Summary and Analysis
Sick with pneumonia, Antonio remains in bed for several days after his fever breaks. He learns that his father went to the sheriff and accused Tenorio of murdering Narciso; the coroner, however, declared that Narciso's death was the result of an accident or was self-inflicted. Narciso is buried, and the townspeople, who say he died drunk, quickly forget about him.
Andrew visits the bedridden Antonio but does not stay long. Afterwards, Antonio asks Ultima if he talked about Andrew while he was sick with fever. She says that he didn't reveal Andrew's secret, and he is glad that she understands.
After Antonio recovers, he sits with Ultima and listens to stories about the old days in Las Pasturas. She talks of Narciso's youth and how he turned to drinking after he lost his young wife to diphtheria. She tells Antonio of the strong social bonds that used to tie people together in lifelong friendships, bonds that helped them survive life on the desolate plains.
Antonio begins to recite prayers in preparation for his catechism class in the spring, and Maria asks him to read the prayers to her in English even though she does not understand the language. She believes that Antonio needs to know both English and Spanish if he is to be successful as a priest.
One stormy morning before the end of Christmas vacation, León and Eugene are brought home by a police officer. They wrecked their car up near Anton Chico and had to burn it in order to stay warm. Afterwards, María prays to the Virgin, grateful for her sons' safety.
Next day, León, Eugene, and Andrew go into town to play billiards, and Gabriel drinks during most of the afternoon, happy to have his boys home again, but knowing they will leave in the spring, when he yearns most to go to the West Coast. Next morning, tending to the windmill, he realizes that the days when he and his sons could work together with pleasure are gone, and the next day, León, Eugene, and Andrew leave for Santa Fe. They didn't even wait until spring.
Narciso's death goes unpunished by the townspeople, and Antonio becomes aware that social perceptions often determine justice. Because Narciso was a drunkard, the townspeople didn't care much about his death. Antonio, on the other hand, saw him as a good man and as one of the magic people.
Antonio becomes estranged from Andrew as a result of Narciso's murder. He cannot help but wonder if Narciso might still be alive if Andrew had helped him. Unconsciously, Antonio is blaming his brother for Narciso's death and finding it difficult to forgive him. Moreover, for Antonio, Andrew's departure affirms his loss of innocence.
From Ultima, Antonio learns of human frailty and how Narciso took to drinking to cope with hardships in life. He realizes that hardships bring people together and that lifelong friendships emerge as a consequence. But Anaya is also speaking to us about the social solidarity that exists in rural communities and the sense of community that stems from it.
Reciting his prayers in English to his mother, Antonio is reminded of the struggle over language. He is becoming increasingly aware of his membership in an ethnic group and developing a sense of the cultural conflict that exists. At the same time, his mother provides him with an adaptive strategy that embraces both Spanish and English. The return and departure of Antonio's brothers signify a new period in the Márez family. Gabriel seems to accept that his dream to move his family westward will never be realized and that his sons now have lives independent from his own. Gabriel works alone, and his solitude poignantly signals the end of the work team that he and his sons once constituted. For Antonio, the tension between the opposing visions and aspirations of his parents are bound to lessen, as Gabriel has achieved a new level of understanding and will not continue to stand resolutely behind his dreams. The brothers continue their own quests in life. Unconsciously, Antonio is losing confidence in his parents' nostalgic perspectives and in his brothers as role models. He is growing in assurance, critical intelligence, and individuality.
posole hominy soup, made with chili, pork, and spicy seasonings.
bizcochito homemade cookies sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.
empanaditas turnovers, usually of pumpkin, fruit, or meat.
el policía the police.