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In the Time of the Butterflies Summary and Analysis

by Julia Alvarez

Part II - Chapter Seven: Maria Teresa, 1953 to 1958

Maria Teresa writes this chapter in her new journal, another gift from Minerva. Enrique Mirabal has passed away, and Maria Teresa is outraged that Carmen and her four daughters attended the funeral. Maria Teresa is struggling with her father's death. She had a troubling dream in which she found her wedding dress inside her father's coffin. She has the same dream again in February, but this time Manolo, Minerva's husband-to-be, is in the coffin. In October, while she is a student at the university, she again has the dream, but now it is Armando Grullon, one of Minerva's friends, in the coffin.

She has also developed crushes on both her cousins, Raul and Berto, and she asks Fela to help her determine which of the brothers she will marry. She kisses Berto on the lips on January 1 but is confronted about it by Raul on January 8. These events cause her to become fed up with both of them. Meanwhile, Tio Chiche has suggested that Mama write a letter to Trujillo affirming their loyalty to his regime. Maria Teresa is helping her write it, just as she helped Minerva with her speech at the Salcedo Civic Hall in which she praised Trujillo (earning permission to go to law school). But Fela has helped her put a curse on the letter.

Minerva has fallen in love with a man at law school named Manolo, but he is engaged to someone else. She comes to visit in January, demonstrably in a revolutionary mindset, reciting Fidel Castro's words that she has heard on illegal radio stations. On Valentine's Day, she visits again, this time bringing Manolo along. Maria Teresa has cooked dinner and is completely taken with Manolo. By March, however, she becomes suspicious since he met Minerva while he was engaged to someone else.

Maria Teresa has arranged to live with Dede and Jaimito and their sons, Jaime Enrique and Jaime Rafael, in San Francisco during the week, and come home to Mama's house on the weekends. Unfortunately, their ice cream business is failing, and soon they decide to move back to Mama's house and help run Papa's store.

On July 3, Maria Teresa graduates. Tia Flor bakes a cake for the party. Tia Flor also confronts her and says that she needs to choose between her two sons, Raul and Berto. Maria Teresa responds that she wants neither one. Meanwhile, the family's yardboy, Prieto, has betrayed them by reporting to Security everything they have done. They cannot fire him, however, since it would look suspicious.

In September, Maria Teresa goes to join Minerva at the university in the capital, and they are roommates. While Minerva encourages Maria Teresa to stick with law, the younger sister eventually decides to switch to Philosophy and Letters. She meets one of Minerva's and Manolo's friends, Armando Grullon, who tries to kiss her.

Now it is 1955, and Minerva is getting married in the rain. She moves in with Manolo, and by December 11 she is pregnant. By April 1956, Maria Teresa has started using her diary as an "all-purpose supply book." She is attempting to write a speech to give as Miss University, and Minerva is advising her how much and when to mention Trujillo. Minerva has given birth to Minou and is helping her younger sister write the speech.

Now it is July 1957, and Maria Teresa writes that Minerva is moving to Monte Cristi with Manolo after graduation. Trujillo, however, plays a terrible trick on Minerva by not actually granting her a license to practice law; her diploma is useless. Maria Teresa helps Minerva set up her new home in Monte Cristi, and it comes out that Manolo is cheating on Minerva with another woman. By August, though, the couple is "on the mend," and Minerva credits Maria Teresa with bringing them back together.

In her entry of September 28, 1957, Maria Teresa reports that she accidentally intercepted a delivery of guns from Leandro (codename Palomino) to the house. Manolo and Minerva explain about the national underground that's forming, and Maria Teresa joins them. Maria Teresa begins to fall in love with Leandro. Maria Teresa becomes a hub of a revolutionary cell, living with Sonia and storing deliveries in the "munitions room." While Sonia is away in La Romana, Leandro comes over and says that he is going to stay with Maria Teresa to protect her. Maria Teresa ends up marrying Leandro on Valentine's Day, 1958.

Analysis

Because of the diary style of Maria Teresa's narration, often the reader must figure out what is being referred to because of the lack of specifics. For example, in the December 15 entry, Maria Teresa writes, "I can't believe she came to the funeral mass with her girls" without saying who "she" is. It is as if she is in such an upset state of mind that she doesn't bother to explain herself (after all, it is a diary and Maria Teresa knows who she is talking about). The reader infers that she must be referring to Carmen.

In one sense, Maria Teresa's story is told via Minerva, since both diaries were gifts from her older sister. Yet, in this chapter the reader learns about many important events in Minerva's life through Maria Teresa's diary entries. For instance, we learn in Maria Teresa's report about the speech at Salcedo Civic Hall that Minerva has gained permission to attend law school. We also learn about Minerva's marriage to Manolo, the birth of Minou, and Trujillo's denial of her license to practice law upon graduation from law school. It is important to remember that we are learning about the events primarily from one point of view. The personal, family matters are related in the diary, while the political matters are often underground enough not to make it into the diary, generally because Maria Teresa does not know much of what is going on. By late 1957, however, the personal and political spheres are merging more quickly for her again.

As a narrator, Maria Teresa uses the technique of rhetorical questions, but they are influenced by the brooding nature of her diary entries. On December 31, 1953, as she looks out at the stars, she asks, "What does it all mean, anyway?" When Leandro spends the night on December 1, 1957, she writes, "Guess whose name was in my right shoe all day?" referring to the love spell Fela taught her years ago.

Another characteristic of Maria Teresa's narrative voice is the use of exclamations. After she kisses Berto, she exclaims, "Oh horror! Oh shamelessness! Oh disgust!" In July, when she eats two pieces of the cake Tia Flor cooked for her graduation party, she writes, "My hips, my hips!" This technique characterizes her as an emotional, dramatic woman. Even in a serious situation, such as when Minerva sobs before telling Maria Teresa that Manolo is cheating on her, Maria Teresa writes, "My brave Minerva!"

Death seems to lurk throughout the chapter. Of course, Enrique Mirabal has actually died, and Maria Teresa's recurring dream revolves around a coffin. But she also uses language that calls death to mind. The chapter opens with her statement, "I feel like dying myself!" When she comes back to her diary on July 3, she writes, "Diary, I know you have probably thought me dead all these months."

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