Nowadays, it is not always possible to find a powerful book written by a modern writer who makes a decision to discuss the inequalities which bother people, human challenges, and inabilities to live in society with a strict political regime. However, the work by Julia Alvarez created in 1994 is one of the literary treasures that has to be considered by the reader as well as evaluated from a variety perspective.
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While reading the book, a number of questions may appear in the reader’s mind, and one of the most captivating is all about the reasons of why young girls, the Mirabal sisters, decided to challenge the existing patriarchy at expense of their own freedoms, happiness, and lives.
Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies is considered to be a powerful educative novel about the events from the past which teach to become more confident in personal demands and desires; the image of the Mirabal sisters is characterized by the necessity to challenge the already set political regime and change the idea of the patriarchy in order to provide all citizens of the country, both women and men, with the equal rights and possibilities to organize their lives.
Unfortunately, three of four sisters did not get the chance to enjoy the governmental improvements they strived for as they were terribly killed, and the story of the one survived sister Dede helps to understand true intentions which made the girls to challenge the regime.
In the Time of the Butterflies is a novel those success is predetermined by several things: first, the story is based on true events which took place in the middle of the 20th century in the Dominican Republic; second, the story teaches people all the important human virtues which fulfill human lives; and, finally, the novel raises a variety of significant themes from gender roles to political strategies used to gain power.
It is hard to discuss all the themes mentioned in the novel in one paper as each issue considered has its own impact on the reader as well as disclose a true nature of the character. There are many people involved in the story: the Mirabal sisters, Maria, Patria, and Minerva, the cruel dictator Rafael Trujillo, Enrique Mirabal, the father of the sisters, Dede, the second-oldest and the only surviving sister of the famous family, and others.
The destiny of Dede seems to be forecasted by the father in the early ages. In the novel, Dede shares her story, experience, emotions, and lessons, and the key point of her life was the phrase said by her father: “Dede will bury us all in sink and pears” (Alvarez 307).
Her father’s prediction had a significant power and pain that tracks Dede the whole life. With the help of Dede’s perspective, the events described in the story become more or less clear and coherent as she provides the reader with a chance to see and understand why her sisters wanted to change their lives, the current political regime, and the attitude to the minorities.
One of the central themes of the novel is gender roles and the inability to change something in order to follow personal dreams and principles (Reichardt 9).
The Mirabal sisters faced a serious challenge in their lives at the very beginning: their desires to get education, to develop their skills, and choose appropriate careers were hard to achieve as even their father was dependent on the ideas of male domination and female belonging to domestic affairs.
Though Alvarez’s characters “are neither real women of fact nor mythic women of popular legend”, they are still “true to the spirit of liberty” (Shuman 35). The girls find it obligatory to resist a real regime, a real system called “patriarchy” in order to prove their worth, dignity, and ability to control their own lives.
Unfortunately, the world they have to live in is not ready to accept the changes and consider the opinions of each citizen; this is why girls’ steps to destroy the boundaries of traditional female behavior lead them to death.
Women rights have been always under hot discussion in different counties; the author admits that women of Dominican Republic were ready to change their lives, still, she fails to underline that to be ready does not mean to succeed.
The already established and working system cannot be removed, and even more, it has to survive because not all people are ready to understand the necessity of changes. In fact, patriarchy is the system that has its roots in the past and cannot be eradicated because of the activities of several groups of people.
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In spite of the fact that the results of rebellions and fights against the existing system were not that successful for the Mirabal sisters, their motives and ideas remain to be considerable for society. The success of the story is the explanation of why young girls found it necessary to destroy the rules and conditions they were obliged to live under. Patria, Minerva, and Maria could not accept their roles as traditional women any longer.
The girls understood that they could not get what they want but had to agree that “just what we need, skirts in the law!” (Alvarez 10). As soon as they realized that nothing could be done, they decided to achieve another goal in their lives and make all women “come out of the dark ages” (Alvarez 51).
Women had to follow their husbands in any way; still, women should be also able to consider their own interests but not use the idea of traditional female behavior as the only excuse of their inaction. However, the example of Dede life shows that the decision to avoid protests and illegal activities may lead to the feeling of guilt that cannot be neglected or forgotten.
The girls from the Mirabal family chose their own ways to their happiness and self-improvement. They could not imagine their lives under the pressure of dictator. They made an attempt to declare their rights and show other people how it is possible to follow own dreams and have at least an independent mind and spirit.
In general, Alvarez’s novel is a powerful stimulus for the reader to evaluate his/her own place in the world. The peculiar feature of the story is that it does not have a pure positive or negative attitude to the revolution and people’s sacrifices.
This work helps to understand that any person has the right of choice: it is possible to have a free and bright still not too long life or to be dependent on the conditions and circumstances and live long without considering personal ideas but follow the others. People are free to choose and be responsible for their activities, and this book teaches the reader how important personal opinion should be.
Alvarez, Julia. In the time of the butterflies. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1994.
Reichardt, Mary, R. Catholic women writers: A bio-bibliographical sourcebook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001.
Shuman, R. Baird. Great American writers: Twentieth century. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2002.