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Voice and Ambivalence in Bless Me Ultima and Baby of the Family

Voice and Ambivalence in Bless Me Ultima and Baby of the Family

Bless Me Ultima and Baby of the Family serve as the ‘coming of age’ stories of two minority children. Rudolfo Anaya and Tina McElory Ansa skillfully reveal the richness, diversity, and conflicts that can exist within the Hispanic-American and African-American cultures primarily through the dream sequences in each novel. Dreams are the mechanism used in each work to magnify the individual experiences and conflicts Tony and Lena encounter. In addition and perhaps, more importantly, Tony and Lena deal with ambivalence and find their voices not only through the relationships with other characters, but through the resolution of their dreams.

To truly fathom how integral and dependent the dreams are in the novels, a few definitions are in order. Dreams are defined, not only as “images passing through a sleeping person’s mind” (Neufeldt 132). Dreams also include the mystical events or dream-like occurrences within each novel. Dreams are a way for each character to connect to the past and, perhaps reveal the future. The otherworldly experiences or dreams of Tony and Lena help guide them down the road of ambivalence, and eventually lead to an awakening or the attainment of ‘voice.’

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines ambivalence as “simultaneous conflicting feelings” (13). These ‘conflicts’ can be seen in external situations, and typically have serious internal implications. This condition is one of the defining factors of the Hispanic-American experience. Are Hispanics immigrants or minorities? In terms of religion, are they Catholic or Indian? Typically, Hispanic- Americans blend the two choices because neither situation totally applies to them. Perh…

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… Once Lena and Tony are reconciled to the swirling adventures that transpire around them, there is a resolution. A rebirth of sorts occurs for each character as they realize that they must take conflicting ideologies and mesh them together to form individual voices.

Works Cited

Ansa, Tina McElroy. Interview with Tina McElroy Ansa by Doubleday. Book Group Corner. accessed 30 Oct. 2000.

Callahan, John F. In the African-American Grain: The Pursuit of Voice in Twentieth-Century Black Fiction. University of Illinois Press: Urbana and Chicago. 1988.

Neufeldt, Victoria, ed. Webster’s New World Compact School and Office Dictionary. 1 vol. to date. MacMillan: USA. 1995.

Wood, Scott. “Book Reviews: ‘Bless Me Ultima.'” Contemporary Literary Criticism. vol. 23 (1983): 22.

Humanity and Reason in Othello

Humanity and Reason in Othello

In Othello Shakespeare probes deeply into the human condition by creating characters, who, by their inability to think rationally, surrender what sets them above animals. Before he succumbs to Iago’s poisonous innuendoes, Othello himself expresses his clear understanding of this role of the human intellect. He initially refuses to listen to Iago’s suggestions that Desdemona cannot be trusted, “Exchange me for a goat/When I shall turn the business of my soul/To such exsufflicate and blown surmises” (3.3.194-96). Othello feels that he would be acting like an animal if he became irrationally jealous because someone would say “my wife is fair, feeds well, loves company” (3.3.198). He tells Iago that he will not blindly fall into jealousy, especially when he never has had reason to suspect Desdemona, “I’ll see before I doubt; when I doubt, prove;/And on the proof, there is no more but this–/Away at once with love or jealousy” (3.3.205-07).

Othello is at this point a confident man, both in his wife’s faithfulness, and in his ability to think rationally. However, Shakespeare shows that this confidence is often not enough. In his Sonnet 129, Shakespeare describes lust as another force that destroys the ability to reason effectively. The poet depicts lust as desire that is

Past reason hunted, and no sooner had,

Past reason hated as a swallowed bait

On purpose laid to make the taker mad:

All this world well knows, yet none knows well

To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.


In his sonnet, Shakespeare laments that even when we know that lust is dangerously irrational, most people cannot resist falling under its spell. Othello finds the same to be true ab…

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…mplete Works of Shakespeare . Ed. David Bevington. 4th ed. NY: Longman, 1997.

Soellner, Rolf. Shakespeare’s Patterns of Self-Knowledge . N.p.: Ohio State UP, 1972.


Thesis Statement: When the characters in Othello cease to use reason they lose their humanity and are associated with animal imagery. Roderigo Irrationally in love with Desdemona Wants to drown himself like “cats and blind puppies” Iago calls him a snipe Iago Irrationally jealous of Othello and Cassio Equates love with animalistic lust Encourages others to “be a man” A man is decisive A man looks out for himself A man loves himself Roderigo calls him an “inhuman dog”, Lodovico a “Spartan dog” Emilia implores him to tell the truth “if thou be’st a man” Othello Irrationally jealous of Desdemona and Cassio Equates lack of reason with animals Refers to himself as a dog.

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