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Literary Analysis of in The Time of The Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

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The desire for overcoming corruption became a battle for everyone living in those times. The passion that many had and the hope that wasn’t lost kept them stronger. Now, a day’s corruption is not the most popular subject but it’s still around in many places it’s just never spoken about. The author makes a connection with a real life story that will confuse and leave you wondering the what if it happened a different way, she writes this novel to inform the audience of how terrifying it must’ve been to be in that time. Although the book In the time of the butterflies is an historical fiction novel, power was over abused and only the smartest ones can attempt to fight that battle. The four fearless Mirabal sisters stood up for what was right even if it was against a dictator who always got what he wanted, they found a way to overcome him for good especially with all the damage he had already caused. Unfortunately, the sisters were killed because they tried to rebel against him. Before anything happened Trujillo was planning on killing every single person that went to that Nun school and Minerva found out and got angry. Minerva Mirabal was the most heroic of the Mirabal sisters, she was the first of her sisters to join the rebellion, she went to law school and slapped the dictator. The dictator immediately asked for an apology and kept on wanting Minerva. Minerva knew that with a dictator so powerful shed have to be ahead of his plans, she knew that she was taking big risk at messing with the most powerful man that was around at that time but that didn’t stop Minerva from doing what was right, not just for her family but everyone else that was influenced by Trujillo and his team. She didn’t exactly know what to expect but she knew that if she didn’t try she was going to regret it for the rest of her life. This heroic action influences the audience to stand up for what you believe is right and to not be scared of any outcome coming your way.

In the time of the butterflies, the author uses tone to enhance the central message of how she tries to put herself in the shoes of what people might have felt during that time and in a way she was the interviewer who saw everything that happened, the tone is very reverent. For instance, “possessed by the spirits of the girls, can you imagine! People are coming from as far away as Barahona to talk “through” this ebony black sibyl with the Mirabal sisters”. She understands the hurt and pressure people might feel when they’re under than command. In other words, Julia Alvarez uses many different tones to show the reader how serious any of those situations might be, she also puts herself in each and everyone of the girl’s shoes because they were all very different and in order to understand the decisions they made, she had to think like them, that is why this books tone is very reverent because what the sisters went through wasn’t easy. In the time of the butterflies the novel about the Mirabal family is broken down into three sections, all of those sections involve Dede discussing her life with an interviewer. The tone of the book is one of action and enjoyment. As the Mirabal sisters choose a dangerous and outspoken course the book becomes very high spirited. Through many adventures like planning to destroy Trujillo to also love stories and falling in love to then relationships and children, and finally sorrows where deaths occurred because of corruption and power, reader is called to a more active lifestyle with high expectation. The tone in the book is one of the most important aspects because its how it makes you feel and it gives you a better understanding of what they’re going through, the tone in this book was very serious because the sisters did go through a lot, especially because of Trujillo, he was basically the enemy in the book but the book wasn’t just filled with sadness, there were many changes like the girls changed a lot whether it was how they thought about life or their mind sets just completely changed. The tone can also allow you to understand the situations better they didn’t just have bad moments, they had growing up moments, they fell in love, some found loyalty, some went through tragedy and pain. Through all their adventures you felt like you were apart of it because of how relatable the book was, it was very shocking to see how things turned out because you’d never expect it. The book gives the reader man unexpected turns and you’d never expect to happen. While the book deals with very dangerous situations ultimately resulting in death, somehow it is also able to keep a tone of love, loyalty, and pleasure through the optimism and energy of the sisters. A tone of willpower definitely comes forth, most highly shown through the character of Minerva.

In the time of the butterflies, Julia Alvarez uses symbolism to enhance the central message of the corruption they had to deal with. For an example, “Trujillo is a devil”, Sinita the one who describes Trujillo as the devil to emphasize all the bad things he’s done that people see as devilish. Trujillo knows as the dictator in that time was everyone’s biggest enemy, it didn’t matter to him that you were innocent, he’d always have the word. In other words, Trujillo’s actions contributed to many deaths, in the beginning he shows what he was capable of doing and that made everyone respect and hate him. When Minerva tried to go up against him, it was brave but it ended on being her destruction, the power that Trujillo had was very difficult to over come. Also another type of symbolism in the book would be rain, for an example, “Today is a big day, its been raining since dawn”. Rain symbolizes good luck and a new and good beginning is ahead of them, the rain is also symbolizing Minerva’s new start with Manolo and that rain gives them good luck for a long time or for as long as they’re together. Symbols don’t always start with a bad meaning, many symbols show power, good luck or even positives outcomes. The symbolism in the book is very different and involve different things or people, there isn’t a certain symbolism type in this book. Symbolism does bring ideas and thought to the book, that’s why its so important for symbolism to have a large portion of this novel, it makes it more interesting for the reader and it gives us more of an image of what is going on. Another type of symbolism in the book is the Butterfly, the butterfly symbolizes growth and maturity, before the sisters only had themselves then they met other people which they ended on falling in love with and one had children and got married, and that shows how much change can happen in just a matter of time. Also the butterfly symbolizes strength for all those obstacles they all had to face together. Also in the book, Minerva explains how she felt caged her whole life, she then starts comparing herself to the rabbits her family keeps in cages and then Minerva opens the cage door to one of the rabbits but the rabbit doesn’t want to leave and she was trying to force it and realizes that she was just hurting it and she wasn’t like the rabbit at all at the end. Minerva thought that the rabbit wasn’t happy in the cage and it proved her wrong when she saw it didn’t want to leave the cage, but the only reason why she compared herself to the rabbit was because of the way her dad used to treat her, she saw how overprotective he was towards her and she just wanted to escape that, the way she felt trapped by all the rules they’d give her and she just didn’t want that anymore. As a result of his strict rules, people are scared to escape their “cages” to find comfort somewhere else. She wants to be free regardless of the cost. But unlike most people, Minerva will open her own cage door and fight with all she had to leave in the cage. The examples that Trujillo shows and his personality plays a really important role, especially on behalf Minerva, she shows how brave she is because of him. There is a portrait of him in mama’s house next to a picture of Jesus, a combination that becomes a powerful symbol for patria, who sees the two as opposites.

Many readers were affected by Julia Alvarez’s central message of in The Time of the Butterflies. For an example, “Originally, I had planned to write a nonfiction book, but in conducting interviews, there were so many versions of “the truth,” and so many gaps in the lives of the sisters, that I began to have to make imaginative leaps in order to put the whole truth together”. In other words, Julia Alvarez meant that the book is a nonfiction book because she had to make certain things up to finish the puzzle, there were many parts of the story where she didn’t know what had happened so she wrote what could’ve been the most logical story. Julia Alvarez was born on March 27, 1950, in New York City. The theme being caught between two cultures can be found in Alvarez work. Julia Alvarez was raised in the Dominican Republic, but had to leave the country when she was 10 years old; her family had supported an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow dictator Rafael Trujillo, and then fled to Brooklynn New York. She explored this cultural divide in her first novel, How the Garcia girls lost their accents, published in 1991, which garnered critical and commercial success. Her reading audience continued to grow with her second novel, In the time of the butterflies, published in 1994. Julia Alvarez connects with the book a lot especially since she was in the Dominican Republic when the dictatorship of Trujillo was happening. The thought behind In the Time of the Butterflies began in the 1960s when Julia Alvarez was in the Dominican Republic. That was when the Mirabal sisters had been murdered just three months after her father got involved with trying to unmask and rebel against Trujillo. That experience that she had made her research more about the story of the Mirabal sisters and made a novel about their story, even though Julia Alvarez did make some parts of the story up, a lot of the novel is based on a true story with a twist of what she believes happened to the Mirabal sisters. The book was written in both first and third person, about the Mirabal sisters and their amazing experiences. Julia Alvarez’s butterflies are the four Mirabal sisters, whose code name in the revolutionary underground was Mariposa, Spanish for butterfly. These women, daughters of Don Enrique Mirabal, a landed merchant-farmer who became prosperous and socially prominent, and his wife, Doña Mercedes, referred to as “Mama” throughout the novel, were born into a rising middle class. Alvarez tells the story of the Mirabal sisters in the first person. Each division of the book is headed by the name of one sister and by one or more dates. This structural device shows rounded development of each character because each sister speaks for herself in the first person but is also revealed as others see and comment about her. The novel poses a number of universal social questions. Most obviously, it is a strident statement about human rights and human dignity. It also becomes a strong feminist statement. Minerva, the most independent of the daughters, is a feminist in every aspect. Dedé, a submissive wife until she joins the revolutionary movement, divorces her husband and, after the political troubles have died down, becomes an extremely successful insurance agent, something she could never have done in the Dominican Republic as Jaimito’s wife. Alvarez shows how passion and having a strong mindset can change and make someone stronger.

Before Julia Alvarez became a writer she was living in New York, she had to perfect her English and adjust to life as an immigrant, she was also made fun of while she was at school and that experience, she turned to reading for solace. Alvarez began attending a boarding school at age thirteen. By high school, she desired to become a writer. She was encouraged by teachers but not by her family. She explains to Jonathan Bing of publishers’ weekly part of her family’s reasoning: ‘I grew up in that generation of women thinking I would keep house. Especially with my Latino background, I wasn’t even expected to go to college…. I had never been raised to have a public voice.’ She pursued her writing interests at Connecticut College, where she won two prizes for her poetry in 1968 and 1969. She then attended Middlebury College in Vermont, where she won the Creative Writing Prize and graduated summa cum laude in 1971. She received an M.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University in 1975. While at Syracuse, she won the American Academy of Poetry Prize in 1974. Alvarez homecoming wasn’t how she expected it to be, she was happy to be back in America but she then started to feel homesick, alienation and prejudice. She basically missed her family back there, her cousins, her family’s large home and the respect her family name had. Alvarez second novel In the Time of Butterflies became a Novel that gave readers mixed emotions and made us feel like we were apart of it. In the time of Butterflies received a favorable reaction from reviewers, some of whom admired Alvarez’s ability to express the wide range of emotions brought on by the revolution. For example, the reviewer for publishers weekly observed that “Alvarez captures the terrorized atmosphere of a police state, in which people live under the sword of terrible fear and atrocities cannot be acknowledged. As the sisters’ energetic fervor turns to anguish, Alvarez conveys her courage and their desperation, and the full import of the tragedy. In the novel power was seen a lot in this novel and it also affected a lot of people because everyone was too scared to mess with someone so powerful. In the Time of Butterflies is a book that is really close to Julia Alvarez because even though she didn’t go through what the Sisters’ went through, she knows what its like to live in an environment where dictatorship is involved, it also happened in the Dominican Republic, where she lived many years because her family was involved with rebelling against a dictator. Although Julia Alvarez’s life wasn’t as bad as what the three sisters went though she did experience dark moments when she lived in the Dominican Republic, I believe that the story of the Mirabal sisters brought so much attention to her because she knows it isn’t easy living a life where you’re scared to do anything because of the amount of corruption they have and cant do anything about it because it can lead to death. You can tell Alvarez’s passion when reading the Novel; you feel every emotion, even though she wasn’t the one who experienced it.

The continuous use of corruption in the time of butterflies influenced the central theme of how dangerous it is to have power. Political Corruption is a theme in In the Time of the Butterflies because it, as well as in this book, happens to anyone and everywhere. Minerva is worried about her friend Sinita. She is crying because her brother had been killed by Trujillo. ‘Well the next morning Manolo and Minerva explained everything. A national underground is forming. Everyone and everything has code names. This was to keep Trujillo confused. If he found out, they’d all be died. There were groups spread all over the Island.’ This quote explains the reason why Trujillo is being a lying, sick, perverted, backstabbing Dictator and the citizens forming against him because they know how lies turn out to be and a political corruption was going to happen. Trujillo, a Dominican dictator, shows how strong he is while raping, murdering and imprisoning people in desire of power and pleasure. He serially preys upon young girls. In childhood, the sisters believe in his strength; by the time they are adults they compare him to the Devil. Minerva then wonders if he has nightmares because of all the evil things he’s done or if he has any regrets at all for what he was capable of doing. Trujillo’s power lead to so many things and Trujillo has a set of dice made from human teeth that were stolen from a grave. The sisters’ uncle made them. As part of their revolutionary activities, the Mirabal sisters build bombs and hide guns and ammunition. The bravery of the sisters was so strong, they couldn’t imagine giving up because they knew that a man like that doesn’t deserve to win and Minerva being the strongest and the fearless one of the sisters, wasn’t scared of the outcomes that were to stop her. Trujillo being a man that everyone despised had power because everyone let him have it but Minerva was his biggest enemy and eventually destroyed Trujillo. Trust is shown in this book as well. When Patria went through the challenge of losing her third child. She is also faced with questioning her husbands’ silent night leavings. So one night she follows and sees him at so possessive over a small box that he dug a whole to cover.’ After he was gone to the yucca fields the next day, I searched and searched, but I could not find the spot again. Ay. Dios, how I worried that he had taken our baby from consecrated ground. I decided to check first before insisting Pedrito dig him back up.’ She basically believed that her husband dug the baby out but didn’t find proof that he had done that.

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Literary Analysis Of In The Time Of The Butterflies By Julia Alvarez. (2021, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from
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