In the Time of the Butterflies Summary and Analysis

Part II - Chapter Five: Dede, 1994 and 1948

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Back in the present (1994), Dede considers how Fela, their longtime servant, thinks that she is possessed by the spirits of the dead Mirabal sisters. She had accidentally come across Fela's shrine to the girls one Friday in the shed behind the house. She had ordered Fela to move the shrine, but Minou scolded her for being intolerant. Minou often stops at the shrine, which is now down the street. She asks Dede where Lio Morales now lives, since Minerva has asked her to deliver a message to him—just to say hello, and to state how much she thinks of him.

When the interview woman presses on, asking Dede, "When did all the problems start?" Dede begins to speak about Lio Morales. She met him one "hot and humid afternoon" while she was organizing her father's shop with Minerva. They are finishing up before they head to Tio Pepe's to play volleyball with their friends. Dede knows that her cousin Jaimito, on whom she has started to have a crush (even though he once annoyed her), will be there. Mario, one of their distributors, arrives with Lio, and introduces him as his cousin. He knows Elsa Sanchez and Sinita Perozo from the university. When Dede mentions that they are committed to playing volleyball, Minerva invites Mario and Lio. Minerva gets their father's permission, and the girls go to Tio Pepe's with Mario and Lio.

A few weeks later, Lio is still joining them for volleyball. Jaimito suggests that the girls come to play. As they take off their shoes and begin to assign positions, Dede notices that Minerva and Lio are missing. She is unsure if it is actually an accident, but she hits the ball into the hedges, startling the hiding couple. Once Lio emerges from the hedges, Jaimito starts a fight with him, and the game ends in awkwardness.

Lio and Jaimito both begin to come to the Mirabal house more and more. When Maria Teresa accidentally reads aloud to Mama a newspaper article that reveals that Lio is "a communist, a subversive," Mama becomes upset that she has been letting him spend time at their home. But Minerva continues to see him on double dates with Jaimito and Dede. Still, Minerva refuses to admit that she is in love with Lio.

When Dede asks him how he wants to accomplish his revolutionary goals, Lio cannot give her the direct answer she wants. Dede becomes more and more nervous as Lio's name continues to appear in the newspapers, and she and Minerva lie about spending time with him. Then Lio announces that he'll be going into exile with some of his comrades.

One night, after a gathering of the Dominican party in San Francisco, Jaimito asks Minerva if Lio has invited her to go into exile with him, and she says that he has not. Jaimito tells them that the police were looking for Lio at his house and that he was taken down to the station for questioning. He told them that Lio had given him girlie magazines to get them off his back.

Minerva leaves, and Dede and Jaimito begin to kiss. Jaimito tells her there is something he wants her to see out back. They get into Papa's car, and he slips a ring on her finger, proposing. But they are surprised by Lio's cough from the backseat—he has been hiding there. Jaimito is furious that he would endanger the Mirabals, but Lio gives Dede a letter to deliver to Minerva. As Dede walks Jaimito to his car, she agrees to marry him.

Alone, Dede decides not to tell Minerva that Lio is hiding in the backseat of Papa's car. She goes into her bedroom and opens the letter Lio asked her to deliver to Minerva. In it, he invites her to go into exile with him. Dede decides that she will not expose her sister to that danger, so she burns the letter in the lamp.

Analysis

This chapter reveals the tense relationship between Dede and Minerva. Their personalities are at odds: Minerva is full of questions and mischief, while Dede is much more organized and chooses to smile and dismiss things without stirring up trouble. But it is Lio who brings out Dede's resentment toward her sister. Though she loves Jaimito, Dede is jealous of Lio's interest in Minerva. She sees them as a glamorous couple doing exciting things, while she and Jaimito are merely expected to end up together. She exposes them hiding in the bushes together and even burns the letter from Lio that was intended for her sister. Dede tells herself it is to protect Minerva, but her action is clearly also out of jealousy that her sister might get involved in such a daring adventure with Lio.

As the narrator, Dede uses exclamations often, characterizing herself as someone whose placid, smiling demeanor is interrupted by bursts of emotion. When she considers her task of being "the grande dame of the beautiful, terrible past" by relating her family's history to the woman interviewer, she exclaims, "But it is an impossible task, impossible!" In talking about her husband, she wonders, "But who could control Jaimito, only son of his doting mother, unquestioned boss of his five sisters!"

The metaphors of knotted string and captivation carry through this chapter, as Dede describes herself getting caught up in the twists and turns of life. When Lio teases her for going to play volleyball in a dress, "Suddenly, Dede feels foolish, caught in her frivolity as if she were a kitten knotted in yarn." As Dede reads articles in the paper about how people are getting arrested, "Dede's courage unraveled like a row of stitches not finished with a good, sturdy knot." Being sown up can be for protection or for captivation. She does not think Lio has a plan, and she becomes afraid to be involved with him.

The diction that Dede uses as narrator recounting the events of the past ties Minerva to death. After Maria Teresa reads to Chea Mirabal the article calling Lio a communist, Chea calls for Minerva, and "From her bedroom, the book she was reading still in hand, appeared the death of them all." Though the phrase "to be the death of" can be used lightly to mean someone is a handful, in this case, Minerva actually is the death of them all. When Lio announces that he is going to leave to go into exile with his comrades, "Minerva was deathly quiet." It is clear that Dede in some way blames Minerva for getting the family involved in politics and thus bringing about her own death and that of her sisters.

There is a hint of foreshadowing, too, at the end of the chapter, when Dede considers Jaimito's marriage proposal. She is not surprised by it because she has always seen it as inevitable that she would marry Jaimito. "There was no question - was there? - but that they would spend the rest of their lives together." Notably, the question that interrupts her thought is both in the young Dede's mind and in the memory of the older Dede in 1994, remembering how she felt and how she might have suspected that she and Jaimito would end up getting a divorce. Even when she thinks of Jaimito fondly, as he begins to propose, Dede from the present cannot help but check the enthusiasm she felt at the time: "Her spoiled, funny, fun-loving man. Oh, what a peck of trouble she was in for."