In the Time of the Butterflies

Summary and Analysis of Part II - Chapter Six: Minerva, 1949

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What do you want, Minerva Mirabal? Summer

Minerva has been living at home for a few years, and rumors are starting about her being a lesbian. She also realizes that something is amiss between Mama and Papa. She is bored and jealous of Elsa and Sinita, who are studying in the capital. Out on drives, she begins to notice her father's Ford always parked in front of the same campesino family home. Four girls run out to the road, and she sees that they have Mirabal eyes. She realizes that Enrique Mirabal is their father and that they are her half-sisters.

Since Lio went away, Minerva has been having headaches and bad asthma. One afternoon she goes into her father's armoire and goes through the pockets of his clothes. She finds four letters addressed to her from Lio, and she reads them. He refers to his proposal that she leave the country with him, which of course Minerva knows nothing about. Furious, she drives the Jeep over to the campesino house where she knows she will find her father's Ford. He comes out and asks her what she wants, but she just speeds away. When Papa gets home that night, he leads Minerva outside into the garden, where he slaps her. But when he says she owes him respect, she tells him he has lost it.

Minerva has also found an invitation to one of Trujillo's private parties in her father's coat pocket; it specifically mentions that Minerva should attend. Mama is scared for Minerva's safety, so she insists that Pedrito, Patria, Dede, and Jaimito go along, too. Before the party, Papa sends the Ford to the shop, so Minerva drives him to his medical appointments in San Francisco. One day, he means to stop by the house he has bought for his ex-mistress and his other children after the appointment, and Minerva insists she be allowed to go along to meet them. She even meets Carmen, their mother, with whom Papa says he is no longer involved.

Discovery Day Dance, October 12

The family arrives at the party an hour late, having gotten lost. But Trujillo is late, too, as they learn from Manuel de Moya, his secretary of state. A table is reserved for the Mirabals, but Don Manuel tells Minerva she is going to sit with Trujillo. Finally El Jefe arrives, but he does not sit with Minerva; instead, she is entertained by Manuel de Moya. It is about to rain, but the tables are pushed back for dancing. When Don Manuel asks Minerva to dance, she says she has a headache and cannot. Patria brings her calmantes before Don Manuel returns with some for her as well. Finally, Minerva agrees to dance with him.

Soon, Trujillo becomes her partner. He flirts with her, and she tells him she wants to study in the capital to be a lawyer. But when he implies that he would like to "conquer" her, she says she is "not for conquest." He tells her the university is no place for women, mentioning the "communists and agitators," implying they have been caught. By mistake, Minerva blurts out, "Virgilio Morales?" She must backtrack and pretend she does not know Lio, and Trujillo believes her. When he pulls her inappropriately close, thrusting at her in a vulgar way, she slaps his face.

The rain begins immediately, and the party moves quickly inside. The Mirabals rush off, but Minerva forgets her purse. She and Patria cannot find it anywhere, and they assume that someone already brought it inside and that it will be mailed to them. But on the ride home, Minerva realizes that she has put the letters from Lio in the pocket of the lining.

Rainy Spell

The Mirabal family left the party before Trujillo did, which is against the law. Two guardias arrive at their house and say that Governor de la Maza wants to see Enrique Mirabal and Minerva immediately, but Mama says, "If she goes, I go." At the governor's palace, Papa is sent to the capital for questioning. He whispers to Minerva that she is to take money to the illegitimate family in San Francisco every two weeks until he is back. Minerva does so, but she cannot find the house in the rain. She sees Margarita, the oldest daughter, and asks her to lead her to her mother's house. Once there, Minerva gives Carmen the money and asks if she can enroll the daughters in school.

Minerva and Chea return to the capital to petition for Papa's release. They get a room at a hotel. At the Office of Missing Persons, Minerva meets a man who has named all his sons Pablo Antonio so that if one of them is captured, he can swear he is not the son they are looking for. But the man's case takes so long that there is not time to hear the Mirabals'.

The next morning they are woken at the hotel and taken to the National Police Headquarters for questioning, where Minerva is interrogated about Lio by General Federico Fiallo and Don Anselmo Paulino. She admits that she lied to El Jefe about not knowing Lio, but she says it was because she was afraid of displeasing him. She says she is no longer in communication with Lio. Manuel de Moya enters and suggests that "a private conference with El Jefe would be the quickest, most effective way to end all this nonsense." He means, of course, that Minerva should sleep with Trujillo, but she insists that her father and mother come along to the meeting.

Three weeks later, they see Trujillo. Papa has just been released, but he has gone mad due to his imprisonment. In Trujillo's office, it is revealed that Tio Chiche, one of Trujillo's friends, is related to Chea Mirabal. He is a gambler and Mama doesn't like him very much, but she jumps on this connection in order to appeal to Trujillo. Minerva notices a set of dice on Trujillo's desk, and she realizes that they are loaded. She makes a bet with him: they will roll the dice, and if she wins, she can go to law school, but if he wins, he gets to sleep with her. Minerva knows to use the heavier set of dice, and of course she wins, to Trujillo's annoyance. Minerva, Chea, and Enrique Mirabal drive home in the rain.

Analysis

As Minerva asks herself what she wants, she uses the conceit of "that princess put to sleep in the fairy tale." It is Lio who woke her up when she met him: "The givens, all I'd been taught, fell away like so many covers when you sit up in bed." This conceit is ironic, since Minerva is anything but the stereotypical woman of a fairy tale, waiting for a man to come and wake her up so her life can begin. In actuality, Minerva speaks out for women's rights and takes matters into her own hands.

Imagery of woven thread appears again in this chapter, as Minerva struggles with decisions about where her life should go: "Back and forth my mind went, weaving a yes by night and unraveling it by day to a no." The dilemma is whether she loves Lio; she cannot decide. The decision is made for her when he decides to seek asylum. The imagery appears again when Mama clings to her connection of Tio Chiche (a friend of Trujillo's) and Papa in his madness points out that "Chiche cheats too much. I won't play with him." As a result, "Mama's eyes are boring a hole in Papa. Our one lifeline in this stormy sea and Papa is cutting the rope she's been playing out."

Violent diction appears once again in this chapter, as it has throughout the novel. As Enrique Mirabal leads Minerva down the driveway into the garden, "The moon was a thin, bright machete cutting its way through patches of clouds." This metaphor is continued when Minerva describes its light as "sharp," and it foreshadows the slap she is about to receive from her father.

The theme of Trujillo being conflated with God comes out in the paper fans that the girls received at the party they went to, thrown by Trujillo. The fans had the Virgencita on one side and Trujillo on the other. The combination bothers Minerva: "Sometimes it was El Jefe's probing eyes, sometimes it was the Virgin's pretty face I couldn't stand to look at."

The events of the party are mirrored by the weather's progression to a rain storm. When they arrive at the party, "there is a strong breeze, announcing rain." When Minerva mentions Lio's name, "suspicion clouds the gaze" of Trujillo's face, and when she refuses to dance with Manuel de Moya initially, "a cloud of annoyance crosses his face." When Minerva slaps Trujillo, it is like the clap of thunder that begins the storm: "and then the rain comes down hard, slapping sheets of it." In the midst of the storm, her family is the ship that steers her to safety: "Dede and Patria are turning in all directions like lookouts on the mast of a ship." Completing the conceit, Minerva steals a little decorative ship as a souvenir for Maria Teresa, who was too young to attend the party. As they escape in the rain, it looks as though the ship is being steered safely through the storm.

But there are two problems. Once Minerva realizes she has left the letters from Lio in the forgotten purse, all hope is lost. She feels something hard against her leg and reaches down to discover "the little caravel sunk in the folds of my damp dress." And the family has committed a crime by leaving the party before Trujillo. If Trujillo is the captain of a doomed autocratic ship, protocol states that the captain is to leave last; but at this point the regime is still strong and can arbitrarily declare that the nation’s captain must be allowed to leave first. The resistance still has a long way to go.