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Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of Butterflies fictionalizes the rebellion against the dictator Trujillo in her birth country, the Dominican Republic. While the events of the story are accurate in a broad sense, Alvarez has developed her own versions of the Mirabal sisters, known as “Las Mariposas” — the Butterflies. What makes the story so powerful is Alvarez’s decision not to deify the sisters, but to show the human side of national heroes.
The decision to join the revolution does not come lightly for the sisters, nor do they get involved to the same degrees.
To read about the women’s love interests and then to read about their broadening political consciousness helps remove the gap that tends to exist between “heroes” and “common people.”
Patria is the oldest of the four Mirabel sisters. Her quiet, calm demeanor commands respect, even from the enemy. She is also the one who automatically turns to her faith in times of difficulty. Patria draws strength from it while others gather strength from her.
This character I can relate to, as she reminds me of my mother and her characteristics.
Ded is the next oldest and gets teased for being so sensible. She likes the idea of knowing that life will follow a predictable path, and she cant understand why her sisters would choose a different road to follow. But no matter what choices they make, she loves them fiercely and cant imagine life without them. In her grief she is told, This is your martyrdom, Ded, to be alive without them.
Minerva, the third Mirabel daughter, is the sister you would expect to take part in the revolution. Full of fire, she is uncompromising in her principles. While her dreams of being an attorney are destroyed by Trujillo, she continues to use her power of persuasion to encourage her sisters and others to fight for the freedom they deserve. Her words are hard to resist, and her sisters often get pulled along by the tide of her passion.
Maria Teresa, also known as Mate, is the youngest daughter. She is the romantic of the group and is also quite superstitious. It is her dreams that foreshadow the tragedy to come. Even as a young child, Mate is frightened, but trying so hard to be brave and to understand what is happening to her country and to her family. A struggle she continues with even as an adult. This character reminds me of myself. We are both flighty and romantic in thought, but when it comes to fear, we are very real.
I was impressed by Alvarez’s ability to be in the minds of four sisters at once; how each chapter was a different perspective was interesting.
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