The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Alvarez uses each of the four Mirabal sisters to demonstrate different routes to resistance against political oppression. Minerva, the next to youngest and the most passionately political of the sisters, is the most intellectually savvy. She understands that Trujillo’s oppression is part of a larger issue of patriarchy. Prevented for years from attending law school, then denied a license to practice once she earns her degree, she knows firsthand the restrictions on women in Trujillo’s dictatorship. She also understands that her own father exercises a similar authority, able to approve or withhold education for his daughters and covertly keeping his second family of daughters in poverty. She responds with passionate, often dramatic, acts. Mate, the youngest, becomes Minerva’s disciple, but not her duplicate. Mate is a romantic, drawn to resistance work by the adventure. She follows her heart, not her head, and fully commits to the underground when she falls in love with a young revolutionary. Patria, the eldest, is devout and devoted to her family. She begins to question her loyalty to Trujillo as the result of a religious crisis brought on by a stillbirth early in her marriage. Her grief leads her to question everything in which she once had faith, including God and Trujillo, but she does not join Minerva and Mate in their resistance work until years later. When her son Nelson begins to become involved, she expresses her tacit support of his cause by naming her...
(The entire section is 497 words.)
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Told in a journalistic style, the voice changes from chapter to chapter, presenting the point of view of each of the four sisters. In the background, Trujillo's sinister omnipresence is like a black cloud hovering over the nation. The secret police, the SIM, is there to enforce El Jefe's whims and desires. He is, in many ways, the main character of the story, involving totally the thoughts and feelings of the rest of the characters.
Patria Mercedes Mirabal, eldest of the sisters, is the religious one. "I was afraid that you wouldn't live long, that you were already the way we were here to become," says her mother because Patria has such concern for everyone else and is generous to everyone. Patria is sent to a convent school, where for a time she considers becoming a nun. She falls in love with Pedrito Gonzáles, whose family has a farm in the next town, and marries three days before her seventeenth birthday with the entire village in attendance to wish her well. Her first child is a son, the second, a daughter, and then she loses a baby boy, a devastating blow. The first eighteen years of her marriage are devoted to her home and family. She becomes pregnant with another son in 1959, and discovers her oldest son, Nelson, is involved with her sisters and their husbands in the revolutionary movement. She sends him from the capital to Santo Tomás de Aquino, a seminary without the obligation of the priesthood to try to keep him out of the movement. Patria is...
(The entire section is 1168 words.)
An American woman of Dominican descent, the interviewer comes to speak with Dedé about the family history. She speaks poor Spanish. She strongly resembles Julia Alvarez herself.
As the head nun at Inmaculada Concepción, Sor Asunción tends to all of the Mirabal sisters. She prompts Patria to watch for God's call to become a nun.
When Chea Mirabal moves to town, Don Bernardo becomes her neighbor. Though his wife, Doña Belén, suffers from senility, he finds time to help the Mirabal family whenever they are in need.
See Mercedes Reyes de Mirabal
Rufino de la Cruz
Rufino is the Mirabal sisters' favorite chauffeur, and he is fiercely protective of them. He dies with Patria, Minerva, and María Teresa.
Manuel de Moya
De Moya is Trujillo's Secretary of State, but his actual...
(The entire section is 2678 words.)