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In the Time of the Butterflies

by Julia Alvarez

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In In The Time of the Butterflies, in what ways does the author modify our expectations about what a story should be? Focus on a character or amplifying an argument by thinking about the same issue from a different perspective.

In In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez eschews traditional narrative and point of view in the way that she structures her novel, modifying the reader's expectation of what a story should be. She does this by switching points of view and by setting it in different time periods. The effect is to make the reader consider the events of the novel from each sister's perspective and to avoid any easy answers about memory, legacy, and history.

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In Julia Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies, she employs an unusual narrative structure and point of view. Based on the true story of the Mirabal sisters, Alvarez gives each of the sisters their own chapters, thus giving the novel multiple points of view. She also moves back and forth through time periods, chopping up the narrative and making it more complex and nuanced. The effect of this is both to keep the reader engaged (it's not a book that can be read casually) and to comment on the nature of time and memory.

The four sisters are all very different and each is given the opportunity to tell her own story, which provides the reader with multiple perspectives. It makes for a fuller and more complicated story, as Alvarez is intent on showing how each sister deals with the crisis of her country in very different ways. It also is a novel about memory and how characters carry the dead with them. This is most evident in Dedé's story. She is the one sister who survived: the other three were assassinated by the Trujillo dictatorship. The novel opens in 1994 with her speaking to a reporter about her sisters' legacy. Dedé stayed away from the rebellion that took her sisters' lives, largely because of her husband, and so the structure helps reveal her ambiguity about her role and the reputation of her sisters, who are treated as martyrs and heroes.

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