Analysis of Novels of Rudolfo Anaya

Categories: Novel ReadingNovels

Rudolfo Anaya born October 30, 1937, is often regarded now as one of the greatest authors in Chicano literature if not the best and rightfully so, with outstanding works such as Bless Me Ultima, Heart Of Aztlan, Tortuga and a series of compelling mystery novels as well as other stories reflecting himself. Each of these novels deals with and or either revolve around the problems of a young character most likely of Hispanic origin and or the book is showing the problems of Hispanic people drawing from experiences and or observations of Anaya’s own.

Anaya being adept as he is with English would seem to have been a native speaker along with Spanish but this is not the case Anaya only learned English as he was starting school and used this knowledge as well as the change of his point of view due to when he broke his back to eventually graduate from the University of New Mexico.

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After graduating he became a public school teacher and taught in Albuquerque from 1963-1970 following this he taught from 1974 to 1993 at the University of New Mexico. Today Anaya lives in the very place where his style of writing as well as where his identity was born, New Mexico. He continues to be an integral part of the university today enjoying his job of teaching others the same subject that he fell in love with (“Rudolfo Alfonso Anaya Biography”).

Form, Structure, and Plot

Chapters are numbered with Uno, dos, tres etc. there are about 22 of them and each lasts anywhere from 3-19 pages following the same structure of each being a different account from the fictional character Antonio Marez’ childhood.

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A big way in which the story is projected and fueled is through the use of extensive dream sequences from Antonio. These dreams allow the reader to achieve another point of view as they are reading about Antonio’s desires and our fears. A great example of a powerful dream is when a metaphor was created of Antonio’s world with the storm showing the divide between his mother and father as well as a religion after this dream Antonio achieves a deeper understanding of life as not just moving separate parts but a whole cycle that coincides with each part. Another pivotal dream sequence is pertaining the three deaths young Antonio has witnessed and basically in his dream, the three deceased appear but as his friends instead and ultimately Ultima dies effectively Antonio seeing into the future as well as the book foreshadowing for what is to come. Lastly another important dream sequence is Antonio’s first one showing that the young boy’s understanding of how family works as well as life is not what one would expect from such a young age, the conflict is regarding young Antonio as a baby and the parent’s different viewpoints on how the boy should be raised as well as the rituals following his birth eventually Ultima steps in and resolves this conflict showing her power for the very first time in the novel. Ultimately these dreams end without much resolution as he still shies away from religion but in the end, Antonio finally has control over himself and not the images that haunted him for so long. The plot is complex taking the reader to a multitude of places as well as exploring a multitude of moral questions faced by Antonio as well as the reader even. Such examples of this are the deaths Antonio has witnessed especially from the ones he cares about most and the pressing matters of Ultima knowing his destiny and when she will reveal it. Time advances at a slightly faster than moderate pace with Antonio being six at the beginning of the novel and by the end reaching adolescence or at least beginning it. The novel opens with Antonio speaking of Ultima and her coming as well as his living quarters at the time, the end shows Antonio dealing with the death of Ultima as well as his mother becoming more accepting of both.

Point of View

The point of view of the novel is First Person limited as Antonio Marez older now, recounts his life narrating it in the novel. This provides the power of Antonio having access to a multitude of thoughts from his younger self which no matter the subject are always intriguing as these thoughts remind the reader of a time when they had these thoughts as well. Shifts of the point of view never really occur as Antonio is telling the story himself so anything that is stated in the novel is directly filtered and came from him. This point of view provides a powerful everlasting effect on the novel as stated before the narration of Antonio reminiscing on “the good old days” when he was a child or how he grew up to learn to see the world for what it really is or what he thinks it is, the author’s purpose seems to be to give the reader the thought that Antonio is reflecting on these events as they have happened in the past and not the present which creates a more powerful effect as to how Antonio decides to tell the reader the events played out.


Throughout the novel there a majority of characters revealed and really only about 5 or 6 of them are round as compared to others who are just flat. Those characters who are flat are generally static not experiencing a high amount of change while those who were more rounded are more dynamic experiencing high amounts of change. Each character is revealed through Antonio either speaking of them or his account of his first interaction with those characters. There are about 23 different characters with some being minor playing the role in the story of shaping Antonio’s accounts and or minutely affecting his choices. First character described will be the main protagonist of this story Antonio Marez, he begins the story at about age 6 and ends somewhere in adolescence as his age is not directly stated, three adjectives to describe him are questionable, observant and serious. Antonio is never really described in great detail as to how he looks but one can assume he is mid to dark skinned to his origin. Antonio’s personality is a person who when he doesn’t understand an idea or action he questions it and relentlessly works until he finds the answer he is looking for, he becomes conflicted when he sees something he cannot understand. Antonio’s function in the novel is to progress it and tell his story, name doesn’t have much significance other than serving as a fictional character for the author to tell a compelling story through, key quotation is “I had never felt such fear before, because as the whirlwind blew its debris around me the gushing wind seemed to call my name.” (6.156-158) this is the first time Antonio has been blessed by Ultima and he relates it to one of his dreams. The second character described is Ultima, her exact age is never described but the reader can assume she is older being a healer as well as wise as she is, three adjectives to describe her are wise, understanding, and supernatural. Ultima’s appearance is described as a traditional healer as well as an owl on her side eerily following her as some kind of pet or protector, her personality is a strong-willed women who deals with ridicule from the community calling her a witch and such as most people do not understand her power so they just outcast what they do not understand, she is also caring and understanding as Antonio addresses her improperly and his mother gets mad but she doesn’t mind this at all. Her function in the novel is to serve as a guide for Antonio explaining what he does not understand to him and generally pointing him in the right direction, she helps others as well guiding them too when she dies she now serves as a bigger symbol to Antonio and has an everlasting effect on him. Ultima translated means “end” or “ultimate” this idea can be applied in multiple ways in the novel such as that she helps Antonio achieve higher wisdom and helps him find his interpretation of what the meaning of life really is as well as the end of it too. A key quotation for Ultima is “It is because good is always stronger than evil. Always remember that, Antonio. The smallest bit of good can stand against all the powers of evil in the world and it will emerge triumphant.” this quotation is significant in that Ultima is teaching Antonio a very important theme that will take him very far in life as well as further his understanding of the world this quote also shows a deep look in Ultima’s character and who she is. The third character being described is Gabriel Marez, his age is never stated directly but the reader can assume he begins the story as an adult and by the end is close to his 40s, three descriptive adjectives are bitter, strong-minded and a dreamer. His appearance is never really described in detail but the reader can assume as he is a former cowboy and of Hispanic origin. Gabriel is a bitter man who usually sticks to what he believes in this is apparent as him and Antonio’s mom get into an argument when Antonio is born as to what traditions shall follow his birth and as well as what he will be involved in from a young age, Gabriel is bitter in his natural nature but also due to the town as well as his wife kicking him from the Llano, he serves as a teacher as well as a protector for Antonio as he grows up throughout the story, name has no super important purpose other than a character for Antonio to tell his compelling story through. A key quotation for Gabriel is “Ay, every generation, every man is a part of his past he cannot escape it, but he may reform the old materials make something new.”(Anaya 247) this shows a deeper look into his character and how much he has developed as he is finally accepting the idea of his son making his own path in the world and not following his dad’s path and failed dreams. Fourth character being described is the Antagonist of the book Tenorio Trementina, it can only be assumed that he is anywhere from the early 40s to late 50s due to the owning of a saloon, being adept and very knowledgeable with witchcraft, and the age of his daughters, three descriptive adjectives are hateful, ambiguous and determined. His appearance is like many other characters mildly described with few details which leave the reader to have even more assumptions such as a man of Hispanic origin that practices witchcraft. His personality is generally just a man filled with hate and determination, the type of person who has no real moral code and bases all actions of off emotional assertions as compared to logical ones this is apparent when he kills Narciso simply for praising and loving Ultima as he hates her as she uses their own curse against him and his family. His main function in the novel is to serve as an example of what is bad in the world to Antonio and what he should not become, he also serves as a challenge for Antonio to overcome as he basically kills Ultima as he kills her owl. Again name has no super important significance other than a fictional character for the author to tell his compelling story through.


The novel takes place in Guadalupe, New Mexico. Symbols associated with this setting are key points such as that it takes place during World War II with the speak of atomic bombs and the town’s fear of them, this was taking place during the novel changes the town forever with men returning from war changed and horrified unable to live their normal lives anymore great examples of characters in the novel affected by war are Andrew Marez, who is Antonio’s brother and after returning is depressed and traumatized and doesn’t feel as if he belongs another is Lupita who due to his horrific war experiences is driven to kill the town sheriff and to be hunted down eventually and killed, this is also significant as this is the first death Antonio witnesses. The environment is described as very rural and open with buildings and architecture very reminiscent of Hispanic culture with condensed towns where seemingly everybody knows everybody. Generally, a social environment of unsurety and distrust is created besides family and close friends due to many deaths that occur from day to day as well as the religious versus supernatural problems that occur in the town. The setting is very important to the novel as Antonio is surrounded around a lot of religious problems and or problems just due to him living in an area that is generally of lower economic status as compared to other areas in the world.


For the most part the writing is generally colloquial with the whole story coming from the experiences of young boy growing up, the reader shouldn’t expect this to be formal as even though Anaya is using Antonio grown up now as a narrator he still wants to capture the character of a young boy and what kinds of questions he might ask or just being a kid in general which is not generally formal and that Anaya is telling this story to his audience as if they are right in front of him using slang and parts of speech. An example of this colloquial writing is “My heart sank. When I thought of leaving my mother and going to school alone, sick feeling came to my stomach. To get rid of it I ran to the pens we kept by the Molino to feed the animals.’ (Anaya 7) this shows colloquial writing as Anaya is telling the audience directly about his feeling of leaving his mother as if they are a friend or family member being very loose and informal. Anaya uses a moderate amount of imagery throughout the book to show as well as better explain certain events such deaths and or characters. Anaya uses a few metaphorical devices to get the theme of the novel across to the reader as well as a teaching device for Antonio such as Ultima’s Owl, The golden carp, The Virgin of Guadalupe and The Atomic Bomb. Generally, the language is not plain and has a lot of diversity within it with descriptive terms as well as Mexican slang or words put into there.

The diction does indicate social status, education and region as the reader can tell that Antonio writing the book is educated to a high degree now and is now reflecting on his childhood, the region and social status is apparent with again the reflective writing being used as Antonio is now in a better region with a better socio-economic status than what he had for most of his childhood as well as adolescence. The dialogue is different from the narrative voice as more slang and or Spanish terms are used and the dialogue is generally more colloquial than the narration itself. The dialogue from each character creates a voice in the reader’s head as to how that character might sound as well as their origins based on how they speak and address others. First passage analyzed is as follows “Ay Dios Mio!’ my mother cried. She came to where I sat and ran her hand through my hair. She smelled warm, like bread. ‘Where do you get such questions, my son. Yes,’ she smiled, ‘la Grande was there to help me. She was there to help at the birth of all of my children-‘ ‘And my uncles from El Puerto were there?’ ‘Of course,’ she answered, ‘my brothers have always been at my side when I needed them. They have always prayed that I would bless them with a-‘.(Anaya 8) this passage shows Anaya’s writing style in that him capturing the thoughts of a young boy as he mentions his mother smells warm like bread, this also shows the difference between the narrative text versus the dialogue text in that his mother uses the Spanish statement “Ay Dios Mio!” in reaction to her son’s questions, this also helps differentiate her character from others as her speaking style is quick and abrupt often explaining in great lengths, this sets tone in that the passage is about the casual conversation between a mother and her son. The second passage being analyzed is as follows “ Jason!’ I called at the kitchen door. I had run hard and was panting. His mother appeared at the door. ‘Jason no Esta aqui,’ she said.

All of the older people spoke only in Spanish, and I myself understood only Spanish. It was only after one went to school that one learned English. ‘Donde Esta?’ I asked. She pointed towards the river, northwest, past the railroad tracks to the dark hills. The river came through those hills and there were old Indian grounds there, holy burial grounds Jason told me. There is an old cave lived his Indian. At least everybody called him Jason’s Indian. He was the only Indian of the town, and he talked only to Jason.”(Anaya 22) this passage shows again the differences of dialogue text versus narrative text as well as the as the use of Spanish statements except for this time it is different as it is the narrator himself using the statement in dialogue as compared to another character doing so. This passage defines Antonio’s character even more as it shows that he has a deep care for his friend Jason despite being a native American in which they are usually shunned which is an indication of a good heart within Antonio and his ability to believe his assertions more than others. This sets the tone of urgency and suspense as Antonio does not know where his friend Jason is and he is worried about him. The third passage being analyzed is as follows “ He shook his head and knitted his eyebrows. I thought God must look that way when He is angry. ‘And you heard about Lupita-‘- my mother said. ‘A sad thing, a tragedy,’ my grandfather nodded. ‘This war of the Germans and the Japanese is reaching into all of us. Even into the refuge of the Valle de Los Lunas it reaches.

We have just finished burying one of the boys of Santos Estevan. There is much evil running loose in the world-‘ They had turned towards the kitchen where they would drink coffee and eat sweetbreads until it was time to go to my uncle Juan’s.”(Anaya 43) again this passage shows the difference of dialogue text versus narrative text with it generally being more colloquial and creating a voice of that character in the reader’s head and making it easy to distinguish between which character is which based on their speaking style. The diction helps define Antonio’s grandfathers character better in that it shows his opinion of the war and his general mood most of the time. This diction creates a tone of a casual conversation between Antonio and his grandfather with it being very colloquial.


The sentences are predominantly simple with each one getting directly to the point which is good considering this is a narration. Sentences are generally short and appear this way in a multitude of times, each sentence being short builds up to create a very detail rich and overall an enjoyable piece to read, with a little bit of dialogue mixed in there too often being shorter than sentences and getting fragmented and cut off by the sentences. Level of formality is not too high as the writing is very colloquial and Anaya addresses the audience in a way as if they are right in front of him and or a close friend or family member with the use of slang and Spanish terms in dialogue and such. Parallel structure is used in the text with multiple words having the same ending consecutively such as “running” and “burying”(Anaya 61). Significant loose or periodic sentences appear moderately as used when describing an event or situation to further elevate the narrative text an example is “Late at night sleep dragged us away from the stories to a cozy bed.”(Anaya 61).

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Analysis of Novels of Rudolfo Anaya. (2021, Oct 04). Retrieved from

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