In the Time of the Butterflies Introduction
by Julia Alvarez

In the Time of the Butterflies book cover
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So you’re going to teach Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies, a novel that has been popular in English classrooms since its publication in 1994. While it has its challenges—a nonlinear narrative, multiple points of view, and a violent, tragic conclusion—teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. Studying In the Time of the Butterflies will give them unique insight into revolutionary dynamics in Latin America, daily life in the Dominican Republic, and the important role the Mirabal sisters played in challenging authoritarianism, patriarchy, and bringing about social change. This guide highlights some of the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 1994 
  • Recommended Grade Levels: 10-12 
  • Approximate Word Count: 116,000 
  • Author: Julia Alvarez 
  • Country of Origin: United States 
  • Genre: Historical Fiction, Biography, Family Drama 
  • Literary Period: Contemporary 
  • Conflict: Person vs. Person, Person vs. Society, Person vs. Self 
  • Narration: Third-Person Limited Omniscient; Shifting First-Person Perspectives 
  • Setting: Dominican Republic, 1938–1994 
  • Mood: Confessional, Intimate, Reverent

Texts that Go Well with In the Time of the Butterflies

Animal Farm by George Orwell is an iconic allegory for the Russian Revolution. The novel follows the events on a rural farm as a group of animals overthrow their human leader in the hopes of building a collectivist utopia. However, the intellectually superior pigs come to monopolize resources and power, using a pack of violent dogs to intimidate and threaten the other animals. Students will find that they can connect the dictatorship of the character Napoleon to Trujillo’s methods of leadership and coercion in In the Time of the Butterflies

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz, combines elements of postmodernism and magical realism to explore themes of personal and national identity within the context of one family’s immigration from the Dominican Republic to the United States. Similarly to In the Time of the Butterflies, the novel explores one family’s struggle to survive within the context of the Trujillo regime using a non-linear plot and shifting points of view. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao earned both a National Book Critics Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. 

(The entire section is 592 words.)