In the Time of the Butterflies

Summary and Analysis of Part III - Chapter Nine: Dede, 1994 and 1960

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In the afternoon in 1994, it is getting late. Dede says goodbye to the interview woman just as Minou arrives. She says that she was at Fela's and that Fela reported the sisters "must finally be at rest," since they won't come to possess her. Dede explains that they have been there with her all afternoon. Minou asks Dede, "I mean, you all were so close, why didn't you go along with them?" and Dede is once again transported into the past.

One Sunday afternoon while Jaimito is in San Francisco with all three of their sons, Minerva, Patria, and Maria Teresa pay Dede a surprise visit. She has become solitary and feels as if Jaimito has become a "bossy, old-fashioned macho" who fails to notice her unhappiness. In the fall, Patria asked if she could bury some boxes in the cacao fields, but Jaimito refused, and Dede has been avoiding her sisters ever since. Now, they report that "something big" is about to happen in less than three weeks, and Maria Teresa asks her to join their cell.

When Dede asks if Jaimito is also invited, Minerva compares him to Enrique Mirabal, saying it is scared men like them who have kept Trujillo in power so long. They tell her not to decide if she wants to join them right at that moment, but to come to Patria's house on Sunday if she wants to. Dede silently decides to leave Jaimito the next Sunday and attend the meeting with her sisters. She has never really gotten over her unspoken love for Lio—secretly one night she listened to him on the radio.

As she plans her escape, Dede begins to worry about leaving her sons. On Friday, she asks Don Bernardo if she can accompany him to Salcedo so she can go to church and speak with Padre de Jesus about her fears. But Jaimito is suspicious, as well as furious that she is disobeying his wish that she not go. Nobody is at the rectory when she gets dropped off, so Dede spends the morning checking back every half hour and wandering around the shops. Finally she sees a truck pull up with Padre de Jesus in it, but recognizes the pine boxes in it because they look like those that Patria kept at her house. Realizing that Padre de Jesus is "one of them," and afraid that he will encourage her to join the revolutionaries, Dede flees.

Back at the house, Tinita tells her that Jaimito has gone to his mother's, Dona Leila's, home with the boys. Dede panics and goes to Chea Mirabal's home; Minerva, Maria Teresa, and their husbands are there as well. Manolo and Minerva drive Dede to her mother-in-law's house in San Francisco, where they find Jaimito and his sons. Sensing the tension in their marriage, Manolo suggests that Jaimito and Dede "take a honeymoon somewhere nice." Thus, that weekend, the time that she had meant to leave her husband, becomes a boring vacation for them both.

The next week, Leandro is arrested. At Mama's house, Maria Teresa tells Dede that the SIM had broken into their apartment and ransacked it, taking Leandro away. Patria arrives, a complete wreck. Pedrito and Nelson have also been arrested, and their home has been torn apart and burned to the ground. When Dede gets in touch with Minerva, she repots that Manolo was arrested the night before, too. A few days later, Minerva confesses to Dede that she has been diagnosed with tuberculosis and needs money to pay for medications. But before Dede can bring them, Minerva is also taken to prison.

Dede and Jaimito are able to rebuild some strength in their marriage in their effort to save her sisters. They drive over to Mama's house to tell her that Minerva has been taken away, but when they get there, Captain Pena is there to bring Maria Teresa to jail, too. In Mama's bedroom, Dede, Jaimito, Patria, Noris, and Chea pray before dissolving into tears. That night as she lies in bed, Dede is tempted to run away, but she convinces herself that she cannot. She plays the game Minerva taught her when they were young, the one in which she concentrates on a happy memory.

The narrator corrects Dede's memory, clarifying that she did not learn the happy memory game until Minerva taught it to her, after she was released from prison and was living at Mama's. Dede visits every day and argues with Minerva to stay home, since rumors are abuzz that Trujillo wants her killed. But when Dede cries, telling her sister she is going crazy worrying about her, Minerva teaches her the happy memory exercise as a way to comfort herself.

Analysis

Speaking to the interview woman, Dede addresses the theme of the role of women: "'Back in those days, we women followed our husbands.' Such a silly excuse. After all, look at Minerva. 'Let's put it this way,' Dede adds. 'I followed my husband. I didn't get involved." She is aware that she is using it as an excuse for not supporting her sisters, something for which she still feels guilty.

As her three sisters come down the path, Dede uses a simile that hearkens back to the conceit of life as a thread, an image that has been running through the novel: "It was as if the three fates were approaching, their scissors poised to snip the knot that was keeping Dede's life from falling apart." This sense of dread is also foreshadowing the future, in particular the untimely deaths that will befall all three. After Minerva and Maria Teresa are taken away to jail in the capital, "Dede fought down the sob that twisted like a rope in her gut. She felt that if she let go, the whole inside of her would fall apart." It is as if the rope of sorrow is holding her together.

Violent imagery permeates this chapter as well, drawing attention to the tension that hangs in the air for the Mirabal family. When she greets her sisters after avoiding them for weeks, Dede smiles—"Miss Sonrisa, armed with smiles." While her sisters are arming themselves with weapons, she pretends that she is happy. As she scans her garden, the new bed where she has been working "was disturbing to see—among the established plantings—the raw brown earth like a wound in the ground."

As a narrator, Dede's use of exclamation in this chapter reflects her exasperation with her sisters as well as her growing sense of panic. When Maria Teresa asks her to join their revolutionary cell, Dede says it is "As if they were inviting her to join a goddamn volleyball team!" This simile is meaningful since it was the volleyball game of their youth that first drew a line in the sand between Dede and Jaimito and Minerva and Lio, the revolutionaries. When Minerva asks if Dede could take some money out of her share of the house and lands in the future, so as not to have to borrow anything, Dede exclaims, "Too proud to just plain ask for help!"

Patria's struggle to reconcile heaven and earth comes to a climax in this chapter as she breaks down on Mama's front lawn. She tears up the grass from the ground around her, screaming. Dede gets down on her knees and puts the ground back in place, and "in a soothing voice, she reminded her sister of the faith that had always sustained her." Dede leads Patria in reciting the Credo, helping her find refuge in heaven when Pedrito, who connects her to earth, has been taken from her.

The theme of courage is apparent at the end of this chapter, when Dede lies in bed tempted to "just let go," meaning to stop trying to maintain her sanity. But she talks herself out of it, thinking, "Courage! It was the first time she had used that word to herself and understood exactly what it meant." For Dede, it means staying strong for her family and not selfishly running away. Indeed, courage is much needed at a time when the authorities are cracking down quite successfully on her family. This is a high point of tension for her and for the narrative.