In the Time of the Butterflies Questions and Answers
by Julia Alvarez

In the Time of the Butterflies book cover
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What is the meaning of the title "In the Time of the Butterflies?"

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brendawm eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The title In the Time of Butterflies comes from history.  The Dominican Republic was ruled by a ruthless dictator, Rafael Trujillo, from 1930 to 1961. He was brutal and greedy beyond words; however a valiant resistance arose to fight his rule.  This resistance involved three courageous sisters, the Mirabals, who became known as Las Mariposas or The Butterflies, their code name, who were key in overthrowing Trujillo.  This is where the name comes from.  The sister’s gave the ultimate sacrifice; however, as they were ambushed and beaten to death on November 25, 1960, marking them as symbols of courage, dignity, and strength in their country.

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gbeatty eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Ah, good question. The title comes from the code names used by the three Mirabal sisters. They were "las mariposas," which in English means "the butterflies." This book focuses on them and their attempt to overthrow the Trujillo regime (in the Dominican Republic).

Since they were trying to create a revolution or transformation in their country, you can see the name as symbolic of that change, because caterpillars go through metamorphoses to become beautiful butterflies.


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revolution | Student

The time period of this story (1938-1994) was dominated by the most fierce and ruthless political and totalitarian regime of a dictator and the aftermath of this horrible period, his name is Rafael Leonidas Trujillo (1891-1961). His brutality and his inhumane ruling is beyond words can describe. To ensure that he would be elected as president of the Dominican Republic, he brutalized political opposition and threatened and terrorized voters. He furthered take control over the whole country by controlling almost any means of communication- like the press and the national education and assembled a army of "secret police" to oppressed any violet opposition against his rule.

But later, another opposition rise above the masses and dared to rebel against his rule when many feared impossible or dared not do it, it was the Butterflies, which is the same name as the title and the code name for these three musketeers - Minerva, María Teresa, and Patria Mirabal, three sisters who were key to an underground movement to overthrow Trujillo, but unfortunately the deception failed and cost them their life when the dictator's hidden man ambushed their car and the sisters were beaten horribly to death. The courageous sisters have already became famous for their strong courage to fight for their rights, but because of that, they had risk their lives for the sake of others

The three sisters had become symbols of courage, dignity, and strength in their country, and they were well-respected as the only people to try to fight against any cruel and horrible control punishment over them.