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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What Happens In chapter 4?

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In chapter four, the story shifts to Patria’s experiences and is told from her perspective. At school, the nuns note Patria’s religious devotion, and one encourages Patria to consider joining a convent. However, soon she begins to feel a very different call, that of the senses. She longs to be touched and to engage her body sexually and otherwise sensually in the world, rather than accept the ascetic life of a convent.

Patria helps in the church and is struck by the appearance of one man’s feet, and she looks up at him, feeling an instant physical and spiritual attraction. She knows at this point that she will not hear “the call” the nuns want her to. She has felt and known the call to be with this man, whom she learns is Pedrito González. She marries him and moves to a nearby town. She bears two children, a boy named Nelson and girl named Noris. She miscarries a third baby, and afterwards, in an encounter with Minerva, she begins to understand the negative consequences of life under the Trujillo regime.

She sees Pedrito rising one night and thinks he is going off to have an affair, but notices instead that he is digging She goes to the cemetery, claims she wants to add a religious medallion to the baby’s cofand demands that the coffin be dug up. It is, and she sees the baby’s corpse.
Later she realizes she is stirred once again to religion, but this time, the worshippers and their faith move her more than the icons and legends of religion.

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