What did Mate learn about people from her prison experience in the book In the Time of the Butterflies?Chapter 11

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From her prison experience, Mate learns to appreciate and accept all kinds of people for what they are.  She finds a connection among women especially from all backgrounds, a connection that she begins to understand forms the basis of the whole philosophy of the revolution.

Mate has never realized how privileged her life had been.  When she is put into prison, she is housed with a group of "nonpoliticals...prostitutes, thieves, murderers".   Twenty-three other women are packed with her into "a cell no bigger than Mama's living and dining room combined".  In the cell, which contains only "twenty-four metal shelves ('bunks')...a bucket, a tiny washbasin under a small high window", the woman "eat, sleep, write, go to school, and use the bucket" for days on end. 

Living in such close quarters, Mate comes to know her cellmates quite well, and she is surprised at "the generosity of (the) girls (she) once thought were below (her)".  The longer she is with them, "the less (she) care(s) what they've done or where they come from".  Mate realizes that "what matters is the quality of a person.  What someone is inside themselves".

Through the experience of dealing with selfish Dinorah, Mate recognizes that there will always be some people who are "only looking out for themselves", but for the most part, there is a connection among the cellmates that transcends "religion, the color of (their) skin, the money in (their) pockets".  Although she is happy and relieved when it comes time for her to be released, she feels a sadness too, because in a strange way, the cell "has become (her) home, (the) girls...like (her) sisters" (Chapter 11).

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In the Time of the Butterflies

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