illustration of a young woman's silhouetted head with a butterfly on it located within a cage

In the Time of the Butterflies

by Julia Alvarez

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Questions and Answers Part I: Chapters 1-4

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1. How does each sister lose her innocence or faith in the novel’s opening chapters?

2. Minerva says she “got free” after she moved away to go to boarding school. What does she mean by this?

3. The Mirabal sisters all learn in adolescence that Trujillo, the dictator who rules the Dominican Republic, is closer to their lives than they initially thought. Give at least three examples of Trujillo’s proximity to their lives.

4. What do the Mirabal sisters learn about their father in the book’s opening chapters?

5. How does Patria’s faith shield her from the evils of Trujillo? How does it lead her to understand the nature of her country’s dictator?

1. Dedé sees how her sisters’ deaths have become spiritual as well as political symbols and how she is an object for reporters to interview and examine. Minerva befriends Sinita and learns of Trujillo. María Teresa learns of Trujillo’s evils and must bury her diary to avoid political issues. Patria doubts her religion and grieves a lost baby.

2. Minerva realizes that she has been brought up in a sheltered environment at home with her family. By interacting with other students and sneaking off campus, she is exposed to other types of people and learns about the political regime governing her country.

3. Minerva learns a merchant she knows from the town square is one of Trujillo’s hired killers. Minerva and the other students are asked to perform before Trujillo. Trujillo decides to court a student from the Mirabal sisters’ school, Lina. Minerva befriends Hilda, a town girl who hides from Trujillo on the sisters’ campus and whose association forces Minerva and María Teresa to bury their writings for fear of Trujillo.

4. He is having an affair with another woman. Their parents’ marriage is shaken.

5. After Patria miscarries her third baby, she realizes that her Catholic faith has never been “tested” through misfortune. Her pain makes her doubt her decisions and faith, and she comes to understand the bitter resentment Minerva feels toward the government when she looks at the image of Trujillo mounted on a wall near a religious scene. She feels mistreated by God just as Minerva feels mistreated by the Dominican government.

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Questions and Answers Part II: Chapters 5-8