In the Time of the Butterflies Characters
by Julia Alvarez

In the Time of the Butterflies book cover
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In the Time of the Butterflies Characters

The main characters of In the Time of the Butterflies are the four Mirabal sisters (Dedé, Minerva, María Teresa, and Patria) and Rafael Trujillo.

  • Dedé is the only surviving Mirabal sister and tells their stories.
  • Minerva is the most revolutionary of the Mirabal sisters.
  • María Teresa, nicknamed “Mate,” is the youngest Mirabal sister and speaks through her diary entries.
  • Patria is the eldest Mirabal sister.
  • Rafael Trujillo is the dictator of the Dominican Republic, who reigned from 1930 until his assassination in 1961.

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Dedé (Bélgica Adela Mirabal Reyes)

Dedé, the second-oldest and only surviving Mirabal sister, is the first character introduced in the novel. Her narrative—mostly told in the third person, in contrast to her sisters’ chapters—spans half a century, from her childhood to the present (1994). Thirty-four years after Patria, Minerva, and María Teresa were murdered for rebelling against Trujillo’s regime, Dedé is now a successful life insurance salesperson. She struggles with her status as the “orator” of her family’s history, particularly given her sisters’ fame as patriotic martyrs for the revolution.

Throughout her narrative, Dedé describes herself as “the docile middle child . . . Miss Sonrisa, cheerful, compliant.” After she marries Jaimito, she explains that “her life had gotten bound up with a domineering man,” and she struggles between whether to obey her husband or join the underground movement. Comparing herself to her sisters, she constantly doubts her courage—yet her indecisiveness stems from her inclination to always make “the best of things,” motivated by her eagerness “for order” and “for peace.” As the novel concludes, Dedé becomes more cognizant of her courage as a survivor.

Minerva (María Argentina Minerva Mirabal Reyes)

The most outspoken and defiant of the Mirabal sisters, “the beautiful, intelligent, high-minded Minerva” is the first in the family to become involved in the revolution against Trujillo. The inclination to question authority informs her personality. Her rash bravery becomes increasingly dangerous with Trujillo’s rise to power—and, as Dedé mentions, because of her rising reputation as “the secret heroine of the whole nation.” Minerva comes to represent an iconic force of patriotic heroism.

Minerva’s early aspiration to become a lawyer drives her character development; consequently, when she is granted permission to attend law school by Trujillo—only to be denied the opportunity to practice law after graduating—she and her husband, Manolo, soon after become prominent figures in the movement to overthrow the regime. Later, Minerva explains that, while her “months in prison had elevated [her] to superhuman status,” she hides her internal anxieties from the other prisoners, worrying that “if they had only known how frail their iron-will heroine had become,” they would lose faith. The exhaustion of maintaining this facade and hiding her own mounting fears is clear to the reader, as well as her desire to be with her children, Manolito and Minou. However, Minerva maintains her resolve and will not allow the regime to “kill her spirit.” Her determination to speak out against injustice—even against the ever-increasing threat of death—leads to her status as a revolutionary heroine.

María Teresa (Antonia María Teresa Mirabal Reyes)

María Teresa—nicknamed “Mate”—is the youngest of the Mirabal sisters; while Patria, Dedé, and Minerva were all born one year apart, Mate is nine years younger than Minerva. She and Minerva have a particularly close relationship; unlike Minerva, however, Mate explains that “everything’s personal to [her] that’s principle to [Minerva],” and Mate can be emotionally fragile. She frequently experiences stress-induced asthma and panic attacks, especially during her time in prison.

Mate’s narrative, written in the form of journal entries,...

(The entire section is 1,438 words.)