Julia Alvarez

In the Time of the Butterflies

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  • Features 12 chapter summaries and 6 sections of expert analysis
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In the Time of the Butterflies Chapters 4-6 Summary & Analysis

Chapter 4 Summary: Patria, 1946

The narrative perspective switches again, and it is now told from Patria’s point-of-view. It begins in 1946, with Patria explaining her early interest in religion. From a young age, she imagined herself becoming a nun. Many other people assumed that she had a religious vocation. Patria goes to the convent school and tries to ignore the fact that she is going through puberty. Instead, she makes herself pious, carefully following all of the rules set out for the girls. She is so devout for her age that the nuns eventually take notice. When Patria is sixteen, Sor Asunción summons her and tells her to listen for God’s voice in case she should receive a calling to become a nun. If so, she will be welcomed at the convent. Patria notes that, during the meeting, she is distracted by the tree outside, which appears to be on fire.

At night, Patria starts touching herself, but tries to suppress her carnal desires with thoughts of Christ. She even asks for a crucifix to be placed above her bed, and devotes herself to her prayers and studies. Though this is successful for a while, Patria begins to desire rich foods instead. She continues to pray devoutly, but receives no sign from God as to her calling. She returns home, and volunteers to wash people’s feet during Holy Week. While doing so, she is startled to find herself washing a man’s beautiful feet. She looks up and finds that he is indeed a handsome young man. Patria feels that this is the sign that she has been waiting for, that the beautiful young man is to be her “earthly groom” (48). With this revelation, she gives up her dreams of being a nun. When she returns to the convent school, she lies to Sor Asunción and says that God has yet to reveal her calling. She feels guilty about the lie, and one day, receives a letter from the man. When Sor Asunción confronts her again, she finally confesses that she will not become a nun.

Patria stays home from school…

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