Julia Alvarez

In the Time of the Butterflies

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In the Time of the Butterflies Essay Topics

  1. Beginning with Sinita’s stories and moving on to the Mariposas’ experiences with him, discuss some of the ways Trujillo consolidates his power in the novel. How is he able to control everyone so completely?
  1. Describe each of the Maribal sisters, focusing on the defining characteristics that are attributed to them in the novel. How does the narrative form of each sister (for example, Mate’s diary) reflect their character?
  1. How does Patria’s faith evolve over the course of the novel? Giving specific examples, how does her faith contribute to her joining the movement, and what is the deciding factor, if any?
  1. Discuss the novel’s feminist politics. How are the sisters portrayed early on? What consumes their lives at school and at home? Once they leave home and begin to learn about Trujillo, what prompts them to take action against Trujillo’s rule?
  1. Given the fact that the novel is a piece of historical fiction, the author describes several historical events that take place outside the Dominican Republic. What are some of these events, and how do they affect the events in the novel?
  1. Though Patria, Minerva and María Teresa all attend the convent school, their experiences there are very different. Describe the noteworthy similarities and differences between the sisters’ time at the school. How did their time at the school shape their decision(s) later in the novel?
  1. There are several comparisons of male figures in the novel. Trujillo is compared to God and to Jesus, while Papá is compared to Trujillo. Mamá even goes so far as to say that all men are alike. Discuss the novel’s attitude towards masculinity in the Dominican Republic.
  1. The Maribal sisters eventually come to Trujillo’s attention, and are eventually killed by him. What are some of the early indications in the novel that the sisters would find themselves on Trujillo’s bad side?
  1. The author inserts herself into the novel in the form of the female interviewer. Why do you think that, as the interviewer notes, people outside of the Dominican Republic knew almost nothing of the brave sisters and their sacrifice? Given that so many…
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