In the Time of the Butterflies Questions and Answers
by Julia Alvarez

In the Time of the Butterflies book cover
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Consider a character from In the Time of the Butterflies as an admirable leader. How does he/she use servant-leader characteristics to combat oppression? How do those characteristics promote feminist activism in the novel? Be sure to consider the intersection between social class and gender as you think about the goals your character is striving for.

Minerva is a clear figure who is an admirable leader. She is part of a deeply patriarchal society, which is represented both by her own father and by Trujillo, the "father" of the country. Yet she stand up for herself as a woman and goes into a career that few women do. She doesn't want to just be another housewife, and this independence leads her into the resistance movement.

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Minerva emerges as a leader in the novel, both in her family and in the movement that is fighting against Trujillo. She is strong-willed and refuses to do what is expected of her. She continually pushes back against what is expected of women in the Dominican society, from standing up against sexist men to pursuing a career in law. In one of her boldest moves, she slaps Trujillo after he comes on to her at a dance. She could've easily accepted his advances and been set for life, but she is her own person and has a great deal of integrity. Her eventual rebellion is both against male dominance, which pervades the country, and against the oppressive dictatorship. So she is standing up for both the rights of her fellow citizens, even risking death and jail, and and, more specifically, for the rights of women. She is an inspiration to her sisters and all but one join the movement. Aside from the immediate impact of her actions, she becomes an symbol and an inspiration after her death. Part of the book is set decades after she and her sisters were murdered by the regime, so her sacrifice and bravery can be seen in context. Alvarez's novel considers that way in which heroism manifests itself and how Minerva acts for both herself and for others.