What literary devices are found in the book "In the Time of the Butterflies"?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The text is rife with literary devices.  It is ironic that the Mirabals find their revolutionary roots at a sheltered religious school, and that Minerva is allowed to go to law school, only to find that she can not get a license to practice when she is done.  A master of ironic observaion, Minerva quips about Benefactor's Day that they should "go celebrate at the cemetery" (Ch.3).

Examples of the allusion include references to the "Merciful Mother" (Ch.3) and "the Good Shepherd (and) his lambs" (Ch.4).

The motif of rain foreshadows ominous events.  When Dede describes an idyllic childhood scene, "drops of rain" begin to fall in a sky that is otherwise "clear as...a bell", indicating that the days innocence are ending (Ch.1).  When Patria prays for guidance in choosing the course of her life, "the first zigzag of lightning, and...the rumble of thunder" in the distance portend that her life will be fraught with disaster (Ch.4), and during the fateful Discovery Day Dance, rain comes down in torrents, "hard, slapping sheets of it" (Ch.6).

Flowers are symbolic of women, with Dede busily tending the blooms in her house just as she nurtures the memories of her sisters (Ch.1).  A general says, "young ladies are the flowers of our country" (Ch. 6), and Patria senses upcoming calamity for the Mirabal sisters when she sees "blossoms tumbling in the wind of the coming storm" (Ch.4).

garyind eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Literary devices abound in Julia Alvarez’s book In the Time of the Butterflies. Here are a couple of examples.

Each of the sisters’ narratives is treated in a different way so as to give us a better understanding of her character. For example, María Teresa’s chapters are written in the form of a diary. This gives us a rich interior monologue that is almost a stream of consciousness at times. We hear Mate talk to herself, and see themes repeated as she revisits her own ideas in order to make sense of them. This gives her narrative the feeling of a young girl coming of age and reinforces both her naivete and her position as the youngest sister.

Besides the use of interior monologue, the text is rich with imagery. Minerva says in chapter 3 that she has “left a small cage to go into a bigger one, the size of our whole country.” Patria, speaking of her strong religious convictions in chapter 4, says, “I did it automatically like a shoot inching its way towards the light.” María Teresa describes all of the girls from her school dressed up to march in a parade, saying they were “in white dresses like we were his brides.”

Alvarez also seems to include a number of Dominican expressions, and these both give us beautiful imagery and enhance our understanding of the culture. An example is when Minerva asked her father about his affair. “I know the clouds have already rained, … but, Papá, why did you do it?” Look carefully and you can find many more examples such as these.

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In the Time of the Butterflies

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