‘The Bullet Swallower’ Book Ending Explained – Does Antonio get his revenge?

The Bullet Swallower Plot Summary

The story is split across two time periods – 1895 and 1964 respectively. The 1895 story is the dominant focus here though and it centers on Antonio Sonoro, a ruthless man who has promised his wife he’s going to hang up his bandit hate and stop a life of crime.

Unfortunately, a drought and a desperate lack of money forces Antonio’s hand and he heads out with his brother Hugo in pursuit of a treasure that could change their fortunes forever.

The pair bite off more than they can chew and when Rangers track them down, the unspeakable happens. Antonio is hell bent on revenge and sets off on a crusade to right these wrongs and cast vengeance on the Rangers.

Is Antonio the Bullet Swallower?

After Hugo is killed at the hands of the Rangers, he himself is shot in the mouth. His injuries are grim and for a while, it’s unclear whether Antonio will even survive. Thankfully he does (otherwise we wouldn’t have much of a book!) and he goes on the hunt for the Rangers to get his revenge.

Antonio’s injuries are gnarly, with the bullet lodging itself into his stomach after taking off half his face, which causes our protagonist a tremendous amount of pain until he recovers. This is how he coined the nickname “Bullet Swallower”.

Does Antonio get his revenge?

By the end of the book, Antonio gets his revenge on the three men responsible for killing Hugo. Captain Fish’s son is first, followed by Fish and finally Casoose. As we find out, Casoose is also suffering from loss, with his wife having passed away some time in the past.

Although Antonio kills all three men, the Rangers symbolize the different stages of vengeance and grief. Fish’s son is just a boy and naively follows his pa, with an innocent type of anger.

Fish’s anger is two-fold – he’s just doing his job until Antonio makes it personal and kills his son. Then it gets personal for Fish. This is not unlike Antonio, who is doing all of this to honour his brother. As for Casoose, he epitomizes how far Antonio could fall if he loses his humanity to this revenge.

As Peter himself says midway through the book: “Forgiveness is better than revenge.” While Antonio does get his revenge, by the end of the book he has let go of his anger, embraces the grief at the pit of his stomach and becomes a better man as a result.

How does Antonio change?

The best character to show how much Antonio has changed on his journey is Peter. The Englishman starts out as an annoying thorn in Antonio’s side when they meet during a shootout, but by the end of the book the pair have a mutual trust and respect for one another.

When Peter is shot dead from the tree, Antonio takes the time to honour his memory by burying him outside.┬áHe leaves a note on the branch; a simple epitaph inscribed in granite reading: “Peter Ainsley: The Gentleman Assassin.”

From this point onward, Antonio starts to shift in his mindset and belief, even starting to warm toward his lackadaisical horse, Candida.

Does Antonio honour Remedio’s bargain?

Remedio is a wanderer and we first see him during the 1964 timeline when Jamie lets him into their house. Juan Antonio knows exactly who he is and retorts that “this isn’t about money. He came here to bring you to Hell.”

This stems from a deal Remedio made with Antonio in the past (A deal with the devil if you will), linking back to the latter’s revenge and amount of blood he’s shed.

Remedio gives Antonio a chance to better himself. By the end of the book, Remedio is surprised to find Antonio willing to embrace his destiny and death. Antonio rides Candida toward Espantosa Lake, and jokes that Hell is in Texas.

Even Remedio changes too, realizing by the end that it’s not his role to rearrange the fates of men. He’s content with the fact he’s redirected Antonio’s fate, who lives out to become 100 and helps many people cross the river as a way of giving back what he’s taken.

How does The Bullet Swallower end?

With the family safe, given Antonio’s selfless choice, Jamie completes his movie in 1964 and the premiere is a massive hit. Jamie realizes that his father has always tried to do right by him and the family. Juan Antonio is finally proud of his son, telling him “You should be proud, mijo.”

At the end of the movie, Antonio steps forward on the screen and faces Juan Antonio and Jamie. It’s a wonderful way of tying the past and present together, and only these two can see this fantastical vision. Antonio looks into Jamie and Juan Antonio’s eyes, pushing his hat farther down his head and smiling.

The book is a great play on the idea of family and what lengths man will go to get vengeance and peace.

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