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In the Time of the Butterflies

by Julia Alvarez

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What does the rain symbolize in In the Time of the Butterflies?

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Rain symbolizes trouble in In the Time of the Butterflies.

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It rains often in In the Time of the Butterflies, which is not surprising, as rain symbolizes the onset of trouble in this novel and trouble comes frequently to the Mirabals as they oppose the brutal Trujillo regime.

Rain is mentioned over and over, for example, in chapter 6....

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After Minerva slaps Trujillo for his lewd advances and suggesting he take his clothes off for her as they dance, it rains. The rain symbolizes the unhappiness Trujillo brings into the Mirabal sisters' lives and foreshadows their father's arrest. After Minerva is back home, the series of events that occurs after the slap is put under the subhead "Rainy Spell," and Minerva states,

The rain comes down all morning, beating against the shutters, blurring the sounds inside the house.

As the family pulls all the string they can to try deal with this situation, Minerva writes,

all we can do is wait and listen to the rain falling on the roof of the house.

The rain is connected explicitly with the "numb, damp, fatalistic feeling" the family has as they run up against Trujillo.

In chapter 7, Mate's diary entries discuss Minerva's wedding to Manolo, which is also a rainy time. The family tries to put a good spin on this weather, with Mate stating,

Rain or no rain, this is a happy day.

However, we as readers know from the overall iconography of the novel that the rain means Minerva and Manolo's marriage will be overshadowed by the darkness of the Trujillo regime.

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Name three scenes in which rain appears in In the Time of the Butterflies. What does it symbolize?

Rain is used as a symbol of tragic or disastrous events, or as a foreshadowing of doom.  The first scene in which it is mentioned is at the end of Chapter 1, "a clear moonlit night before the future begins".  The family is all together, and Mama is chiding Minerva for her radical and dangerous political views.  Although the sky is clear, it is "as if drops of rain had started falling", and the family ends their conversation and hurries inside.  The girls are still innocent and uninvolved directly with revolution, but the course of their fateful trajectories is beginning.

Chapter 6, in which Minerva describes the Discovery Day Ball and her disastrous encounter with Trujillo, is drenched with rain.  After Minerva spurns El Jefe, the family flees the Ball, and "the rain comes down hard, slapping sheets of it".  The following days, when Papa is arrested and Minerva and Mama are trying to obtain his release, are characterized by unremitting rain - "the rain comes down...beating against the shutters, blurring the sounds inside the house...every corner of (the country) is wet, every river overflows its banks...every wall washed clean of writing no one knows how to read anyway".

In Chapter 7, it is raining on the day of Minerva's and Manolo's wedding, signifying the turbulent path that lies ahead for the two, both in their marital relationship and their politics.

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