illustration of a young woman's silhouetted head with a butterfly on it located within a cage

In the Time of the Butterflies

by Julia Alvarez

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How does Minerva change as a person throughout In the Time of the Butterflies? I need help finding one descriptive passage from each of the three sections that shows Minerva changing.

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In the Time of the Butterflies is a historical fiction novel written by Julia Alvarez . The narrative centers around a fictionalized account of the Mirabel sisters, four revolutionaries and activists who opposed the Rafael Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic. Three of the four sisters (Minerva, María Teresa, and...

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Patria) eventually were assassinated for their activism.

The third and most headstrong of the sisters is named Minerva. As the title alludes to, the characters will undergo a change or a metamorphosis.

The first sign of change for Minerva is in chapter 2 when she goes to “sleepaway school.” This experience takes Minerva out of her childhood innocence and opens her eyes the problems of other Dominicans. Specifically, she is able to make connections between the issues she was hidden from as a child when hears the stories from Sinita. She realizes the inherent evil of the regime, deftly commenting:

I’d just left a small cage to go into a bigger one.

In chapter 6, Minerva is again forced to reconcile an inconsistency from her childhood. Minerva viewed her father as a hero but then learns about his second family, which forces her to confront the imperfection of humans.

In chapter 12, Minerva experiences another change, moving from a prison cell to house arrest. While still under constant surveillance from the regime, Minerva is thankful that she can spend her days with her sisters and their children. This signals a distinct change from the hardcore revolutionary ideals espoused earlier in the narrative, in which she would have not been happy with any type of imprisonment.

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In Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies, the most headstrong of the sister butterflies, Minerva, fights all of her life to be free both physically and mentally, but after her time as a political prisoner, she realizes what else is important to her.

If I were to find the best evidence to support the development of her character, I would focus on the following chapters and excerpts:

In chapter 2, page 26, when Minerva is a young, sheltered girl who is hungry for adventure and goes away to Catholic school, she explains,

And that's how I got free. I don't mean just going to sleepaway school on a train with a trunkful of new things. I mean in my head after I got to Inmaculada and met Sinita and saw what happened to Lina and realized that I'd just left a small cage to go into a bigger one, the size of our whole country.

What truth does she realize about freedom in her own country?

In chapter 6, page 109, when Minerva is a young, progressive, independent woman, trying to truly know herself, she asks herself the big questions: "What do you want, Minerva Mirabal?" and "What's more important, romance or revolution? But a little voice kept saying, Both, both. I want both."

What does she realize is most important to her?

Finally, in chapter 12, page 300, when she is released after months of resisting and standing up for her cause in prison, she explains,

So when we were released in August and put under house arrest, you'd have thought I was getting just the punishment for me. But to tell the truth it was as if I'd been served my sentence on a silver platter. By then, I couldn't think of anything I wanted more than to stay home with my sisters at Mama's, raising our children.

What does she realize is important in her life?

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Minerva goes from being brash and headstrong, seeing the world only in black and white, to understanding shades of gray, and finally, to making the ultimate sacrificie for others, her life. 

Ch 2, 20:  "Until the nail is hit, it doesn't believe in the hammer."  Until Minerva hears the tales of Trujillo's atrocities from her friend Sinita and then witnesses what happens to her friend at school, she does not believe the dictator they had been taught to believe could be so horrible. 

Ch 6, 92:  "And as I said those words, my woman's eyes sprang open."  Minerva has learned about her father's second family.  Like her opinions of Trujillo, Minerva had a very childlike understanding of the complications of love.  She begins to see her father as fallible human being.  Even though she doesn't approve, she begins to see how life becomes complicated.

Ch 12, 289:  "I felt a flush of embarassment to be caught shopping when I should have been planning a revolution."  Minerva is growing in that she has eased up a bit, and is letting some of the small pleasures of life accompany her desire for political action.

Secondly, just hours before her death, Minerva realizes that her friend, Rufino, has a family who loves him and is anxiously awaiting his safe return. Minerva muses, "It struck me I had never asked him how old the child was, boy or girl."  (Ch 12, 296)

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