A postcard commemorating the three deceased Mirabal sisters.
A postcard commemorating the three deceased Mirabal sisters.

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Book Cover

In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez

Group Members:
Amber Ball
Abby Charbonneau
Olivia Harrison
Spencer Soucy
Sierra Still
Mary Highland

Discussion Location: Conference room in the 100 wing, near the copy machine and faculty bathrooms.

Facilitator: Abby Charbonneau (if you guys want I can do it, I can change this if you'd like)

Clarifying Questions:
-How much of the story was drawn from Alvarez' imagination as opposed to true events?
-What role did each sister play in the government upheaval?
-Alvarez originally wrote the book in English as opposed to Spanish. How did the language usage throughout the book impact the story as a whole? Did it compromise understanding?
-How did the government work in the Dominican Republic at this time?
-How did the traditions of marriage affect each sister? For example, Dedé never married the man she loved, and Minerva struggled after Leo left. Patria married at 16.

Discussion Plans:
-INTRODUCTION: Everyone come prepared with one passage that they feel clearly represents a theme of the book.
-What were the general themes in the story?
-How did the sisters' bond impact history?
-How did the time in jail change the sisters?
-Can this story be compared to any other similar events in history?
-What is the message about women in this story?
-Are the sisters heroes?
-Should they have traveled home that night? Why or why not? Why did they choose to despite the warnings?

• Dedé: the only one who survived who the reader is initially introduced to. Is she a coward for not going with the rest of the sisters?
• Minerva: the fighter who initially gets involved in the movement and eventually involves the others as well. How does she inspire the other sisters?
• María Terese: the youngest and most naive. How does she mature throughout the story?
• Patria: the oldest, religious, mother figure. Do you think it was right of Patria to compromise her religion for the movement?
Why did Dedé not be in the butterflies with her sisters? Was it because Minerva asked her to look after her kids?
• Why isn't Minerva and all of her sister be more careful? Because they are in the butterflies and the Spanish government knows.

• Papá: dies early on after a stay in jail, tried to appease Trujillo while he was alive. Had an affair and bore daughters outside his family and continued to support them. An alcoholic, loving.
• Mamá: disagrees with Papá often, outlives him and three of her daughters.
  • Pedrito: Patria's husband. They bear three children, Noris, Nelson, and Raul Ernesto. Nelson becomes involved with the movement.
  • Jaimito: Dede's husband and the cousin of the sisters. He is not with the movement. They bear three children as well, all named after him: Jamie David, Jamie Enrique, and Jamie Rafael.
  • Manolo: Minerva's husband, a leader in the movement, an educated doctor from the city. They bear two children, Minou and Manolito.
  • Leandro: Mate's husband whom she gets involved in the movement for. He works for Manolo. They bear one child, Jacqueline.

• Sinita: first to inform Minerva about evil Trujillo
• Trujillo: dictator, "El Jefe", whom the sisters try to remove from power.
• Lina: a school friend, one of Trujillo's lovers.
• Padre de Jesus: the religious figure who originally involves Patria in the movement.
• Virgilio Morales: The young rebellious beau of Minerva who Dede loved. He gets Minerva involved in the movement.
• Captain Peña: A man who works for Trujillo who the sisters must deal with throughout the story.
• Margarita Mirabal: The illegitimate child of Papa who eventually helps the sisters while they're in jail.

• 1943-1960 in the Dominican Republic
• 1994: At Dedé's house
• How did the Dominican Republic change over the course of these 20 years? Why was Trujillo allowed to stay in power for so long? Could the U.S. have helped?

• Each chapter told by a different sister
• What are the benefits of reading the points of views of each sister?
• Narrated over a course of 40 years. What effect did that have? Was the change of time period confusing?

-Government vs. individual
-Family conflict
-Papa's "second family"

• "Viva las mariposas"
• Corrupt government and the need to stand up against it.
• The power of individuals (esp. women to make a difference)
• Injustice in the world
• Need for rebellion
• Importance of family
• Growth of the girls into women
• Persuasion by others. Distrust in people.

Style of Writing:
• Flashback
• Spanish is used throughout the book to enhance the voice of the author. How does the mix of languages ad to the quality of the book? Was it confusing if you read it and didn't know Spanish?

Significant Passages:
• " I was much stronger than Papá, Mamá was much stronger. He was the weakest one of all. It was he who would have the hardest time living with the shabby choices he'd made. He needed our love" (89). -This is when Minerva finds out about her Papá's other family. She is extremely disappointed and acts out of rage.

• "Comrades, we have suffered setbacks but we have not been beaten. Death or liberty!" (232).-Said by a prisoner. This shows the prisoners' strength and willingness to continue fighting.

• "...Dedé, thought long and hard about what was right and wrong, she would no doubt be an enemy of the state as well...she didn't understand until that moment that they were really living-as Minerva liked to say-in a police state" (75). This is one of the first realizations that the girls' world is changing. They are living in a police state and are not in control anymore.

Outside Resources: