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In the Time of the Butterflies

by Julia Alvarez

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In In the Time of the Butterflies, what specific events and circumstances politicized and radicalized Patria and led her to get involved with the revolutionary movement? Why did Dedé not get involved, even though she experienced the same or similar events and circumstances?

The specific events and circumstances that politicized Patria are multiple, but by far the most important one for her is the attack of June 14. There are complex reasons why Dedé did not become involved. She was not present for the June 14 attacks, but she wants to stay out of the rebellion, partly due to fear and partly due to the influence of her husband, Jaimito.

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Julia Alvarez's historical novel In the Time of the Butterflies is about the four Mirabal sisters, also known as the Butterflies (or Mariposas). Three of the four sisters become involved in an underground resistance movement against the dictator of the Dominican Republic, the nefarious Rafael Trujillo. Patria is the most religious of the sisters and marries young. She has a miscarriage and loses her faith. Like her older sister, Minerva, who is the boldest and most strong-willed of the Mariposas, she begins to learn the true nature of Trujillo, the corruption of him and his government, and the repression and violence that keeps the population in check. The key moment that radicalizes her, though, is when she is away on a retreat in the mountains and the army begins to bomb and shoot (see chapter 8). She sees a child killed and immediately decides to do something: "I was a changed woman." The date of the attack, June 14, becomes the name of the resistance movement.

Dedé is the most cautious of the sisters and the only one who doesn't join the resistance. She too becomes aware of the problems in their country but is also aware of what happens to political dissidents (prison or death). Aside from her own safety, she has a family and is worried about them as well. Her husband is staunchly against becoming involved, and though she argues with him, she goes along with what he says and even uses him as an excuse with her sisters. The three sisters are ambushed and murdered by Trujillo's men and become martyrs. Dedé alone survives.

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