In the Time of the Butterflies
By Julia Alvaraz
By Jessie Jensen
In the Time of the Butterflies is organized into three parts—Part I, Part II, and Part III. These parts are followed by an Epilogue critical to the story. Each part of the book consists of four chapters, each chapter is told by a different narrator. The narrators are the four Mirabal sisters (aka the butterflies), Dede, Minerva, Maria Teresa, and Patria. As each chapter changes narrators, bits and pieces of the story are revealed as each different personality finds different facts important. Dede, Minerva, and Patria all use a standard narration, but Maria’s narration is related through her journal: she includes drawings, dates, pictures, and more trivial and personal experiences of her days. Maria’s chapters add something a little unique and therefore contribute to the creativity and interest of the story.
Dede is the leading character as she is the only sister who is not claimed by the martyrdom. The narration begins in second person with Dede in her current time (1994), relating the story of the butterflies by going back in time. Each sister then begins taking her turn, rotating chapters, narrating in first person. With Dede, Minerva, Patria, and Maria all taking a turn by chapter, each girl’s distinct personality and voice adds variety and excitement to the book. The story then does well to validate a large audience who will most likely find some of themselves in a particular sister, or in the sisters combined.
Sacrifice – The central theme of this book is sacrifice; sacrificing oneself for the greater good, for others, and for one’s country. Throughout the entire novel the Mirabal sisters are exemplars of this as they sacrifice of their time, energy, and hearts to help not only the ones they love, but the many strangers about them who are suffering political injustice and violence. Minerva, who becomes a political icon and some sort of a hero because of her fighting spirit and call to action, consistently sacrifices herself in her combat of injustice, and expects the same of those around her. Her sisters follow her lead in sacrificing themselves through her persuasion and passion for what is right. Political Control – The book resonates with political chains and injustice. All people in the Dominican Republic in this time period, the early and middle 1900’s, lived in constant fear of the way they spoke and the way they lived. The dictator of the time—Trujillo—had planted spies and technology within hearing range of most public homes. If for any reason Trujillo was to suspect a person or family of political disloyalty the suspects would disappear, being sent to either prison or their death. Throughout the book superficiality and fear are continually exhibited through the public who are forced to worship and praise a bloodthirsty dictator or fear for their lives. Loyalty - Many different forms of loyalty are addressed in the book through those fighting for freedom and those fighting for power. The Mirabal family displays strong loyalty and love as they do not allow a political system to tear them apart. At all costs they fight for one another and prove the importance of family, devotion, and forgiveness. The opposing side also displays a different kind of loyalty as loyalty is forced through fear. The superficial loyalty of the government stands in stark contrast to the chosen loyalty of friends and family members.
Identity – There is a strong sense of identity throughout the book as each Mirabal sisters’ personality and value system is related in the different chapters. There is an obvious struggle in each sister as she must determine who she is, which side she is on, and what she will stand for. Detailed and intimate conflicts are related as each girl interacts with the people around her, and decides the kind of life she will lead. Choosing the course that is best for all...
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