In the Time of the Butterflies

In the Time of the Butterflies Summary and Analysis of Part III - Chapter Twelve: Minerva, August to November 25, 1960

House Arrest, August and September

Minerva and Maria Teresa have been released to house arrest; Minerva struggles to adjust to all the stimuli of Mama's house and finds herself overwhelmed. To make money, they start up a specialty business of making children's christening gowns. They are allowed to visit their husbands at La Victoria on Thursdays and to attend church on Sundays. But when she goes out, Minerva feels overwhelmed by all the people wanting to see her and wish her well, since she has become famous.

Minerva survives by putting on "that hardest of all performances, being my old self again," though she feels frail. Though at first she hides from Captain Pena when he comes to visit, eventually she has to face him. He suggests that they write a thank you letter to Trujillo, so that maybe he will visit their province. Though the other sisters want to write it, Minerva is against it. She is not convinced until Patria points out that it might help save Leandro, Manolo, and Pedrito, who are still in jail. That night, the spies who constantly lurk outside their home are being loud on the porch, and Minerva goes outside to reprimand them.

Elsa Sanchez, Minerva's old friend from school, has married Roberto Suarez, and although they support the revolution, they are not involved in the movement. They pick up radio news on their boat and visit Minerva at the house to report what they have heard. One day, Elsa reports that the OAS has imposed sanctions. That Thursday as they prepare to visit their husbands, Dede warns them that they are putting themselves in danger by traveling all together.

At the prison, Manolo is depressed and tells Minerva to find out who is left in their movement in the area. But a few days later, Elsa brings news that a group of young men has been caught distributing revolutionary leaflets in Santiago. Trujillo is cracking down out of panic, and Captain Pena reports that the women can no longer visit their husbands at La Victoria until the end of September. When they do return to the prison, Manolo believes that he and the other political prisoners are going to be killed, and he tells Minerva, "It's over for us." This adversity reawakens the revolutionary spirit inside Minerva, and she decides, "The butterflies were not about to give up!"

Saving the Men, October

Rufino, the girls' favorite driver, takes them to visit Delia Santos, one of their ex-fellow prisoners who also is a doctor. In truth, Minerva asks her who in their area is still involved in the revolution. Delia reports that Sina has sought asylum, but she writes the name of Dr. Pedro Vinas, a urologist in Santiago, on a sheet of paper for Minerva to see, in case the office is being spied upon. Captain Pena is furious that they went to visit Delia, but Patria explains that it was about "women's problems." They also ask his permission to visit Dr. Pedro Vinas, and he grants it.

Minerva goes to visit Dr. Pena, and he explains the disaster that was the failed uprising. He hopes to let the "gringos" bring Trujillo down, so then the people can take over. But when Minerva reports this news to Manolo, he worries that the gringos will take over the revolution first and the country afterward. Manolo's mother, Dona Fefita, is there, too, and she tearfully tells Minerva that she has arranged to buy their little house to have for them when Manolo gets out of prison, but she adds that he told her he was not coming home alive, so not to bother.

Dona Fefita does not have a chance to buy the house; Minerva receives a note to remove her possessions from the house in Monte Cristi. Dede accompanies her there, but on the way they are stopped by the police. When they are asked to identify themselves, Dede says she is Minerva. But at the police station in Monte Cristi, Minerva identifies herself as herself and shows her pass from Captain Pena.

Dede helps Minerva organize and clean out her old house. In the early evening, Minerva goes to the door and sees a huge crowd of people there to see her, all dressed in black. They return to Chea Mirabal's house on Wednesday, and Tio Pepe tells them that he has just come from a reception honoring Trujillo at the mayor's house. He overheard Trujillo say, looking straight at him, "My only two problems are the damn church and the Mirabal sisters." The next Thursday on the way to La Victoria to visit their husbands, they stop at SIM headquarters as usual. But Pena tells them that Manolo and Leandro are being transferred to Puerto Plata, nearer to where the sisters live.

Talk of the People, Voice of God, November 25, 1960

On November 25, on the way to Puerto Plata, Rufino decides to stop and pick up a young soldier who is hitchhiking. Maria Teresa is nervous about it, but Patria thinks they will be safer with him in the car with them, and Minerva makes small talk with him. The young soldier does not know who they are, but he reports that two politicals, Manolo and Leandro, were admitted last month but are going to be moved back to the capital in a few weeks. It begins to rain hard, but Rufino wants to keep driving. That morning, before they left, Dede had begged them not to all travel together, but they had ignored her.

The sisters stop at a store called El Gallo on the way to Puerto Plata to buy sewing supplies for their company. They decide to buy purses, too. But the salesclerk, Jorge Almonte, recognizes them and puts his card in Minerva's purse. As they drive past La Cumbre, they see Captain Pena's car parked there, and they realize there must be an ambush up ahead. This is corroborated by the card Jorge Almonte slipped Minerva, on which he has written, "Avoid the pass." But there is nothing to be done, so they keep driving.

Minerva suspects the young soldier is a plant, so she begins to interrogate him. They make it safely to Puerto Plata without stopping. They visit Leandro and Manolo, who asks Minerva not to drive back that night but to wait until the next day, saying, "Please, mi amor. There are too many rumors around." On the way out of town, they stop at a little restaurant/gas pump for refreshments. Minerva tries to call Chea Mirabal's house phone, but the line is busy. They decide to head home.


In Chapter 10, Patria compared Captain Pena to the devil, but now that he has maneuvered things so that Minerva and Maria Teresa could be released from prison, he is compared to God. Since their five-year sentence has been commuted to house arrest, "we had only a few rules to obey. (We called them Pena's commandments)." This is a reference to the Ten Commandments, part of the fundamental law of Christianity traditionally revealed to Moses by God.

While Minerva compares Captain Pena to God in that he hands down commandments, she also breaks from the theme of comparing Trujillo to God and instead compares him to the devil. When the spies at Mama's house call out, "Viva Trujillo!" she balks, thinking, "I wasn't going to invoke the devil's name in my own yard." Tio Pepe voices this opinion as well when he tells the girls about the reception in Trujillo's honor that was held at the mayor's house, calling the dictator a "devil in human form."

Dede becomes nervous about all of her sisters traveling together to visit their husbands, and her warnings serve as foreshadowing for their deaths. When they laugh at her warnings and she gets upset, Minerva says, "Come on, Dede. Think how sorry you'd be if something should happen to us and you didn't say goodbye." But before they leave, she cries out her real fear: "I don't want to have to live without you." The reader knows that is her fate exactly: to live after her sisters die as martyrs, and thus to tell their story. Another instance of foreshadowing occurs after Tio Pepe reports what Trujillo said at the gathering at the mayor's house. Minerva thinks, "As we stood in the dark a while longer, calming ourselves, I had this eerie feeling that we were already dead and looking longingly at the house where our children were growing up without us."

The idea of life as woven of thread appears yet again in this chapter, as Minerva tries to get her old self back: "And so the struggle with her began. The struggle to get my old self back from her. Late in the night, I'd lie in bed, thinking, You must gather up the broken threads and tie them together." She is trying to reinvigorate the "calm, courageous companera" whom Manolo married. They also keep their lives together by literally using thread in their dressmaking business: "We couldn't sleep nights, so we sewed. Sometimes Patria started a rosary, and we all joined in, stitching and praying so as not to let our minds roam."

The theme of courage also emerges through Dede. She is so worried for the safety of her sisters that she becomes angry at them for traveling to visit their husbands all together. However, when she and Minerva are pulled over by the police on their way to Monte Cristi, Minerva can see the terror on her face, but still she identifies herself as Minerva Mirabal in order to protect her little sister.

Authoritarianism is a theme that runs throughout the novel, embodied by the Trujillo regime and its police, laws, and spies. The theme is obvious to the citizens throughout their lives under this regime in the Dominican Republic. Here, it is evident when Minerva and Dede are brought into the police station in Monte Cristi. When Minerva mentions that Captain Pena has given them permission to travel there, with a veiled threat to the officer who is questioning them, "The paroxysm of blinking made me pity the poor man. His own terror was a window that opened onto the rotten weakness at the heart of Trujillo's system." Though Minerva calls the fear instilled in all the officers of the authoritarian regime a "weakness," it is what holds the regime in power.