In the Time of the Butterflies

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Papá Character Analysis

Enrique Mirabal Fernandez is the father of the sisters, a wealthy farmer and merchant. He cheats on his wife and has three illegitimate daughters. Papá tries to avoid making trouble with Trujillo, but is briefly imprisoned. Minerva realizes that while Papá puts on a show of being strong, he is actually the most needy of the Mirabals. He dies in 1953.

Papá Quotes in In the Time of the Butterflies

The In the Time of the Butterflies quotes below are all either spoken by Papá or refer to Papá. 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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Papá Character Timeline in In the Time of the Butterflies

The timeline below shows where the character Papá 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
Women Theme Icon
...through Dedé’s memory back to sometime around 1943. The sisters and their parents, Mamá and Papá, are all sitting around in the yard and talking. Papá is drinking rum, but everyone... (full context)
Religion Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Sometimes campesinos (peasants) come by and ask for something from Papá’s store, and he always opens up the store and gives it to them. Dedé chides... (full context)
Dictatorship Theme Icon
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...what the country needs. She says women should have a voice in politics, and then Papá says “you and Trujillo.” Suddenly they all go silent, and feel that the dark woods... (full context)
Dictatorship Theme Icon
...rain and the family hurries inside. Dedé then realizes that hers is the only future Papá really told – María Teresa’s was just a joke, and Mamá stopped him before he... (full context)
Chapter 2: Minerva, 1938, 1941, 1944
Dictatorship Theme Icon
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
(Complications: 1938) The story is now told from Minerva’s point of view. Minerva wonders how Papá was ever convinced to send the girls away to school, as at home the sisters... (full context)
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
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The girls leaving home starts with Patria wanting to be a nun. Papá says that this is a “waste of a pretty girl,” but Mamá finally convinces him... (full context)
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...know how to read, though she pretends her eyesight is just bad, and she convinces Papá to let the girls go to school so they will have a better education than... (full context)
Dictatorship Theme Icon
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...absentia, but they can’t explain why. That summer Minerva is driving by a mansion with Papá, and he says that “one of Trujillo’s girlfriends” lives there – Lina. Minerva asks how... (full context)
Chapter 4: Patria, 1946
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Patria stays home from school the next fall and helps Papá at the store. She starts dating the young man, whose name is Pedrito González. He... (full context)
Religion Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...visions of the Virgin Mary lately, so they can pray to the Virgin for help. Papá stays behind, and Patria wonders what caused her mother to want to leave home and... (full context)
Religion Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...some distant relations. As they pray to the Virgin that night, Patria asks Mamá if Papá has “another woman,” and Mamá doesn’t deny it. Mamá laments that the Virgin has forsaken... (full context)
Chapter 5: Dedé, 1994 and 1948
Women Theme Icon
Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
...that they all go play volleyball and then go swimming. First she has to convince Papá to grant his permission, but he relents. They all get into the car and Dedé... (full context)
Chapter 6: Minerva, 1949
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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,... (full context)
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
One day Minerva picks the lock of Papá’s armoire while he is away. Inside she finds four letters addressed to her from Lío.... (full context)
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
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Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
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,... (full context)
Dictatorship Theme Icon
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Later Papá gets invited to a party thrown by Trujillo himself, and there is a special request... (full context)
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Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Dictatorship Theme Icon
Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
Dictatorship Theme Icon
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Dictatorship Theme Icon
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
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Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Dictatorship Theme Icon
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 7: María Teresa, 1953 to 1958
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(1953) The narrative returns to a diary from María Teresa, whose nickname is “Mate.” Papá has recently died, and Mate is angry that his mistress and illegitimate daughters were at... (full context)
Dictatorship Theme Icon
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Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
...and Raúl. Mate then writes out a letter she and Mamá wrote informing Trujillo of Papá’s death and thanking him for his “beneficent protection.” Mate reveals that Minerva is in law... (full context)
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...for “problems with someone you love.” She puts Trujillo’s name in her left shoe and Papá’s in her right. Mate writes down some love poetry and discusses it with Minerva, who... (full context)
Dictatorship Theme Icon
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Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
...law school. He is engaged to someone else, which Mate is suspicious of because of Papá. Minerva starts listening to illegal radio stations and quoting speeches from Fidel Castro. Mate hopes... (full context)
Dictatorship Theme Icon
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...Mamá to read. She mentions that the family has lost a lot of money since Papá got in trouble with Trujillo, and says that Dedé and Jaimito have tried and failed... (full context)
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Mate describes her perfect man. Soon afterward she has the same dream she had about Papá, but with Manolo’s face in the coffin instead. She starts to worry about Manolo cheating... (full context)
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Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
...how bad her father is. She wonders if Angelita thinks (like Mate once did with Papá) that her father is God. (full context)
Chapter 9: Dedé, 1994 and 1960
Dictatorship Theme Icon
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
...his politics. Dedé defends Jaimito, saying he is no more a “trujillista” (Trujillo defender) than Papá was. Minerva responds that Papá was a trujillista in his own way, as he chose... (full context)
Chapter 12: Minerva, August to November 25, 1960
Dictatorship Theme Icon
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
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When they return home, Mate is upset because she has had her old nightmare about Papá’s death, but with Leandro, Manolo, and Pedrito in the coffin. That same night their uncle... (full context)
Epilogue: Dedé, 1994
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
...to make a list of losses, just as she used to list the inventory in Papá’s store. Manolo was killed three years after Minerva. Pedrito was restless, and soon married a... (full context)