Good vs. Evil
According to Wikipedia, “In religion, ethics, and philosophy, the dichotomy “Good vs. Evil” refers to the location on a linear spectrum of objects, desires, or behaviors, the good direction being morally positive, and the evil direction morally negative” (Wikipedia, Good and Evil). The archetype “Good vs. Evil” had a significant influence on many Chicano literary works and today is one of the most common themes found within Chicano Literature. In the following paper I am going to explain how the role of “Good vs. Evil” was personified in the Chicano works of Bless Me Ultima, The House on Mango Street, and in He Was On of Those Special Ones, She Said.
The theme of “Good vs. Evil” played an important role in the novel Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya. The most notable representation of “Good vs. Evil” in the novel is characterized by struggle between Ultima and Tenorio. Right from the start, Ultima is displayed as being morally sound and wholesome. For example, Maria says, “I am grateful, perhaps we can repay a little of the kindness la Grande has given to so many” (Anaya 4).
This image of Ultima representing “Goodness” and morality continues throughout the novel. She acts as the defender of her community by saving people suffering from curses of black magic and by ridding evil from the community. One prime example of this occurred in the chapter “Diez”. In this chapter, Ultima saves Antonio’s uncle Lucas from near death after he is afflicted with an evil curse. Tenorio, on the other hand, is displayed as being sheer evil and morally depraved and wicked.
Tenorio, along with his witchcraft practicing daughters, represent the “Evil” side of the archetype and take their place, as Ultima’s arch-nemesis’s throughout the novel. Together they wreak havoc on the community by casting curses on innocent townsfolk and by indulging in satanic rituals, murder, and violence. The battle between these opposing characters continues for the majority of the novels plot. Even though both Ultima and Tenorio die at the end of the novel, their themes of “Goodness” and “Evilness” are maintained. Another representation of “Good vs. Evil” in Bless, Me Ultima is symbolized by the owl and by the coyotes.
The owl, which is a symbol for “Good”, acts as the protector of Ultima and plays an important role throughout the book. The symbolic importance of the owl is first displayed at the beginning of the novel. Antonio says, “I dreamed of the owl that night, and my dream was good. In my dream I saw Ultima’s owl lift la Virgen on her wide wings and fly her to heaven. Then the owl returned and gathered up all the babes of Limbo and flew them up to the clouds of heaven. The Virgin smiled at the goodness of the owl” (Anaya 14).
To Tony the owl symbolizes “Goodness” and protection. Another example of the “Goodness” of the owl was displayed in the chapter “Doce” when Tenorio, along with his drunken mob, came to seek revenge on Ultima for supposedly being a bruja and causing the death of his daughter. The owl first warns Ultima and Antonio’s family of the approaching mob and then protects Ultima by attacking Tenario. Antonio says, “There was a rustling and whirling of wings above us, and all the men ducked and held their hands up to protect themselves from the attack. But the owl sought only one man, and found him.
It hurled itself on Tenorio, and the sharp talons gouged out one eye from the face of the evil man (Anaya 140). One final example of the owls “Goodness” occurred at the end of the novel when Antonio is almost killed by Tenorio. Right before Tenorio fires his gun to kill Antonio the owl attacks him causing him to miss. The owl (Ultima) saves Antonio’s life. The coyotes, on the other hand, represent the “Evil” side of the “Good vs. Evil” archetype in the novel. The coyotes appear in the chapter “Diez” while Ultima is attempting to rid Antonio’s uncle from the curse placed onto him by Tenorio’s evil daughters.
Antonio states, “The cry of coyotes sounded outside. Their laughter-cry sounded directly outside the small window of the room. I shivered. Their claws scratched at the adobe walls of the house” (Anaya 103). It is common knowledge that when brujas want to travel they often change into owls or coyotes (Ralph1612). In this case the coyotes represented the animal form of Tenorio’s bruja daughters. After hearing the evil coyotes Ultima’s owl attacked them causing them to run off. Antonio says, “Then I heard it. It was the call of Ultima’s owl. O-oooo-ooo, it shrieked into the wind, dove and pounced on the coyotes.
Her sharp claws found flesh because the evil laughter of the coyotes changed to cries of pain” (Anaya 103). As you can see, the clash between these two animals represents the clash between “Good and Evil”. Rudolfo Anaya also used specific settings or locations to represent “Good” “Evil” within Bless Me, Ultima. The local whorehouse, Rosie’s, is an example of Evil side of the archetype. To Antonio, Rosie’s was the root of his brother’s sins and represented nothing but “Evil”. For example, in the chapter “Trece”, Narciso went to Rosie’s to warn Andrew about Tenario.
Antonio followed him there and was disappointed to discover his brother at such an “Evil” place. Antonio says, “I wanted to hate Andrew for being with the bad women, but I could not” (Anaya 173). Antonio’s house, on the other hand, was a representation of the “Good” side of the archetype. To him, his house and the people within it provided him with warmth and safety. His father provided protection, his mother provided a feeling of warmth and love, Ultima provided emotional support when traumatic experiences arose, and the Virgin Mary statue provided a feeling of closeness to God.
Antonio provided evidence regarding the importance of his house in the chapter “Trece”. After discovering Andrew at Rosie’s Antonio says, “I wanted to be home, where it was warm and safe” (Anaya 173). The final major representation of “Good” within the novel was the Virgin Mary Statue that kept reappearing. One instance of Antonio referencing the Virgin Mary Statue occurred while he was at his first communion. Antonio says, “She was smiling, her outstretched arms offering forgiveness to all” (Anaya 235 ).
When Antonio got his first communion he expected that he would have the power to communicate directly with God. Unfortunately, his expectations were not met resulting in a feeling of sad emptiness. It is at this time when Tony turned to the Virgin Mary Statue, which seemed to give him strength and make him feel better. The theme of “Good vs. Evil” also played an important role in the novel The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros. One of the most notable instances of the “Evil” side of the archetype being displayed occurred in the chapter “The First Job”.
This chapter covers Esperanza’s first day working at a new job. After befriending an elderly oriental man she is tricked into giving him a friendly kiss on the cheek, which turns harmful when he takes advantage of the situation and kisses her on the lips. In this example, “Evil” is displayed through the man’s sexual exploitation of Esperanza. Mistreating women this way is considered immoral for most cultures and thus is “Evil”. Another representation of the Evil side of the archetype occurred in the chapter “The Earl of Tennessee”.
This chapter tells a story of a lonely man named Earl who lives in Esperanza’s neighborhood. Earl is supposedly married man but no one is the neighborhood can seem to agree on what his wife looks like. Ezperanza says, “We never agree on what she looks like, but we do know this. Whenever she arrives, he holds her tight by the crook of the arm. They walk fast into the apartment, lock the door behind them and never stay long” (Cisneros 71). This section displays the “Evil” side of the “Good vs. Evil” archetype. It is obvious that Earl is being sexually mischievous and exploiting women for sex.
For Ezperanza and her tightly knit religious community such behavior is viewed unthinkable and extremely immoral. Ezperanza lives in neighborhood populated heavily with Mexican immigrants. Roman Catholicism is known as the dominant religion in Mexico and is reflective of Mexico’s religious and historical past. According to the website, World Savvy, “Roman Catholicism continues to be the dominant religion in Mexico today, at nearly 89%” (Monitor). The Roman Catholic Church views sexual promiscuity and the exploitation of women as sinful.
Because of this, Earl’s behavior represents “Evil”. The “Good” aspect of the “Good vs. Evil” archetype is also displayed in this coming of age novel. One of the most notable instances of the “Good” aspect of the archetype occurred in the chapter “Four Skinny Trees”. In this chapter Ezperanza describes the importance of the four skinny trees that grow in her front yard. Ezperanza says, “Four skinny trees with skinny necks and pointy elbows like mine. Four who do not belong here but are here. Their strength is secret. They send ferocious roots beneath the ground.
They grow hairy toes and bite the sky with violent teeth and never quit their anger. This is how they keep” (Cisneros 74). The trees in this chapter are a symbol of Good. To Ezperanza they represent strength and power. They are able to continue growing despite their flaws and unsupportive environment. To Ezperanza they symbolize her life and her drive to succeed despite an unaccommodating environment. A second instance of the “Good” aspect of the archetype was displayed in the chapter “A House of My Own”. In this chapter Ezperanza declares her deep desire to one day own her own house.
Ezperanza says, “Not a flat. Not an apartment in back. Not a man’s house. Not daddy’s. A house all my own” (Cisneros 108). The house represents “Goodness”. It represents happiness and the achievement of something she once thought was impossible. The theme of “Good vs. Evil” also played an important role in the poem He was one of those special ones, She said, by Ines Hernandez. This poem is written from the perspective of a young woman and describes a reckless sexual encounter that she once had with a man. The poem represents the “Evil” side of the archetype in two different ways.
The sexual encounter that occurred between the pair is the first instance of “Evil”. The woman says, “I knew he would have me find the curve in the hill to fit my body into, reckless, strolling, motion” (Hernandez). Sexual promiscuity of this sort is viewed as immoral by the Catholic Church and in the eyes of God. Such behavior is viewed as wantonly destructive and morally bad and as a result fits into the “Evil” aspect of the archetype. The mans inconsiderate sexual exploitation of the girl was also a representation of the “Evil” aspect of the archetype.
In the poem the woman says, “He has a way about him that’s for sure, she said. Can make you stop what you’re doing at a moment’s notice” (Hernandez). This excerpt shows that the man was the power figure in the relationship. He was the one that instigated the meeting and the sexual events that occurred. It was intrinsically corrupted, selfish, and “Evil” for the man to use his charm and charisma to violate the young innocent woman. The archetype “Good vs. Evil” played a huge role in the literary works of Bless Me Ultima, The House on Mango Street, and in He Was One of Those Special Ones, She Said.
In Bless Me, Ultima Rudolfo was able to use this literary theme to characterize the struggle between Ultima and Tenorio and also to display the importance of Holy and Sinful influences and how they affected Antonio as he came of age. In The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros was able to us this theme as a tool to give the reader a glimpse into the struggles that many Mexican American’s and Mexican immigrants go through. She also used the theme to inspire immigrants in similar situations and to inscribe the notion that it is possible to grow up and succeed even if you come from a humble beginning.
Finally in He Was One of Those Special Ones, She Said, Ines Hernandez used the theme to represent the promiscuous and sometimes forced sexual experiences that many young Chicana women go through as they come of age. It is important to understand that many Chicano authors use this literary theme to express themselves along with influences from their cultures. This is why it is important to use the Intersectionality Lens of Analysis while reading Chicano
Works Cited Anaya, Rudolfo. Bless Me, Ultima. New York: Time Warner Company, 1999. Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street.
New York: Vintige Books, 1984. Hernandez, Ines. He Was One of Those Special Ones, She Said. n. d. Monitor, World Savvy. Mexico. 20 10 2012. 2012 <http://worldsavvy. org/monitor/index. php? option=com_content&view=article&id=648&Itemid=1118>. Ralph1612. Bless Me Ultima. <http://bookstove. com/drama/bless-me-ultima/>.
WikiPedia. Chicano literature. 18 3 2012. 23 10 2012 <http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Chicano_literature>. Wikipedia. Evil. 22 10 2012. 2012 <http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Evil>. —. Good and Evil. 4 2011. 23 10 2012 <http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Good_and_evil>.