In the Time of the Butterflies Summary and Analysis Part II: Chapters 5–8
by Julia Alvarez

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Summary and Analysis Part II: Chapters 5–8

New Characters

Minou: Minerva’s daughter, raised by Dedé after the murders

Virgilio Morales (Lío): a revolutionary who befriends Dedé and loves Minerva

Manuel de Moya: Trujillo’s Secretary of State, who helps the dictator meet women

Margarita: an illegitimate daughter fathered by Papá

Don Chiche: a relative of Mamá whose connection to Trujillo protects the family

Raul and Berto: brothers who fight over María Teresa’s attention

Manolo: political “enemy of state” whom Minerva marries

Leandro Guzmán (Palomino): a member of the underground whom María Teresa marries


In chapter five, the story moves back to Dedé’s experience as she looks back at 1948 to 1959. She reflects on the spectacle her sisters’ death has now become. For instance, the family servant Fela runs a shrine to the sisters’ deceased spirits and “channels” them. She notes how Minou, Minerva’s daughter, chastises her for dismissing Fela and often visits with Fela.

The interviewer asks Dedé to continue discussing her family’s history, starting with when their political trouble began. Her past, secret attraction to Virgilio distracts Dedé. She tells the interviewer the Mirabals’ trouble under Trujillo was underway before the 1949 Discovery Day dance, where Minerva confronted Trujillo. In fact, it really started when she and Minerva befriended Virgilio. After meeting Virgilio, Minerva focused on politics.

Dedé says they met him in 1948 at the family store. Dedé was daydreaming about her cousin Jaimito, whom she was considering marrying. Two visitors appeared at the store. The first was Mario, a distributor, and the second was a man they learned was named Virgilío Morales, a university professor educated in Venezuela. Dedé was attracted to Virgilío, but he and Minerva talked easily and she recalls feeling left out. They all decided that since it was a hot day they should go play volleyball and swim. Mario took everyone to the home of their uncle, Tío Pepe, where they saw Jaimito, among others. She envied Minerva, who connected with Virgilio. Dedé was not dressed for volleyball, because she usually watched rather than played, which embarrasses her in retrospect.

Weeks passed, and the group played volleyball and socialized more than once. Dedé found out more about Morales, notably that he was a political revolutionary. She recalls how Jaimito and the others were divided on whether to admire Virgilio for his bravery or fear the ramifications of associating with him. Dedé agreed to play volleyball one day and hit a ball into the bushes, disturbing an intimate exchange between Virgilio and Minerva. They emerged from the bushes and Lío and Jaimito got into a fight, calling each other names and discussing politics. Lío flattered Jaimito to broker a peace, saying his movement could use men like Jaimito.

The Mirabal sisters’ mother liked Virgilio, and they hid his politics from her. This was easy, since she was illiterate and couldn’t read of him in the papers. However, María Teresa one day forgot to censor what she read to her mother from the paper, and so her mother found out who he really was. That night the Mirabals argued about their daughters fraternizing with Lío, and Dedé realized that she had always pictured “politicals” like Lío to be self-serving or evil. Since he was neither, she realized that Minerva was right about the country’s status as a police state. She began reading the paper more, but concluded that as a woman she can only do “small” things. She wondered if Minerva was involved with him, but Minerva said they were “comrades,” which Dedé doubted.

Dedé asked Lío where he got his courage one night, but he told her it was not courage at all, but common sense. She grew angrier about the regime, and her family was questioned by police about their knowledge of Lío. Dedé broached her thoughts on the Trujillo government with Jaimito. He told her to compromise. In retrospect, Dedé realizes that that is...

(The entire section is 3,857 words.)