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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  • Discuss whether writing a fictional account of real people is a valid or fair means of depicting them for an audience. Take into consideration Alvarez's comments in her postscript to In the Time of the Butterflies.

  • Research the life of a woman who, like the Mirabals, fought for human rights or political change at great personal risk. The list of subjects is quite long, but some possible choices include Harriet Tubman of the Underground Railroad, Qui Jin of China, Ruth First of South Africa, Fannie Lou Hamer of the American Civil Rights Movement, Rigoberta Manchú of Guatemala, or Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma. You also may want to compare people's responses to these women to the Dominican people's responses to the Mirabal sisters.

  • Compare the lives of Dominican women today to the lives of Dominican women before 1960. Explore their social positions, gender expectations, educational opportunities, familial roles, or their political impact.

  • Compare contemporary political conditions in the Dominican Republic with conditions during the Trujillo regime.

  • Research the relationship between the Trujillo government and the U.S. government. Choose a particular time frame or event that helps to clarify this relationship, and focus on one facet of their relationship, such as their economic ties, their political ties or disputes, or America's role in either maintaining or undermining Trujillo's dictatorship.

  • Compare Trujillo's methods of gaining and maintaining power with the methods of another ruler, such as Francisco Franco of Spain Joseph Stalin of Russia, Mao Tse-Tung of China, Fidel Castro of Cuba, François "Papa Doc" Duvalier of Haiti, or Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

  • Construct a psychological profile of a dictator. Discuss his motivations, desires, needs, and possible fears. Address some of the root causes for the dictator's behavior.

  • Research the 1937 massacre of Haitians in the Dominican Republic. Examine both its causes and its consequences. Then employ literary works, such as Edwidge Danticat's novel The Farming of Bones or Rita Dove's poem "Parsley," to explore how people have reacted to this terrible event.

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