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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 do the Mirabel sisters think of the Catholic church?

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One of the excellent aspects of this powerful and extremely moving novel is the way that Alvarez manages to succeed in presenting the four sisters as very different and very separate characters in their own right, and this is certainly true in the attitude that each of them have towards the Catholic church. The two sisters whose attitude is most at odds are Patria and Minerva, with Patria devoting her entire life to God and the church, and Minerva being turned away from the church at a very early age. Note how this difference between the two sisters is made evident from Patria's first narration in the story:

"Here's a peseta," I'd say to Minerva. "Play with my hair." She'd laugh, and combing her fingers through it, she'd ask, "Do you really believe what the gospel says? He knows how many strands of hair are on your head?"

"Come, come, little sister," I'd admonish her. "Don't play with the word of God.

From the first, Minerva is shown as a character who makes fun of the church and ridicules the claims of the Bible, pointing out how absurd some of the claims in it are. This later corresponds to her cynicism towards the church and how she feels they are in allegiance with Trujillo. By contrast, Patria, from her earliest recollection, feels a very strong sense of the divine and believes strongly in the Catholic church, finally feeling it is her religious duty to oppose the Trujillo regime.

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