In the Time of the Butterflies

Most of the novel takes place from the 1930s to the 1960s in the Dominican Republic. What traits are considered appropriate for women living there at that time? Which women defy these social customs, and why?


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Women in Politics and Public Life

The sisters often struggle with their perceived role as traditional women who do not take part in politics and public life. In the first chapter, Minerva’s frustration is apparent when Mama comments, “Just what we need, skirts in the law!” Minerva argues, however, “It is just what this country needs ... It’s about time we women had a voice in running our country.”

Similarly in Chapter 4, Patria worries about Minerva getting worked up about the government. She says to her little sister, “It’s a dirty business, you’re right. That’s why we women shouldn’t get involved.” The argument here is that it may be better to preserve one’s innocence and integrity by avoiding politics. Minerva again argues, however, on the basis of an equality principle: “women had to come out of the dark ages.”

Speaking to the female interviewer, Dede addresses a similar theme: “‘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 tradition as an excuse for not having supported her sisters, something for which she still feels guilty.