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In the Time of the Butterflies

by Julia Alvarez

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Can you describe the girls in In the Time of the Butterflies?

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Early in Chapter One, Dede, the lone survivor of the four Mirabal sisters, is telling her story to a reporter who has come to the shrine she maintains to honor their deaths.  Dede slips into a remembrance of a family conversation.  (In my edition, these descriptions occur on pgs 8-10; your edition may be different.) 

Of Dede, her father says, "Ay, Dede, that's why I have you.  Every soft foot needs a hard shoe."  He means that Dede is the practical one in the family.

Of Maria Teresa, he says, "you'll be our little coquette."  Maria Teresa is the flirtatious, girly sister.

He declines to comment on Patria, but Dede recalls that it was "difficult to imagine Patria unmarried without a baby on her lap."  Indeed, Patria is the ultimate mother of the four sisters.

Minerva, in this chapter, is described as a "know it all" by her mother.  A few sentences later, Minerva announces that "I asked the talking board what I would be when I grow up and it said I would be a lawyer." 

This chapter also has physical description scattered throughout, like Maria Teresa's "long braids" which will become integral in the later "prison" chapter.

The novel is structured so that each sister takes turns telling her story individually.  For more on the mental and physical characteristics, look in the first few paragraphs of the first stories the girls tell.

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