In the Time of the Butterflies

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Dedé Character Analysis

Bélgica Adela Mirabal Reyes, who goes by the nickname Dedé, is the only sister to never join the resistance movement and to survive past 1960. She falls in love with the revolutionary Virgilio but never acts on her feelings and marries her non-revolutionary cousin Jaimito instead. Dedé wants to join her sisters’ movement, but she finds her courage lacking and submits to Jaimito’s demands to not make trouble. After her sisters are murdered by Trujillo’s regime, Dedé becomes a kind of “oracle” for the butterflies, living in their house all her life, raising their children, and telling their story to the world.

Dedé Quotes in In the Time of the Butterflies

The In the Time of the Butterflies quotes below are all either spoken by Dedé or refer to Dedé. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Dictatorship Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Algonquin Books edition of In the Time of the Butterflies published in 2010.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“It’s about time we women had a voice in running our country.”
“You and Trujillo,” Papá says a little loudly, and in this clear peaceful night they all fall silent. Suddenly, the dark fills with spies who are paid to hear things and report them down at Security. Don Enrique claims Trujillo needs help in running this country. Don Enrique’s daughter says it’s about time women took over the government. Words repeated, distorted, words recreated by those who might bear them a grudge, words stitched to words until they are the winding sheet the family will be buried in when their bodies are found dumped in a ditch, their tongues cut off for speaking too much.

Related Characters: Dedé (speaker), Papá (speaker), Rafael Trujillo
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

This moment comes during Dedé's first happy memory of her family, back when she and her sisters were young (around 1943). The girls, Papá, and Mamá are all sitting around in the yard, talking. Minerva says that she wants to go to law school, but Mamá disparages the idea of "skirts in the law." Minerva responds with this statement.

This quote introduces Minerva as the "leader" of the sisters, and shows that she was always ambitious, outspoken, and politically minded even at a young age. Her own mother thinks that women don't belong in politics—subtly reinforcing her society's sexist ideas about her own gender—but Minerva asserts that "it's about time."

The second crucial part of this passage is Papá's throwaway remark: the first mention of Trujillo's name. Rafael Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic at the time, looms over the novel as both a personal antagonist and a vast, oppressive force. As we see in the ominous final paragraph, the mere mention of Trujillo's name transforms the scene's mood from one of happiness and relaxation to one of fear and suspicion. After this, the book starts to take a darker turn, as we see just what is being risked in any kind of resistance to Trujillo's regime. In a dictatorship with a secret police, even one's friends and neighbors can't be trusted, and without civil liberties even the smallest perceived infraction can lead to torture or execution.

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Chapter 5 Quotes

Dedé could only shake her head. She didn’t really know Lío was a communist, a subversive, all the other awful things the editorial had called him. She had never known an enemy of state before. She had assumed such people would be self-serving and wicked, low-class criminals. But Lío was a fine young man with lofty ideals and a compassionate heart. Enemy of state? Why then, Minerva was an enemy of state. And if she, Dedé, thought long and hard about what was right and wrong, she would no doubt be an enemy of state as well.
“I didn’t know,” she said again. What she meant was she didn’t understand until that moment that they were really living – as Minerva liked to say – in a police state.

Related Characters: Dedé (speaker), Minerva, Virgilio Morales (Lío)
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

Dedé has just read a newspaper article about a protest to her Mamá, and the article lists Virgilio Morales as a dangerous Communist and "enemy of the state." Dedé and Mamá are both shocked, as they had previously agreed with most of Lío's political ideas, but they have also been taught that all Communists are treacherous and evil. Dedé has even been in love with Lío, though she has always refrained from acting on her feelings (unlike Minerva). Furthermore, Dedé recognizes that if Lío is an "enemy of the state," then so is Minerva.

This is an important moment, one of several where Dedé is confronted with the truth—the fact that she really is living in a "police state," and that those people the government portrays as evil are often just trying to do what's right—and she doesn't yet know how to react. Dedé recognizes that if she "thought long and hard about what was right and wrong" she would probably reach the same conclusions as Minerva and Lío, but she is unwilling to even make this choice to fully confront reality. In hindsight, Dedé sees this as a sign of her cowardice, but it is also a very common mindset (getting used to one's "cage"), particularly for members of a populace living under a dictator or other corrupt power.

Chapter 9 Quotes

“The husbands were in prison,” she adds, for the woman’s face registers surprise at this change of address. “All except Jaimito.”
“How lucky,” her guest notes.
“It wasn’t luck,” Dedé says right out. “It was because he didn’t get directly involved.”
“And you?”
Dedé shakes her head. “Back in those days, we women followed our husbands.” Such a silly excuse. After all, look at Minerva. “Let’s put it this way,” Dedé adds. “I followed my husband. I didn’t get involved.”

Related Characters: Dedé (speaker), The Interview Woman (speaker), Minerva, Manolo Tavarez Justo, Leandro Guzman (Palomino)
Page Number: 171-172
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Dedé is explaining herself to the interview woman. Dedé continues to use the same excuses to explain her refusal to become a "butterfly," though she knows how hollow these excuses sound in light of all that has happened. Though Dedé parrots the traditional idea that "we women followed our husbands," she then immediately compares herself to Minerva, and acknowledges that there were certainly many women who didn't do this—it's just an excuse for Dedé to try and ease some of her guilt. While she recognizes the essential emptiness of her excuse (that she had no choice, and couldn't go against Jaimito's wishes), Dedé also seems to see that the nature of this explanation just reinforces the same sexism and complacency her sisters were fighting against.

And she knew, right then and there, her knees shaking, her breath coming short, that she could not go through with this business. Jaimito was just an excuse. She was afraid, plain and simple, just as she had been afraid to face her powerful feelings for Lío. Instead, she had married Jaimito, although she knew she did not love him enough. And here she’d always berated him for his failures in business when the greater bankruptcy had been on her part.

Related Characters: Dedé (speaker)
Page Number: 184-185
Explanation and Analysis:

Dedé, usually so meek and accommodating, is considering taking extreme action in her life—leaving Jaimito and joining her other sisters in their revolutionary activities. Here, she goes to town to try to talk to a priest and get advice, but then she realizes that Padre de Jesús, the priest she sought out, is a revolutionary too. In this moment, then, Dedé realizes that she is quite simply afraid. She is afraid both of leaving her overbearing husband and of risking her safety to fight Trujillo.

As with her sisters, for Dedé questions of romance are intricately tied to questions of politics. The decision to leave Jaimito is impossible to separate from the decision to become a "butterfly" (particularly as Jaimito has forbidden her to join her sisters), and so Dedé arguably has the most difficult choice of all the sisters—she must throw away everything she is used to (including, potentially, her children), and risk that the world outside her "cage" will be worth leaving the secure but oppressive cage itself. And in this moment, Dedé decides she cannot do it—she is not a coward, but she recognizes her limits and her own nature, and makes a decision once and for all.

Chapter 12 Quotes

I will never forget the terror on Dedé’s face. How she reached for my hand. How, when we were asked to identify ourselves, what she said was – I will never forget this – she said, “My name is Minerva Mirabal.”

Related Characters: Dedé (speaker), Minerva (speaker)
Page Number: 277
Explanation and Analysis:

While driving together one day, Minerva (still under house arrest) and Dedé are stopped by guards. When they are forced to get out of the car, Dedé tells the guards that she is Minerva Mirabal—clearly trying to protect her sister, who would be the obvious target of any political violence on the part of the regime.

In this touching moment Minerva realizes how brave Dedé is being, even though she is supposedly the "cowardly" sister who refused to become a butterfly. Dedé was unable to find the particular kind of courage necessary to leave Jaimito or fight Trujillo directly, but she clearly has a huge amount of bravery when it comes to defending and protecting her family.

Epilogue Quotes

When we got to the SIM post at the first little town, I cried out, “Assassins! Assassins!”
Jaimito gunned the motor to drown out my cries. When I did it again at the next town, he pulled over and came to the back of the pickup. He made me sit down on one of the boxes. “Dedé, mujer, what is it you want – to get yourself killed, too?”

I nodded. I said, “I want to be with them.”

He said – I remember it so clearly – he said, “This is your martyrdom, Dedé, to be alive without them.”

Related Characters: Dedé (speaker)
Page Number: 308
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Dedé remembers the day she learned of her sisters' deaths. She grows reckless and enraged in her sudden grief, and directly accuses Trujillo's SIM of being "assassins"—a very dangerous thing to yell out, to say the least. Dedé then tells Jaimito that she wants to join her sisters in death, and so she feels no fear when she antagonizes their murderers.

In response to this, Jaimito delivers a surprisingly insightful statement, as quoted here. Dedé, too, is a martyr in her own way, though she is the only sister to survive. She must suffer life instead of death, seeing the good the butterflies bring about but also witnessing all the future suffering to come to her country, and forced to live alone without her beloved sisters. This will force Dedé to show, in her own way, the kind of extraordinary courage that her sisters exhibited more dramatically.

He was going to do all sorts of things, he told me. He was going to get rid of the old generals with their hands still dirty with Mirabal blood. All those properties they had stolen he was going to distribute among the poor. He was going to make us a nation proud of ourselves, not run by the Yanqui imperialists.
Every time he made one of these promises, he’d look at me as if he needed me to approve what he was doing. Or really, not me, but my sisters whose pictures hung on the wall behind me. Those photos had become icons, emblazoned on posters… And I started to think, maybe it was for something that the girls had died.

Related Characters: Dedé (speaker)
Page Number: 310
Explanation and Analysis:

After the deaths of her sisters, Dedé is left as a kind of "speaker" for the butterflies, here describing their legend and their elevation to the status of heroes. The narrative speeds up, briefly explaining how Trujillo was assassinated by some of his cronies, and was eventually replaced by a democratically elected president. This new president (Juan Bosch) is the one quoted here, and he seemed like the kind of president the butterflies might have liked—a worthy result of their sacrifice, as Dedé suggests—but he was soon overthrown in a coup that was supported by the Church, the military, and the United States (who was afraid of Bosch's left-leaning politics).

As we can see here, the butterflies have become martyrs and national symbols, exhibiting a kind of moral standard that the new president feels he must live up to. The dictatorship is over (for now), and the people of the Dominican Republic are free of Trujillo, but their struggles are far from over.

“The nightmare is over, Dedé. Look at what the girls have done.” He gestures expansively.
He means the free elections, bad presidents now put in power properly, not by army tanks. He means our country beginning to prosper, Free Zones going up everywhere, the coast a clutter of clubs and resorts. We are now the playground of the Caribbean, who were once its killing fields. The cemetery is beginning to flower…
Lío is right. The nightmare is over; we are free at last. But the thing that is making me tremble, that I do not want to say out loud – and I’ll say it once only and it’s done.
Was it for this, the sacrifice of the butterflies?

Related Characters: Dedé (speaker), Virgilio Morales (Lío) (speaker)
Page Number: 318
Explanation and Analysis:

Years later, Dedé meets Virgilio Morales again at a reception in honor of the butterflies, and Lio seems optimistic about the results of their sacrifice. The reception itself is portrayed as a reinforcement of the romanticized narrative increasingly being told about the Mirabal sisters—that their struggle consisted of three women against one evil dictator, ignoring the thousands of other people who both suffered and propagated suffering. Even Virgilio seems to accept this romanticized narrative at this point, and feels that "what the girls have done" is clear to see.

Dedé, however, has more doubts. The optimism she felt after President Bosch's visit has faded with his overthrow and the rise of new and corrupt governments in the Dominican Republic. Dedé admits that the country is free of Trujillo, and that her sisters played a large part in this victory, but she also sees that the country still isn't much better off than it was before—and it certainly hasn't achieved successes that might make her sisters' deaths seem "worth it" to her. In this passage, then, Dedé asks herself a tragic question, one central to the novel itself—was the death of the butterflies in vain? When faced with the reality that the Mirabal sisters were real, complicated women rather than one-dimensional heroes or martyrs, their sacrifice almost becomes more monumental, and it seems even more urgent that their successors try to live up to the moral imperative they have upheld.

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Dedé Character Timeline in In the Time of the Butterflies

The timeline below shows where the character Dedé appears in In the Time of the Butterflies. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Dedé, 1994 and circa 1943
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The book begins by following Dedé Mirabal in the present day (at the time of publication), 1994. Dedé gets a call... (full context)
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Before the woman arrives Dedé goes through her usual ritual of setting up her life like an exhibit of “the... (full context)
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Dedé shows the interviewer around the house (Dedé lives in the same house she used to... (full context)
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Dedé and interviewer talk more, and the woman asks Dedé how she kept her head up... (full context)
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The narrative shifts through Dedé’s memory back to sometime around 1943. The sisters and their parents, Mamá and Papá, are... (full context)
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It starts to rain and the family hurries inside. Dedé then realizes that hers is the only future Papá really told – María Teresa’s was... (full context)
Chapter 2: Minerva, 1938, 1941, 1944
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...and help with the store. He clearly wants Minerva to volunteer, but she stays silent. Dedé volunteers. (full context)
Chapter 5: Dedé, 1994 and 1948
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Back in 1994, Dedé keeps talking to the interview woman and thinks about Fela, who was the Mirabals’ old... (full context)
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Dedé hadn’t known about this until her Bishop told her. She snuck into the shed, saw... (full context)
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The narrative returns to the interview, but Dedé is distracted by thoughts of Virgilio Morales, or “Lío.” Dedé mentions him to the interview... (full context)
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The story then jumps to 1948 in Dedé’s memory. Dedé and Minerva are at their father’s store, counting up an inventory. Dedé is... (full context)
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...in conversation (they both know Elsa and Sinita, who are at the university now), but Dedé tries to put herself forward too. Mario tries to flirt with her, but she rebuffs... (full context)
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...Papá to grant his permission, but he relents. They all get into the car and Dedé notices how she naturally stands back while Minerva slips in to sit next to Lío. (full context)
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A few weeks later Dedé joins the group playing volleyball again, and this time she plays. This is unusual, as... (full context)
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...Lío tells Jaimito that his cause “could use men like you.” In the present day, Dedé wonders why this brief fight seems so important in her memory. (full context)
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Dedé returns to her memories of Virgilio, and she remembers how Mamá always complimented him and... (full context)
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...points out that Mamá had agreed with Virgilio’s ideas before she knew they were Communist. Dedé realizes that she has never thought of Lío as a subversive Communist, but only as... (full context)
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After that Dedé starts paying closer attention to the newspapers. She decides to provide Minerva with an alibi... (full context)
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Soon Dedé feels her courage unraveling, and she asks Lío what his practical goals are. Lío lectures... (full context)
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...Mirabal house asking for Lío, but Mamá (truthfully) says she hasn’t seen him in months. Dedé gets more frightened and feels her sense of order being upended. She even doubts whether... (full context)
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Dedé decides to stop reading the newspaper, as the regime has been passing especially ludicrous regulations... (full context)
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Dedé remembers the night that Lío goes into hiding. They had all just come from a... (full context)
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After Minerva leaves, Dedé and Jaimito sneak out to the car and Jaimito proposes to her. Just then they... (full context)
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Dedé then goes inside and reads Lío’s letter, which is inviting Minerva to go into hiding... (full context)
Chapter 6: Minerva, 1949
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 7: María Teresa, 1953 to 1958
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...lost a lot of money since Papá got in trouble with Trujillo, and says that Dedé and Jaimito have tried and failed at running two businesses. (full context)
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...also tall and handsome. Mamá says that she is moving to a smaller house, so Dedé and Jaimito can have the family house. (full context)
Chapter 8: Patria, 1959
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...Minerva and Manolo live in a “little nothing house,” while Mate and Leandro are renters. Dedé and Jaimito have lost their money in several business ventures and moved many times. Patria,... (full context)
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...get so bad with the regime that no one can ignore them. At Jaimito’s urging Dedé stays out of any trouble, but Patria at least prays for better things. Her son... (full context)
Chapter 9: Dedé, 1994 and 1960
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Back in the present, night starts to fall, and Dedé quotes some poetry that Minerva used to recite when her husband was in jail. Dedé... (full context)
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...woman gets ready to leave, and as she heads for her car Minou drives up. Dedé gets angry at Minou for driving after dark – she has a fear about all... (full context)
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Minou comes inside with Dedé. Minou says that she had gone to see Fela, but Fela said the sisters were... (full context)
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Dedé then remembers a day in 1960 when her three sisters came to see her. Dedé... (full context)
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Months earlier Patria had come to Dedé asking to bury some boxes, and Dedé had suspected that Minerva put her up to... (full context)
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After that Dedé had talked to Jaimito, but he had become enraged at the request. He pushed her... (full context)
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When the sisters arrive Dedé (whose nickname is “Miss Sonrisa,” Miss Smile) arms herself with a smile to meet them.... (full context)
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Dedé mentions Jaimito, and the other sisters say that she should use her discretion around him,... (full context)
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After they leave, Dedé decides that she will leave Jaimito. This seems like a much bigger decision to her... (full context)
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The day Dedé had planned to leave Jaimito approaches, and she starts to get cold feet. She worries... (full context)
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No one is at the rectory when Dedé arrives, and the longer she waits the more her courage falters. Finally she sees Padre... (full context)
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When she returns home, Jaimito and the boys are all gone. Dedé panics, and the maid says that they went off to Jaimito’s mother’s house. Dedé saddles... (full context)
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They reach Jaimito’s mother’s house and Jaimito meets them, looking angry. Dedé feels brave with Minerva by her side, and she demands to see her children. The... (full context)
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Jaimito accuses Dedé of joining Minerva’s group, but Manolo assures him that she has never been to a... (full context)
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...other children. They were then arrested. Patria screams “I’ve been good!” to the sky, and Dedé falls to her knees and starts to recite the Creed. Patria joins her and seems... (full context)
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...try to call a doctor, but he is afraid to be seen helping the Mirabals. Dedé gets some sedatives from her elderly neighbor and gives everyone some. She calls Minerva, and... (full context)
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...she refuses to come home and “run scared.” A few days later, however, she sends Dedé a panicked note asking for money, as she has been diagnosed with tuberculosis and needs... (full context)
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Dedé first goes out to find Jaimito in the fields. The power dynamic has been shifting... (full context)
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...her, but then he drives off with Mate before Mamá can get in the car. Dedé and Jaimito drive after them but soon lose them. They reach the police station and... (full context)
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Dedé and Jaimito return home, where Mamá is wailing and praying – she has learned of... (full context)
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That night Dedé cannot sleep, and she feels a temptation to “just let go” and go crazy before... (full context)
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The present-day Dedé realizes that this exercise of reliving a happy memory actually came much later – it... (full context)
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...thought that Trujillo would never “murder a defenseless woman and dig his own grave.” Whenever Dedé would start weeping with worry and fear, Minerva would teach her the exercise she developed... (full context)
Chapter 10: Patria, January to March 1960
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...grief, but sometimes she breaks down and screams “I’ve been good!” at the sky until Dedé comes and prays with her. It is strange living in Mamá’s new house, as everything... (full context)
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That night Patria, Mamá, and Dedé assemble a care package for the girls. After Mamá goes to bed, Patria talks to... (full context)
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...Margarita’s pharmacy and delivers the care package for the prisoners. The next week Mamá and Dedé drive by the prison and see a towel they sent to Mate hanging in a... (full context)
Chapter 12: Minerva, August to November 25, 1960
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...to visit their men in prison and tell them the good news about the sanctions. Dedé tries to guilt them into not going, saying that they are asking for an “accident”... (full context)
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(Saving the Men: October) It is a few weeks later, and the sisters (including Dedé) are riding with their favorite driver, Rufino. They are going to visit another “political,” a... (full context)
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Minerva and Dedé take the trip to go retrieve Minerva’s possessions from her property. Minerva is pleased to... (full context)
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...coming they planned “some sort of commotion.” The man asks which one is Minerva, and Dedé admits that she was only trying to protect her “little sister.” Minerva decides that the... (full context)
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...moment the crowd disbands. Minerva goes back to the house and is surprised to see Dedé outside with a frying pan, ready to fight if need be. (full context)
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...still at the capital so Patria usually doesn’t come along. Before they left Mamá and Dedé had warned them of the danger of all three traveling together, but Minerva had laughed... (full context)
Epilogue: Dedé, 1994
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Dedé describes how after her sisters’ deaths, people would come to her and relay their memories... (full context)
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...in prison, but they were all released during the “spell of revolutions” following Trujillo’s overthrow. Dedé had raised the sisters’ children without ever mentioning the names of the murderers, as she... (full context)
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After her sisters’ deaths, Dedé had avoided the news even when it was good. Trujillo was assassinated by seven of... (full context)
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Dedé remembers the day she first heard the bad news, when Mamá called her to her... (full context)
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As Jaimito and Dedé drove the coffins home, people emerged from their houses. People had been told that it... (full context)
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In the present, Dedé asks Minou about her baby Camila. Dedé then remembers talking to the sisters’ husbands. Manolo... (full context)
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...one day the new president had dropped by to visit it. He had talked to Dedé and promised to make the nation proud, and to get rid of those who had... (full context)
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There had then been another coup, though, and Dedé had stopped receiving visitors and avoided the news. Manolo had been a revolutionary hero, but... (full context)
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Dedé wonders to herself how she became the “oracle,” the one who tells all the stories... (full context)
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Dedé decides about herself becoming the “oracle” – the talker instead of the listener. It was... (full context)
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In the present Dedé looks out at the dark garden and hears Minou talking to her husband on the... (full context)
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Mamá lived for twenty years after her daughters’ deaths, and Dedé and Jaimito stayed together while Mamá was alive, but separated after that. Dedé and Mamá... (full context)
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Mamá died peacefully, and her death seemed almost unreal to Dedé because it came without violence or anger. Dedé now realizes that she is the next... (full context)
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Dedé had met Lío once at a reception honoring the butterflies. Dedé dislikes these events, with... (full context)
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As she drives home from the reception Dedé thinks about the current state of the Dominican Republic. It is certainly better than it... (full context)
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Back on the night of the interview, Dedé helps Minou to bed and they discuss Minou’s child. Dedé feels that Minou’s happiness is... (full context)
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Dedé is an excellent life insurance salesman, and she has won a prize trip this year.... (full context)
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Sometimes at night Dedé thinks she can hear her sisters’ footsteps, but tonight all is silent. Dedé closes her... (full context)