How does Alvarez depict the way of life for the Mirabal sisters and the Dominican Republic in "In the Time of the Butterflies"?
Through the story of the Mirabal sisters (also known as "Las Mariaposas"), Alvarez is able to show how brutal the regime of Trujillo had been, not just for the poor of the Dominican Republic, but also for the middle and upper classes of society.
Like many megalomaniacal dictators, Trujillo has tried to make his citizens feel that he is god-like. Pictures of the man hang, by law, everywhere, often aside images of Jesus himself. The people, especially younger ones, have grown up with the idea that their leader can do no wrong. Those who are older know better, and also know the consequences of objecting to worshipping Trujillo: imprisonment or death.
It is not until, Sinita, Minerva's school chum, is taken as a concubine for the dictator that Minerva begins to feel in her heart "a china crack of doubt" about the motives of Trujillo. The metaphor is an important one, for once china is cracked, it can never be the same again.
The crack broadens and fractures as Minerva and her sisters witness the repression, economic consequences for the people, the senseless beatings, trumped up imprisonments, and other atrocities of unchecked power.
All of the people suffer, in one way or another. As the Mirabals fight for their family and their country, the necessity of the struggle becomes ever more important and the cause larger than three lives.