In the Time of the Butterflies Essay

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The “Revered” Dictator
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” (Andre Gide) In the novel, In the Time of the Butterflies, written by Julia Alvarez, four sisters are led through a risk infested journey in which they must overcome hindrances with hollow consequences. This historical fiction novel takes us through a rollercoaster of events, incorporating everything from the partialities towards women, to life below the oppressive administration of the Dominican Republic’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo. The events painted by the four sisters give us some insight as to the positives and negatives of life in the Dominican Republic. As the novel progresses, we see the diversity in relation to the sisters’ personalities, each of whom is fueled by a different cause. Julia Alvarez uses reproving diction in the quote, “His own terror was a window that opened onto the rotten weakness at the heart of Trujillo’s system…” (Alvarez 278) to exemplify the major theme of authoritarianism; and specifically through the three phrases, “terror”, “weakness,” and “rotten system,” we are able to visualize Trujillo’s iniquitous use of fear, his exploitation of power, and the major flaws in his system, respectively, which all can be tied back to the principal theme of authoritarianism. Primarily, Trujillo’s use of fear is evident throughout the novel as it is one of the key forms of propaganda for maintaining his power. For example, Trujillo’s autocratic behavior is seen through the phrase, “His own terror,” which is referring to one of Trujillo’s officers. Clearly, the use of fear is even applied to his own men in addition to the common people, which give us some insight as to the legitimacy of his rule. In using the word terror, we associate it with feelings associated to being scared. Usually, one is scared after being intimidated by something. Therefore, with that in mind, we are able to see that the people as a group are intimidated, or...
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