Time Of The Essay, Research Paper
In the Time of the Butterflies, is the story of four sisters, Minerva, Dede, Patria, and Maria Teresa Mirabal. It reflects their life struggles under the Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. During the thirty-one year regime, the Dominican people were denied of all political freedom. A small group of revolutionaries banned together, forming an underground alliance to fight the oppression. However, those believed to have been involved were either imprisoned or killed by members of the SIM – Trujillo’s secret police. The author of the book, Julia Alvarez, fled from the Dominican Republic in 1960 because her father was involved in underground activity that had been cracked by the infamous SIM. As a young girl living in exile, she was inspired by the tales of the Mirabal sisters, known as “Las Mariposas- the Butterflies.” Based on legend, myth, and any other information she could gather on their lives, Alvarez created a fictional story in a successful effort to share this important piece of Dominican history with reader around the world. The first chapter opens on the Mirabal farm in the Dominican Republic. The year is 1994. Dede, the only surviving Mirabal sister, receives a caller requesting an interview. Although she is tired of telling her story, she agrees. As she walks the interviewer through the old house, Dede is almost immediately swept into memory. She remembers rainy nights on the front porch with her family drinking guanabana juice and telling stories. As she seemingly fades away to her visitor, the author has brought the reader back to 1938, and introduces a new voice, that of Minerva Mirabal. Minerva was the boldest and most rebellious of the four sisters. In her first chapter, she expresses her opposition towards her father sending her away to boarding school in the city. The idea of the girls attending Inmaculada Concepcion was the result of Patria’s desire to become a nun. Minerva’s argument held little weight, and so that fall she arrived at her new school. She met the immediate acquaintance of Sinita, an orphan girl whom the Sisters had taken in as a charity case. The girls soon become friends and it is through Sinita that Minerva first learns of the violent and corrupt nature of her beloved dictator. One night, while the two girls are lying in bed, Minerva explains the secrets of sex to Sinita. In return, Sinita explains her secrets of Trujillo. She describes how he came into power through persuasion and perception. Sinita’s uncles and father had questioned his quick attainment of power and were immediately murdered. The following summer, as she walked home from church with the remains of her family, her brother Jose Luis was stabbed by a street vendor. Although she doesn’t doubt her friend, Minerva found this tragedy hard to believe. Trujillo’s portrait hung in the homes of every Dominican. It was difficult for her to believe he would commit such crimes. Her eyes were opened more to reality when Trujillo paid a visit to Inmaculada and spotted her close friend, Lina. He eventually seduced her and took her away to one of his palaces. Minerva continued with her education and eventually went away to law school in the capital. There she began her underground activity. At a party in Trujillo’s palace, Minerva left her purse on the table, as she was quickly made to leave by her family. They were nervous as to the amount of attention he had given to Minerva. Consequently, her purse contained letters from Leonardo, a friend involved in the political underground. Although Minerva denied knowing the man, Trujillo had her father arrested. The amount of abuse that Enrique Mirabal endured in prison was too much for his body to take and he died in 1953, shortly after his release. Minerva’s participation in the underground escalated after the death of her father, and she soon got her little sister, Maria Teresa involved. Maria Teresa speaks out in the next chapter, in diary form. The youngest of the girls, she is constantly rambling about boys and clothing. She also attended Inmaculada Conception, and upon graduation, followed Minerva to the university. It is interesting to see the little drawings in her diary move from one of dresses and shoes, to that bombs and ammunition, and ultimately, a diagram of her prison cell. She was forced to bury her first diary by Minerva, out of fear that she would be discovered. Her second diary, was later submitted to the Organization of American States Committee as a documentation of prison torture.
Patria, pursuing her religious goals, rejected to Minerva and Maria Teresa’s involvement in the revolution. She focused her attention towards her husband, her children, and God. Her outlook changed dramatically when she went away for a mountain retreat. While worshipping with her faithful friends, gunshots were fired at the building. After the attack, she saw a young soldier, close in age to her own age shot to death in front of her. It was then that she realized she could not passively sit by and watch her “brothers and sisters” be killed. Her husband rejected at first, but soon the two were involved as well and began storing the underground’s supplies at their home. Up to this point, Dede and her mother had relatively no idea of the extent to which Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa were involved in the movement. Dede had been asked to join the group, but her husband, Jaimito, was the domineering, oppressive type and outright refused to let her associate with her sisters’ connections. Mama, on the on the other hand, was not aware of any of their activity until the SIM came and arrested the women’s’ husbands. (Minerva and Maria Teresa had both married revolutionaries after college.) Minerva and Maria Teresa were arrested shortly afterwards. During their nine month stay in prison, they suffered from malnutrition and disease. They were allowed to be released along with other female political prisoners, only because the Organization of American States Committee stepped in to examine the situation. However, their husbands remained imprisoned and the sisters were further sentenced to five years of house arrest. They were allowed only to leave their house twice a week, once to go to church, and the other day to visit their husbands in prison. Yet under these circumstances, Trujillo still saw the Mirabal sisters as a threat. He sent orders to have the women’s husbands transferred to a prison in Puerto Plata. The only way they could reach the city was by driving over an abandoned mountain pass. The evening following their first visit to the city they were ambushed by the SIM as they were returning home from the prison. They were taken to a nearby mansion of Trujillo’s beaten with clubs and strangled to death. The offenders proceeded to place the murdered Patria, Maria Teresa, Minerva, along with their driver Rufino, back in their car and push it off a rocky cliff. After the death of the sisters, the author returns to 1994, where Dede sits with Minerva’s grown daughter Minou. She describes the successes of her deceased daughters’ children and husbands and claims that she is in fact happy. Yet, the memories of her sisters illuminated by the continued fame of their courageous story continues to haunt her. Perhaps Dede’s feelings are best described as Alvarez writes: “It comes to me slowly as I head north through the dark countryside- the only lights in the mountains areup in the mountains where the prosperous young are building their gateway houses, and of course, in the sky, all the splurged wattage of the stars. Lio is right. The nightmare is over.; we are free at last. But the thing that makes me tremble, that I do not want to say out loud- and I’ll say it once and only once and it’s done. Was it for this, the sacrifice of the butterflies?” (Alvarez 318.)