In the Time of the Butterflies

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In the Time of the Butterflies Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
(What do you want, Minerva Mirabal?: Summer) Minerva narrates again, and she describes how she never paid much attention to boys as a young adult. She is stuck at home for three years after graduating from convent school, and jealously watches Elsa and Sinita go off to the university in the capital. Whenever she gets one of their letters she restlessly drives around in the family Jeep.
In contrast to Dedé’s romantic woes, Minerva has trouble focusing on romance at all. She is forced to return to her “rabbit cage” after the convent school, as Papá is unwilling to let her go off to study law.
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One afternoon while she is driving around, Minerva sees Papá’s car parked outside of a campesino’s house. Minerva starts driving back by this house occasionally, and sometimes four little girls run out into the driveway and beg for mints from her. Minerva notes that they have “Mirabal eyes,” and she asks them who their father is. They go silent. She asks if they have a brother, and Minerva feels “delicious revenge” when they say no. Their mother comes out and eyes Minerva warily before she drives off.
The discovery of Papá’s sin is like the discovery of Trujillo’s true nature (though less drastic), as Alvarez shows how Dominican children saw Trujillo as a flawless father-figure. In the same way the sisters idealized Papá until moments like this. In the patriarchal Dominican society, sons were more valuable than daughters, so Minerva feels glad that Papá failed to have a son even with his mistress.
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Minerva says that she didn’t know what she wanted during those years at home, and she felt like she was asleep. When she met Lío it was like waking up. She tried to decide which was more important – revolution or romance – but deep down she desired both. She wasn’t in love with Lío, but she was still hurt when he left without saying goodbye.
For Dedé, Virgilio was a life-changing romance, but for Minerva he is someone to share her revolutionary ideas while she is trapped at home. They are clearly romantically involved as well, but it seems that Virgilio’s feelings were stronger than Minerva’s.
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One day Minerva picks the lock of Papá’s armoire while he is away. Inside she finds four letters addressed to her from Lío. She reads them eagerly, and he mentions his invitation to seek asylum with him. By the fourth letter he accepts that Minerva has denied his proposal. Minerva feels that she has missed a great opportunity, and that her life would have been “nobler” with Lío. She suddenly grows angry at Papá, blaming him for everything.
Minerva compares her life trapped at home, unable to affect any real change, with the glamorous life of a political outlaw, and she gets especially angry. Dedé also tried to “protect” Minerva by burning Virgilio’s letter, but protection through ignorance is another kind of cage.
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Minerva purposefully leaves the armoire door open, and then she drives off and finds Papá at his mistress’s house. Minerva honks the horn until he comes out and sees her, and then she drives back home. When Papá returns that night, he calls her outside and suddenly hits her in the face. Minerva says “you’ve lost my respect” in a commanding voice, and she sees Papá’s shoulders droop. She suddenly realizes that he is the weakest one in the whole family, and he needs their love. Papá apologizes, but pretends his apology pertains only to hiding Virgilio’s letters. Minerva lets the fiction stand.
Minerva discovers that she is strongest in the face of immediate adversity, so she has no problem standing up to Papá and overcoming his will with her own. Papá’s machismo and desire to control his daughters cannot stand up to Minerva’s actual courage. Minerva recognizes that a certain façade is necessary for her to live peacefully at home, so for once she compromises.
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Later Papá gets invited to a party thrown by Trujillo himself, and there is a special request that Minerva appear as well. Mamá is frightened by this, as she worries that Trujillo now desires Minerva. She agrees to let Minerva attend if Patria, Dedé, Pedrito, and Jaimito all go too. María Teresa cries and wants to go, but Minerva promises to bring her back a souvenir. At the last party she attended, Minerva brought her back a paper fan with Trujillo’s face on one side and the Virgin on the other. Minerva kept making María Teresa turn the fan around, as Minerva couldn’t stand either face depending on her mood.
Alvarez doesn’t give many of Minerva’s internal reactions to this invitation, which suggests that Minerva is in danger of becoming another Lina Lovatón – although Minerva would never actually fall in love with Trujillo. On the paper fan Trujillo is again associated with a religious figure, though this time it is the Virgin. Minerva has lost her religious faith as well as her respect for Trujillo, so she dislikes both images.
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A week before the party, Minerva invites herself along when Papá is running “errands.” He promises he isn’t involved with the woman anymore, but only goes to see his children. Minerva says she wants to meet them, and he is clearly moved. He agrees to take her, and he introduces Minerva to the little girls. They and their mother now live in a new house in a nicer neighborhood. The oldest, Margarita, is ten.
Papá’s illegitimate daughters are foils to the Mirabal sisters – what might have happened if they were denied all their privileges and stability. Minerva—the revolutionary who sees so much wrong with the normal social order of the Dominican Republic—is the only daughter to immediately accept her illegitimate half-sisters as real family.
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On the drive back home Minerva asks Papá why he first cheated, and he responds with “things a man does.” He then asks Minerva why she wanted to meet his mistress and other children, and Minerva responds with “things a woman does.” Suddenly she feels her “woman’s eyes” open, and on the way home she starts noticing attractive men everywhere.
There is still that easy security of the patriarchy, where Papá can defend his sins as “just being a man,” but Minerva turns this excuse on its head and uses it for her own empowerment.
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(Discovery Day Dance: October 12) On the day of Trujillo’s party the family is an hour late, as they get lost and Jaimito (who is driving) doesn’t want to ask for directions. They are afraid that their lateness will make Trujillo angry. It is raining hard, and Minerva has a theory that the old Mayan storm god always “acts up” around Discovery Day (the occasion for the party), which celebrates the conquistador Columbus.
Part of Trujillo’s policy was the elevation of whiteness over blackness (most Dominicans are mixed-race), and it is especially telling that he has such a love for Columbus – the European who “discovered” the Caribbean and helped kill all its native inhabitants.
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The family reaches the mansion’s entrance and are greeted by Manuel de Moya, Trujillo’s “secretary of state” whose real job is finding pretty girls for El Jefe. Luckily Trujillo is late as well, so the Mirabals are escorted inside without incident. Everyone sits down, but Manuel tells Minerva that she has been invited to sit at El Jefe’s table. Dedé silently reminds Minerva not to drink anything she is offered, as there have been stories of young women being drugged and then raped by Trujillo. Then Trujillo enters, and Minerva raises her glass in a “reckless toast.”
Minerva now begins her second personal confrontation with Trujillo, but this time she feels braver. Manuel de Moya is technically the secretary of state, but he is really the official procurer of women for Trujillo – a more explicit example of how the regime objectifies women.
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Trujillo immediately receives a new medal from the Spanish ambassador. Minerva thinks of the rumor that as a child, El Jefe put bottle caps across his chest to look like medals. Everyone finally sits down to eat, but Trujillo doesn’t sit next to Minerva. Once Minerva drops her napkin, and under the table she sees Trujillo fondling a senator’s wife’s leg.
Among Trujillo’s detractors his nickname is “bottlecaps” because of his love of decorating himself with medals. It is almost farcical how corrupt the dictator is.
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After dinner there is dancing, and Minerva can’t help feeling disappointed that Trujillo doesn’t invite her for his first dance. She reminds herself of Lío’s warning, that “this regime is seductive,” as evidenced by a whole country being seduced by “this little man.” Manuel de Moya invites her to dance, and she refuses a few times but finally accepts.
One of the intriguing things Alvarez explores is how a country allows itself to be ruled by one corrupt man. Minerva doesn’t want to dance with Trujillo because she is attracted to him – she wants to be important, a worthy rival.
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Don Manuel is a good dancer, and Minerva suddenly finds herself led over to Trujillo. He takes her hand and Minerva gets very nervous. They start to dance and Trujillo tries to flirt with her. Minerva talks back, feeling “a dangerous sense of my own power growing.” She mentions her desire to go to law school, and Trujillo indulgently says “a woman like you, a lawyer?” Minerva flatters him, but then says that she isn’t interested in admirers until she has her law degree.
At first Minerva is nervous like she was for the school performance, but in the face of immediate adversity she grows strong and reckless again. When they are dancing Trujillo seems like a little man, able to be defeated, instead of like the pervasive “devil” who rules the country. Minerva plays Trujillo’s power against Papá, trying to manipulate him into letting her go to law school.
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Trujillo gets cross and says that women don’t belong at the university these days, as it is full of “communists and agitators.” Minerva accidentally lets Virgilio’s name slip, and Trujillo gets suspicious. Minerva lies and says she doesn’t know Virgilio personally. She feels ashamed for giving in on this “little thing,” and sees how this leads to giving in on big things.
Minerva is ashamed to compromise even a little truth to Trujillo, as this makes her feel like one of his “creatures,” lying to him and flattering him and allowing him to stay in power. Trujillo voices more sexist ideas.
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Trujillo returns to his flirtatious mood, and he starts pulling Minerva towards him aggressively. He thrusts at her “in a vulgar way” and Minerva slaps him. At that moment it starts to rain and everyone is distracted. Few people seem to have seen the slap, and Trujillo smirks at Minerva. They move the party indoors, and Jaimito and Pedrito decide to take this opportunity to leave, now that Trujillo’s intentions for Minerva are clear. As they leave Minerva notices that she left her purse behind, and too late she remembers that Virgilio’s letters are inside.
Trujillo indulges Minerva for a while but then reminds her that he has total power over her and all her loved ones. Minerva strikes back, but she hasn’t really changed anything except to make Trujillo notice her more. Something like this event did really occur with the historical Minerva, and the Mirabals’ decision to leave the party early is what began their real troubles.
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(Rainy Spell) The next morning it is still raining hard. An official shows up at the Mirabal house and says that leaving a gathering before Trujillo is against the law. Papá immediately goes off to send a telegram of apology. When he returns he looks distraught, but won’t say why. There is no more trouble for the rest of the day.
This is an example of one of the absurd laws the regime keeps passing. Papá is trying to protect his family, but he also immediately submits to Trujillo.
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The next morning two guards drive up and demand that Papá and Minerva come with them. They take the family to the governor’s palace, where the governor informs Papá that he will be taken to the palace for questioning. Papá looks terrified, and he bids farewell to his family, whispering to Minerva to send money to his other daughters. After Papá is taken away, the governor informs Minerva that there is a way she can help her father.
This is another way Trujillo gets to the women he wants. If he can’t seduce them as he did with Lina, he can drug them and rape them, or else threaten their families, like arresting Papá. There is a creepy contrast between the politeness and gentility of the governor and the brutality and torture that he represents.
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The next scene is Mamá angrily condemning the governor’s proposition. Minerva drops her off and then goes to see Papá’s mistress. She finds Margarita first, and discovers that she is illiterate. Minerva then makes the mother (whose name is Carmen) promise to enroll her daughters in school. Minerva hugs Carmen.
This is another step on Mamá’s road to disillusionment with the regime and her old ideas. Minerva’s first response to this explicit objectification of women is to make sure the next generation will be better off.
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Minerva and Mamá later drive to the capital to appeal on Papá’s behalf. They discover that he has no official charge against him, but also that he isn’t registered anywhere. They book a room for a week. The next day Minerva waits in different offices of the National Police Headquarters. She ends up having to report the “disappearance” of Papá. Minerva helps the old man in front of her in line, who has thirteen sons, all with the same name (to make the regime harder to pin a crime on one), but by the time it is Minerva’s turn the day is over. The official flirts with her but tells her to come back tomorrow.
The great danger for prisoners like Papá is being “disappeared” – the government killing him and pretending like they never even saw him, instead of formally charging and executing him. Minerva cannot help taking on other people’s fights as well as her own, as she sees them as all as part of one struggle against the unjust regime.
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The next morning armed guards wake up Minerva and take her away for questioning. She is returned to Police Headquarters, where she is met by General Federico Fiallo and a one-eyed, toadlike man named Don Anselmo Paulino, who is nicknamed “Magic Eye.” He is Trujillo’s right-hand man in “security” work.
“Magic Eye” (or “Glass Eye”) is also a historical figure. He was Trujillo’s second-in-command until Trujillo suspected that he would try to overthrow him, so he imprisoned Magic Eye.
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The general speaks kindly to Minerva, but then brings out Lío’s letters from her purse. Minerva admits that she knows Lío, and Magic Eye accuses her of lying to Trujillo. Minerva apologizes and swears that she is not currently communicating with Lío. Magic Eye seems satisfied and leaves.
For now the regime treats Minerva leniently, assuming that she is not a threat because she is a woman. The regime's sexism comes back to haunt it.
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Manuel de Moya then enters and makes small talk with the general and Minerva. He repeats the governor’s offer, that Minerva could “end all this nonsense” with a “private conference with El Jefe.” Minerva says she would rather jump out the window. Manuel de Moya looks exasperated, and the general says that Minerva is as complicated as El Jefe is.
Minerva now stops compromising and asserts herself boldly against the regime. The general’s comment brings up an idea that will return: that of Trujillo and Minerva as opposites and equals, worthy rivals of each other.
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Mamá and Minerva are basically imprisoned after this, as they aren’t allowed to leave their hotel. Three weeks later they have an appointment with Trujillo. Just before, Papá is released from prison and the prison hospital – he had a heart attack soon after he was arrested. Papá looks thin and disturbed, and he rambles madly about the past.
It is unclear whether Papá was tortured, or if his addled state is from his heart attack and a constant state of terror. Minerva doesn’t give in to the pressure and compromise herself.
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The family then enters their meeting with Trujillo. On his desk is a set of scales, with dice in each tray. Manuel reads aloud the letter of apology signed by the Mirabal family, and Trujillo mentions Chiche Reyes, who is Mamá’s uncle and a friend of Trujillo’s. Trujillo picks up his dice and says that Chiche made them for him out of a piece of Columbus’s bone.
The Mirabals are lucky to have Chiche Reyes, or else they might have been in more trouble earlier. Trujillo again shows his love of Columbus, the genocidal conqueror and “discoverer.” The dice are loaded, just as Trujillo’s sense of justice is skewed.
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Trujillo requests that Minerva “check in” every week with the governor, and Minerva responds by reminding him of her desire to attend law school. Trujillo suggests that they toss the dice and bet his own desire against Minerva’s. Minerva agrees, as she has observed that the dice are loaded. She rolls a double, but then Trujillo does as well. Minerva agrees to call it even if neither of them get their wish. Trujillo dismisses the family, and Minerva imagines the scales containing her own will evenly balanced against Trujillo’s.
Alvarez now explicitly states the idea of Minerva’s will evenly poised against Trujillo’s. The two will not interact personally again, but after this Minerva will start building up real power and a resistance movement. Minerva again shows courage and steadiness in the face of terror and adversity.
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It starts raining again as they leave the capital. Dedé and Jaimito have been trying to start a new restaurant business, so they stay on in the capital, but the rest of the family drives home. It is downpouring on every corner of the island. Minerva feels fatalistic, like “something has started none of us can stop.”
Dedé and Jaimito try and fail to start several businesses during their marriage. The storm feels somehow unifying, as it covers the entire island, but it also reminds Minerva of the inevitable repercussions of her actions.
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