In the Time of the Butterflies

What does the flame tree9flamoyant) half to do with the book?

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The image of the flame tree represents Patria herself--as a blossoming young woman. The flame tree shows its bright red flowers in the springtime before it produces leaves. Its beauty is shocking, sudden and pleasing to behold. Right before the tree is mentioned, Sor Asunción sits down with Patria to talk about her future. We know that Patria has been contemplating whether she should join the Church and become a nun. Their conversation is not final, because Patria is not sure of what she should do. She ends their meeting by saying to the Sor that she “hope[s] that [God] will make His will known to [her]” soon (46). When she is trying to concentrate on the prayer Sor Asunción is saying with her afterwards, her eyes gravitate towards the flame tree outside because she is conflicted. She had wanted to serve God, but now she feels the onset of adolescence throughout her body. Thus, as a metaphor for Patria at this time in her life, the flame tree appears in her field of vision right when she feels she ought to be turning her gaze inward.


The flame tree can represent perhaps the Mirabel sisters and Dominican women in general. It is a recurring metaphor that signifies the sisters who are killed whilst in their prime but yet are still remembered and their stories and the way they lived are remembered by all the peoples of the Dominican republic. The flame tree also attracts butterflies.