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

Start Free Trial

In In the Time of the Butterflies, why do some people become SIM agents and informants?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Even in the opening chapter of this book, the fear that characters face through informants who might overhear a casual word spoken unthinkingly is reported and conveyed to the reader. Note how even in the privacy of their own home and garden, the family are not safe when Minerva makes a comment that could be interpreted as being anti-Trujillo and his regime:

Suddenly, the dark fills with spies who are paid to hear things and report them down at Security... Words repeated, distorted, words recreated by those who might bear them a grudge, words stitched to words until they are the winding sheet the family will be buried in when their bodies are found dumped in a ditch, their tongues cut off for speaking too much.

This quote conveys the very real fear that people living in the Dominican Republic under Trujillo's regime faced. Anybody could become an informer, and they often did it for their own personal reasons, such as bearing a "grudge" against the people they are informing against and perhaps wanting to gain favour or protection for themselves against the SIM. As the novel continues, the reader becomes aware of the way in which Trujillo used fear and intimidation to turn a country against itself, as neighbour informed upon neighbour and friend upon friend. Often, loved ones were taken and used to force people into informing to guarantee the safety of their loved ones. Such actions show the reprehensible nature of the Trujillo regime whilst also explaining the number of different reasons that led to people becoming informers.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team