Dr. Eugenio Pacelli Villarreal
21 September 2014
Women in In the Time of the Butterflies
Women’s role and rights in the society- an issue which is being discussed since past few decades and has still not reached an absolute conclusion. In In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez portrays the life of women in a male dominated social and political society. Through the novel, a question arises which is, “Who decides the expiry date for a woman’s dreams?” In the novel, Alvarez answers the question through the story of the Mirabal sisters, the women who broke their boundaries of what their gender can do and came out of the household to do something better. This shows that no one else can decide the expiry date for a woman’s dreams but herself. The Mirabal sisters try to fulfill their truest potential as human beings in the due course of their life time overcoming the struggles they had to face.
Just like anything else, women were given their place in the society from the very beginning in the Dominican Republic. Where men were supposed to get educated, work and bring money to home, women were supposed to stay back home uneducated and just try to bring up a family. A woman’s lack of education and its flaws are evident from the Mirabal sister’s mother, when Dede says that, “It was no secret that mama couldn’t read”(74).This goes in hand with her reaction of Minerva’s idea to go to school and become a lawyer, “Ay, Dios mio, spare me. Just what we need, skirts in the law”(10). It is because women like Minerva who are supposed to do household work do not typically think of becoming a lawyer. Therefore, Thomas 2
including their mother, everyone laughs at Minerva’s dreams. But a change in role comes when their father dies and their mother becomes the central strength of their family. When the girls are imprisoned, Patria notes while writing a letter to them in the jail that “Mama wrote her own name”(211), in the letter all by herself. This gives an answer to what was asked earlier about a woman’s dreams. Mama was able to achieve what she should even though it was a little bit late.
Just like mama, Patria is the other one who comes in action after a little while. As a person who was supposed to be a nun earlier in her, staying away from all the immoral activities in the country, her life gets into an absolute change after the incident on fourteenth June when the mountainside was bombed while they were listening to Brother Daniel about the Assumption. She changed her thoughts about being a normal woman into an extraordinary one among the Mirabal sisters when she saw the tears in the eyes of Noris, after the mountainside incident and realized that “her soul has at last matured and begun its cycles”(162). She realized the effects of the dictatorship after that incident and stood up to fight against it. It was Patria by herself who took the initiatives on what t do with her life rather than leaving everything to her husband and puts aside her housewife duties and fights with him to say that, “Ay Pedrito, how can we be true Christians and turn our back on our brothers and sisters”(166), in spite of knowing that the path she is taking might lead them into danger. Soon, Patria says that “It was our house that became the motherhouse of the movement”(166). She found her path through her own way, which is, through God. She didn’t let anyone decide a date for her dreams from that point, not even her husband. She came out of her inferior lifestyle and began to give leadership for her life changing moment. Fro that point on, from the point when she said, “Come on in now, I mean it this time,” Thomas 3
to her sisters and the revolutionaries till she decided to visit Manolo and Leandro(288), she began to write the story of her life. A memorable story.
Then comes the lady Minerva who said, “May the limitations of love not cast a spell on the serious ambitions of my mind” (86). A fighter from...
Cited: Alvarez, Julia. In The Time Of The Butterflies. Algoquin, 1994. 336. Print.
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