Summary and Analysis Chapter 21



On his way to the creek with Cico, Antonio hopes to see the golden carp; at the same time, he is obsessed with communicating, one-on-one, with the Catholic God — despite the fact that He did not cure Uncle Lucas or save Lupito or Narciso. Cico believes in many gods; the god of the Catholic Church, he says, is a jealous god who cannot live in peace with the other gods.

Arriving at the creek, they witness the arrival of the golden carp. To Antonio, it seems to be the embodiment of beauty, the god of here and now. He tells Cico that they must tell Florence about the golden carp. Florence needs at least one god, one that can bring beauty into his life.

They arrive at Blue Lake and hear frantic shouting. Florence dived and did not surface. Antonio sends Abel for the lifeguard, and moments later, Florence's body rolls to the surface, his eyes clouded and staring. After the body is pulled from the water, Antonio kneels beside it, makes the sign of the cross, and prays an Act of Contrition. Instinctively, he knows that his actions are futile because Florence did not believe in God.

Above, two hawks circle high in the blue sky. Antonio notices that Cico is gone and suddenly becomes sick. He runs back to town and to the river, wades across to the thickets of the brush and cottonwoods on the other side, and spends the rest of the afternoon grieving for his friend.


Antonio's unanswered questions draw him toward the golden carp. He remains convinced that God determines who goes to heaven and hell, but he seems to have given up on any other involvement by Him in life. He learns that Cico believes in many gods and is not surprised. He is feeling more and more at ease with the relativity of perspectives. Indeed, Cico pushed him to make a choice between God and the golden carp, and he seems willing to accept more than one god, especially since repeated confessions and communions have yielded nothing in terms of understanding. The golden carp becomes the god of the here and now, of the beauty that exists in the present.

Antonio and Cico decide to inform Florence about the golden carp, but Florence drowns before they can do so. The lifeguard's concern with a perfect record points to the cultural gaps that separate Chicano/as and Anglo Americans. One is a humanistic culture, the other an instrumental one. One emphasizes human relationships; the other, achievement and material success.

Antonio's acceptance of the golden carp may allow him to perceive the possibility that Florence has gone with the golden carp to a place of beauty. This view may allay his fears of his own death, which he undoubtedly considers as he grieves alone on the riverbank.


el Rito the Bito Creek.

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