joy that Tony feels after discovering its existence. The golden carp itself is a symbol of an alternate idol of worship besides the Christian God that...