In the Time of the Butterflies

In the Time of the Butterflies Summary and Analysis of Epilogue

Through the stories of visitors who come to visit her after her sisters' deaths, Dede is able to piece together the events of the afternoon on which they died. They left the town of Puerto Plata after 4:30; she learns about their stop at the restaurant/gas pump from the proprietor and his wife; she learns about their drive up the mountain from the passengers of a Jeep that left the restaurant/gas pump at about the same time as they did. The sisters were witnessed being apprehended and taken away "peaceably" in a blue and white Austin, but Patria yelled, "Tell the Mirabal family in Salcedo that the calies are going to kill us!"

After "Trujillo was gone," the trial of the murderers was on TV for a month, and they admitted to killing the Mirabal sisters and Rufino by strangulation. Then they put them back in the Jeep and pushed it over the edge of a cliff at 7:30 at night. This part of the story was reported to Dede by Mateo Nunez, who traveled all the way from his "remote mountain shack" just to tell her what he knew about her sisters' death. Although the murderers were sentenced to long terms, "all of them were set free during our spell of revolutions." Manolo, Leandro, and Pedrito are all released, and Trujillo is assassinated. Jaimito tries to tell Dede about it, but she prefers not to read the newspapers.

On the night of her sisters' murder, Dede hasn't slept at all because Jaime David is up sick. A messenger comes to her house summoning her to Chea Mirabal's house. When she and Jaimito get there the house is in chaos, and Mama says, "Tell me it isn't true." She has received a telegram reporting that there has been a car accident, and the telegram asks them to go to the hospital in Santiago. This gives Dede hope since it means that her sisters could be still alive, just injured.

After Dede and Mama pack a bag to bring to the hospital, however, they receive the news that the girls are dead. They drive the bodies of the girls and Rufino home from the morgue slowly, with Dede standing in the back of the pick-up with the coffins. As they pass the SIM post, Dede yells, "Assassins!" at it. Jaimito has to gun the motor so she is not heard and killed as well. When she says that she would rather be dead with her sisters, he tells her, "This is your martyrdom, Dede, to be alive without them."

After Manolo is released from prison, he regrets losing the argument with Minerva about whether the girls should stay in Puerto Plata for the night. He becomes famous, and Leandro stays by his side until he goes up into the mountains trying to rally the people "when it all came down a second time." They accept amnesty, but they are shot when they come down from the mountains. Manolo has sent a seashell to his daughter Minou, but Dede does not give it to her until she finally asks directly, "Is Papi dead?"

Finally, back in 1994, Minou has her own baby, Camila, whom she tells Dede all about. She suggests that Dede refuse to welcome any more visitors with questions, and that she record the story and sell it instead. Over supper with her friend Olga, Dede discusses how she is living in the past. She tells Olga, "I'm not stuck in the past, I've just brought it with me into the present." That night, she overhears a conversation between Minou and her husband, Doroteo, and is reminded of Minerva and Manolo.

Dede goes over a list of the things and people she has lost throughout her life, including Jaimito and Mama. Afterward, she sums up, "The complete list of losses. There they are. And it helps, I've found, if I can count them off, so to speak." She ran into Lio and his wife at a reception in honor of her sisters, and they caught up intensely about the past. She remembers this as she stands overhearing the conversation between Minou and Doroteo, then goes inside to tuck Minou in. Then she falls asleep herself, but it is different that night; she does not hear the spirits of her sisters running through the house. Instead, "all I hear is my own breathing and the blessed silence of those cool, clear nights under the anacahuita tree before anyone breathes a word of the future."


All of the previous chapters titled "Dede" have not actually been from Dede's point of view; rather, they have been from the third person point of view with Dede as the main character. However, in the epilogue she is the narrator for the first time. It is as if by reconnecting with her sisters through telling the woman interviewer their stories, she has been able to reconnect with herself. This revival of the young girl inside her results in her first person narrative, in which she is able to come to terms with her actions and decisions regarding the revolution.

The role of women has changed by 1994, and Dede realizes this change through her niece Minou, who has designed a line of play clothes for her store in the capital while she teaches courses at the university on poetry and politics. In fact, all of the next generation of her family, including Manolito, are "smart young men and women making good money. They aren't like us, I think. They knew almost from the start they had to take on the world." The men and women are unified in this way, rather than divided by their traditional roles.

The theme of entrapment is apparent once again in Dede's reaction to the telegram Mama shows her on the morning after the girls' death. When they receive the telegram and think that the girls might be alive, "my heart in my rib cage was a bird that suddenly began to sing. Hope!" This metaphor extends the conceit of a cage around the whole island of the Dominican Republic, taking it inward, to the personal level. Dede has been trapped by her own fear (or conversely, she keeps her heart safe inside the cage of her own soul), and the telegram gives her a bit of short-lived hope; the caged bird sings.

Dede receives the seashell Manolo sends to Minou but decides not to give it to Minou right away, keeping her father's death a secret from her. This decision is reminiscent of her decision to burn Lio's letter to Minerva, Minou's mother, instead of delivering the invitation to come away with him. At this point in her life, Dede is still making other people's decisions for them, deciding to protect people from the recklessness of those who love them.

In the epilogue, it is revealed indirectly that Dede has had a breast removed due to cancer. This absence on her body preoccupies her, and it also symbolizes the absence of her family and all those she has lost. It is also one more loss to count on the list. When she compares Minou to Minerva in her mind, "absently, my hand travels to my foam breast and presses gently, worrying an absence there." While she worries about not hearing the spirits of her sisters running about through the house as she falls asleep, "my hand worries the absence on my left side, a habitual gesture now. My pledge of allegiance, I call it, to all that is missing." For Dede, so much of her story is a story of loss, but in finally telling so much of the story this time, in honoring their memory, she has stilled, at least momentarily, the ghosts of those she has lost.