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In the Time of the Butterflies

by Julia Alvarez

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Student Question

What are two key quotes about identity from Chapter 11 of In the Time of the Butterflies?

Expert Answers

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This is a very important chapter for the development of the character of Maria Teresa, as we see her in prison and having to face the realities of punishment, abuse and torture. Based on this, therefore, one of the most important quotes regarding her identity and development as a character comes at the very end of the chapter. Having been tortured, the guards look shame-faced:

Then Bloody Juan gathered up my clothes, but I wouldn't let him help me. I dressed myself and walked out to the wagon on my own two feet.

This shows the defiance, anger and determination of Maria Teresa. Having been tortured in front of these men, she refuses to receive help from them, instead weakly putting on her own clothes and walking out "on her own two feet." She has greatly changed from the young teenager we first met.

Secondly, I would pick a journal entry that comes towards the beginning of the chapter that talks of how Maria Teresa faces her fears but chooses not to give into them:

The fear is the worse part. Every time I hear footsteps coming down the hall, or the clink of the key turning in the lock, I'm tempted to curl up in the corner like a hurt animal, whimpering, wanting to be safe. But I know if I do that, I'll be giving in to a low part of myself, and I'll feel even less human. And that is what they want to do, yes, that is what they want to do.

Again we see a massive change in her character. She is showing her courage, fortitude and also her intelligence in this quote. Although she recognises her fear, she refuses to give into it, because she understands that she would be "beaten" by the political system which wants her to yield to fear.

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