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Chapter 3 Summary When Antonio awakes, he ponders the fate of Lupito's soul and those of the men who killed him. His parents quarrel as they always do on Sunday mornings, as Gabriel's vaquero mindset is not favorable to priests. When María scolds Antonio for not being properly formal when greeting Ultima, Ultima requests that she back off because the night was hard on all men. María protests that he is still a baby. She thinks it is a sin for boys to become men.

Many women in town are dressed in mourning because of sons and husbands lost in the war, which has indirectly claimed two more victims. Antonio and Ultima discuss the events of the previous night. She states that she doesn't think Gabriel fired at Lupito, but she warns that no one should presume to decide whom God forgives or not. Before mass, Antonio mingles with the other boys.

They horse around and discuss the night's events. Antonio contributes nothing to the subject of Lupito's death.

Commentary Having been introduced to an adult moral dilemma, Antonio is obsessed with sin and punishment. Ultima explains that men of the llano, referring to Gabriel and Narciso, will not kill without reason. However, she also tells Antonio that people have to make independent moral decisions based on what they know. However, matters of salvation and damnation are not for human beings to determine. In her own way, Ultima is talking about fate and destiny within the language of Catholicism because those are the terms with which Antonio is trying to make sense of Lupito's death.

Moreover, Ultima tries to subtly let Antonio know that the adults he loves and trusts are not infallible. Narciso and Gabriel both tried to save Lupito, but the blind anger and fear of Chávez and the others prevented them from doing so. Furthermore, Ultima does not tell Antonio what to think but how people like his father and Narciso make moral decisions. Antonio can then apply this understanding to his own decisions.

The opinions that María and Gabriel have of growing up highlight the major issues of sin and punishment that preoccupy Antonio. His mother associates growing up with learning how to sin, while Gabriel and Ultima view growing up as an inevitable process that is not good or bad in itself. As a boy becomes a man, he uses his life experience and his knowledge to make decisions. María equates the loss of innocence with the loss of moral purity. She believes that Antonio is saved only if he becomes a priest. She even wants to go to Father Byrnes to discuss Antonio's future as a priest. Gabriel snaps that no one but Antonio should decide whether he becomes a priest. His response reveals both his belief that meddling in another's destiny is wrong and his prejudice against priests. María, as a staunch Catholic, believes in meddling in Antonio's future as much as possible because the state of his soul is at stake. She also fears Antonio's inevitable maturation because he will start making his own decisions; he will no longer constantly look to her for guidance.

The family passes Rosie's house (a brothel) during the walk to church, and Antonio remembers that his mother frequently orders him and his sisters to bow their heads when they pass it. Antonio only has a dim understanding of her reasons. However, he has made an unconscious connection between sins of the flesh and his mother's negative attitude regarding his journey into manhood. Later in the novel, we learn that the priest who led the Luna family into El Puerto was actually their father, as well. The Luna family is extremely sensitive about this matter, as it is a violation of a priest's celibacy, so it is possible that María, on some level, wants Antonio to become a priest and cleanse her family of that original sin. If Antonio becomes a priest without succumbing to the temptations of the flesh, he restores moral purity to the Luna name.

As Ultima and Gabriel predicted, it is inevitable that Antonio will grow up and start making his own decisions. When they arrive at church, Antonio forms a peer group independent of his family with Horse, Bones, and the rest of the gang. He is already beginning to separate from his mother and form relationships on his own. The boys often make vulgar sexual references, and they curse frequently. María would not approve, but Antonio becomes friends with them anyway. However, nor does Antonio succumb entirely to peer pressure. The other boys discuss Lupito's death with varying degrees of sympathy. He does not cheapen Lupito's death by taking part in their sensationalized discussion even though he could add to their titillation by telling them he actually witnessed it.