In the Time of the Butterflies

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In the Time of the Butterflies Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrative now consists of María Teresa’s diary entries. She prepares for her First Communion, and is excited about her fancy new shoes. María Teresa thinks about souls, and about how her friends Daysi and Lidia have been mean to her. She often asks Minerva for advice, as they are both now at the same school. María Teresa says that she is “advanced for her age” because of her older sisters, but she purposefully doesn’t win the handwriting prize at school every week so the other girls don’t get jealous.
Just as Minerva’s story becomes more explicitly political, Alvarez now jumps to the most “girlish” of the sisters, who has yet to have any inkling of the regime’s true nature. María Teresa seems to look up to Minerva most of all, though, so her naivety about Trujillo cannot last long.
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María Teresa returns home for the holidays and is excited to see her family. Her nickname at home is “Mate.” She writes about Minerva making Daysi and Lidia be nicer, and Minerva telling her about menstruation and sex. One day a young man follows them, complimenting Minerva effusively. Minerva ignores him but lets him buy María Teresa some ice cream.
María Teresa is eight years younger than the next oldest sister (Minerva), so she always experiences a kind of disconnect from her older siblings and is the baby of the family.
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María Teresa describes Patria’s cute children, Nelson and Noris. For Three Kings day the family goes shopping in Santiago, and María Teresa gets new shoes. She compliments Minerva for being so smart and good at arguing. María Teresa talks about her cousin Berto, who brought Mamá some flowers.
Through Mate, Alvarez gives examples of innocent girlhood which will then be contrasted with political violence. Her infatuation with shoes and boys emphasizes the fact that all the sisters are young women, not just historical revolutionary legends.
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María Teresa describes a “funny little moment” when an uncle mentioned Benefactor’s Day, and Minerva said they should go celebrate at the cemetery. The room went silent, but María Teresa doesn’t understand why. Later María Teresa talks more about the shoes she wears for Benefactor’s Day, and how happy she is to have El Jefe (Trujillo) as her president. She feels special because her birthday is in the same month as his.
Alvarez contrasts Mate – who is still thinking of Trujillo as a kindly father-figure – with Minerva, who knows the truth and is now willing to speak out against Trujillo’s murders. El Jefe means “the chief” or “the boss” and was one of Trujillo’s most common nicknames.
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One day María Teresa is shocked to hear that Minerva has been sneaking out of school. María Teresa is called before a nun, but she affirms Minerva’s lie that they have a sick uncle that she was visiting. Later María Teresa convinces Minerva to explain, and Minerva says that she has been going to secret meetings at Don Horacio’s house. He is Elsa’s grandfather, and is in trouble with the police for refusing to hang a picture of Trujillo in his house.
Mate remains naïve and childish, but her closeness to Minerva makes her the second sister to experience real action against Trujillo. Part of Trujillo’s “personality cult” and godlike persona is making sure everyone has a portrait of him in their house. Mate shows her courage by lying on Minerva’s behalf.
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María Teresa asks why Minerva would do such a thing, and Minerva says that she wants María Teresa to grow up in a free country. María Teresa is confused, as she thinks the country is already free, but then she gets upset and starts having an asthma attack. Minerva holds her hands until she calms down.
Minerva acts as Mate’s agitator but also as the stable force to calm her down – telling her the harsh truth but also soothing Mate’s emotional spikes.
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The next day María Teresa is more suspicious of the police and Trujillo. She had thought of Trujillo as “like God, watching over everything I did,” but now when she sees a portrait of Trujillo she thinks that he is trying to catch her doing something bad. María Teresa affirms that she still loves the president, she is just disappointed in him.
Mate now begins to have her “complications” of realizing Trujillo’s true nature, though she still associates him with a father-figure and a flawed man, not a devil. In the symbol of his portrait, Trujillo is again portrayed as a benevolent or malevolent god.
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María Teresa gushes about letters she gets from her cousin Berto. She then describes Minerva’s “rude” new friend Hilda who now hangs around the school a lot. Hilda goes to the secret meetings at Don Horacio’s house and wears a beret and trousers. She questions God’s existence, and the nuns humor her for a while because she is an orphan, but then they tell her to leave the school.
Minerva and her friends are heavily influenced by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, socialist revolutionaries in Cuba, even down to the way they dress (Che is famous for his beret). Mate has an eye-opening moment about Trujillo, but then she goes back to talking about boys and clothes.
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Two months later guards start visiting the school, asking for Hilda. Minerva tells María Teresa that Hilda had suddenly appeared asking for a place to hide, and Sor Asunción had agreed to hide her. The police keep coming by, but the nuns say nothing about Hilda.
The nuns don’t approve of Hilda, but they show their moral fiber in hiding her. At this point the Catholic church is still neutral regarding Trujillo, while many of its practitioners grow dissatisfied.
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Minerva graduates and she and María Teresa go home for the summer. Patria has been pregnant, but she gives birth to a stillborn boy. Patria cries all the time now. On the last entry María Teresa explains that she has to bury this diary, as Hilda has been caught and everyone in Don Horacio’s group now has to destroy anything that would seem suspicious. María Teresa has mentioned Hilda, so she has to dispose of the diary too. She bids it farewell.
Mate’s diary is mostly comments on shoes and daily life, but it could still be damning material to a biased police officer. Again we see a major life event for one of the sisters from the perspective of another.
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