SYMBOLISM OF ANIMALS Bless Me Ultima, a book by Rudolfo A. Anaya, is about a young boy named Antonio who comes of age through troubling ordeals throughout the book. He is aided in this journey by a curandera named Ultima, who teaches Tony many life lessons. Anaya uses animals to symbolize intangible attributes such as good and evil. Representing Ultima, he uses the owl, which serves as the good character, while the coyote represents evil, portrayed by Tenorio. The Golden Carp is a symbol of Tonys uncertainty toward religion and morality.
Anayas portrayal of these mystical characteristics shapes Tonys ascent into manhood. The need for good is represented by the owl, which symbolizes Ultima. The symbolic value of the owl is seen early in the story when Tony calls it Ultimas owl (12). Tony is aware of the presence of the owl because he heard the owl cry its warning before the death of Lupito (14). This foreshadowing of events occurs throughout the book, and shows the magical powers Tony believed to belong to the owl / Ultima. Because of these powers Tonys life is very confusing and unstable. The owl also proves to be a savior to Antonios family when it pounced on the coyotes while Ultima and Tony are helping Uncle Lucas (92).
Tony realizes that in order to be successful, he must heed the warnings that come to him through nature, and his dreams. He learns that he must put himself in vulnerable positions, like the owl who risks its life, to help others. Evil, on the other hand, is symbolized by coyotes and the character of Tenorio. Before Tenorio is involved in the story, there is no mention of the wickedness of the coyotes, but once he shows up, theyre constantly on the side of evil. Tony refers to Tenorios friends as a ring of coyotes around him (83).
A unique perspective differentiates Tony from the other characters in the story. Once an idea is implanted into his mind, it remains there in his subconscious. Later in the story he even calls the coyotes Tenorios — He ran to find refuge behind two of his coyotes (124). In times of death Tony also mentions the circling of hawks (104, 231). Even if this is just coincidence, Tony finds it important that scavengers be associated to the evil deeds committed. The connection that Tony makes between animals that live off the misfortune of others, and Tenorio, who holds vengeance toward others, is another step towards his realization of the world.
The Golden Carp represents all the questions Tony has about religion and morality. Tonys confusion is due to conflicting forces in both these aspects of life. When Cico first introduces the Carp to Tony, he is forced to make a tough decision — Do you believe the Golden Carp is a god? — which he skillfully evades until he has the information he wants to make his decision (99). After the emergence of the Carp, Tony begins to question his Catholic upbringing, and he wonders why God punishes people. Florence, his atheist friend, explains his philosophy toward religion, and this pulls Tony even farther away from priesthood, which he desired at the outset of the story. Tonys exclamation Seeing him made questions and worries evaporate..
is a good example of how his beliefs shifted drastically in this short period due to his coming of age (227). By the end of the book Tony is interested in not which is the right god, rather how he must live his life to satisfy his own beliefs. Anaya uses animals to help Tony ease through the process of maturing, which Tony is forced to do in a short period. The animals help young Tony express his feelings through a medium that relates to both the reader and Tony. Because of all the violence and death, Tonys perspective is different, as a young child, then other children his age. Symbolism is the key to understanding the thoughts occurring in Tonys mind, while he is experiencing things for the first time in his own unique way.