An Essay on Courage: Butterfly and the Lost Coast

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She regains her resolve when she knows she must work to save her husband and to salvage the fractured underground. She is killed upon returning from her visit with her husband at Puerto Plata prison. While the Mirabal sisters are in prison and under house arrest, he visits and keeps strict tabs on the family. He buys Pa-tria's family's farm after the government confiscates it.

She teaches Minerva about Trujillo's crimes. While performing before the dictator, she points a bow and arrow at him but is stopped by Trujillo's son, Ramfis. A very religious and strong woman, Chea Mirabal is the mother of the Mirabal sisters. She tries to protect her family from both outside harm and the harm they may bring on themselves.

Her marriage is severely strained after she discovers her husband's long-standing infidelity. In , when her daughters are arrested and Patria loses her farm, most of the family lives with her in her house in town. After the deaths of her daughters, she helps to raise their children. She dies in her sleep twenty years after her daughters' deaths. He smuggles in items and delivers communications.

He is Margarita Mirabal's cousin. Manolo is Minerva's husband. Like her, he is a lawyer, but they are poor and Manolo is unfaithful early in their marriage. Their underground activities bring them closer together, and they both become leaders in the movement. After he is imprisoned, tortured, and loses his wife, he becomes famous in the country. He refuses to run for office, though, and takes to the mountains with a revolutionary force.

He and his men are murdered after they surrender on December 21, Minou is Minerva's oldest child. In , she is a married woman with a child of her own, Camila. Trujillo is the Dominican dictator who ruled the nation from until his assassination in His greed, cruelty, and desire for total control over others inform the lives of all of the characters in the book. He tries to seduce Minerva, but she refuses him. He finally takes his revenge on the rebellious family by ordering the sisters killed.

As Alvarez indicates in her title, In the Time of the Butterflies , she is not just concerned with the Mirabal sisters themselves. She is concerned with an era and a way of life. To understand the impact of Trujillo's reign and the significance of the Mirabal sisters, readers must also understand the nation they inhabited. Therefore, Alvarez works to create a sense of the atmosphere of the country, its landscape, its institutions, and its people.

The political environment, of course, is one of her chief topics. Trujillo's ruthless regime dominates this time period. By focusing on the country's tribulations over a long period of time, Alvarez communicates the disastrous consequences of Trujillo's rule on a nation and its citizens. She also reveals the changes the country undergoes after Trujillo is assassinated. The epilogue, in particular, stresses the traumas the country has suffered, the changes it has undergone, and the need to remember and learn from the "time of the butterflies. Alvarez uses the Trujillo regime not only to depict the violent methods of this particular dictator but also to reveal the impact of authoritarian governments.

Under Trujillo, anyone caught in "subversive" activity—even simply criticizing the government—is subject to imprisonment and, perhaps, torture and death. Dominicans, therefore, live in fear, however muted it may be. They censor what they say to one another, and many also censor their own thoughts. This atmosphere also makes people suspicious of one another, which hinders intimacies and ensures that people suffer in silence.

Also, because Trujillo requires that his subjects display his portrait in their homes and that he always be characterized as the nation's hero, he thrusts himself into people's lives. He especially impacts the minds of children, who are taught to hold him on par with religious icons.

These authoritarian methods allow dictators to enter and often control almost all spheres of people's lives. The dictator manages to plant a little piece of himself in every one of us. In a novel in which the key word is "butterfly," readers might expect the theme of transformation to be a prominent one.

Such is the case with this book. Alvarez focuses on the changes in the Mirabal sisters as they progress toward their revolutionary activities. In addition, she notes the subtle changes taking place in the country while Trujillo is alive. He comes under criticism from the Catholic Church, and more people join the resistance against him. These elements of the book stress both the dangerous and the liberating qualities of change, whether personally or politically.

As Alvarez reveals in characters like Patria and in the country at large, people often must be forcefully thrust out of their patterns of existence, even when those patterns are detrimental. Though change can be painful, it frequently allows individuals or even a nation to discover stronger, richer, and more courageous versions of themselves. Clearly, the Mirabal sisters are testaments to the power of courage.


In Alvarez's rendering, the sisters also reveal fragility because they are not always courageous and self-assured. Their very fears make them all the more admirable, however, since they overcome them and find the strength to act. They draw strength from one another, as well, revealing that personal fortitude often requires a dependence on others.

Bravery may come easier for some, but all of the central characters possess this quality. Minerva's courage is admired by all, but even she suffers from fear and doubt after her release from prison. She is afraid of losing her marriage, but she also is afraid for herself and for her sisters. Still, in moments of crisis, she also acts bravely to defend others. For instance, when stopped by Trujillo's men while with Minerva, she tells them that she is Minerva in an effort to protect her sister.

She also has the courage to continue living after the loss of her sisters.

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Her nieces and nephews need her strength, and she gives it to them. In , she has the fortitude to look honestly at herself and her country's past.

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The courage of the Mirabal sisters is also contrasted with the essential cowardice of Trujillo's men and Trujillo himself, who struts, wears makeup and absurd medals, and constantly must hear about his own superiority. These men hold power and wield it unjustly and brutally. Even when Trujillo is obviously in the wrong, his men carry out his orders to gain favor and prevent their own punishment. Their selfishness and cowardice further highlight the courage of the Mirabal family in resisting such greed and inhumanity.


A depiction of family life is central to Alvarez's characterization of the Mirabals because she wants to portray them as Dominican women, not Dominican legends. The Mirabal sisters' families are core elements of their lives. They receive strength and support from their families because, despite their many conflicts, they aid each other even when in disagreement. Of course, their commitments to their families also make the Mirabals vulnerable to painful losses.

For instance, Patria grieves over her stillborn child and worries constantly over Nelson after his arrest. The sisters also suffer because of their father's infidelity, although they eventually come to accept their half-sisters. Alvarez also focuses heavily on the sisters' children. She effectively conveys the sisters' need for them and their willingness to sacrifice for their children's futures. By focusing on the children, Alvarez communicates the powerful loyalties that drive the sisters and cause them both guilt and pain.

Without this familial emphasis, Alvarez would not as clearly communicate the sacrifices of the Mirabal family for a cause greater than themselves.

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Alvarez's focus on gender also stresses the achievements of the Mirabal sisters. They live in a country and era in which gender roles are clearly defined. Men hold positions of authority and women largely maintain domestic roles.

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  6. Alvarez depicts these realities with Enrique Mirabal's attempts to force his daughters to abide by their gender limitations. For instance, he will not allow Minerva to attend law school despite her obvious ability. He tries to maintain his view of masculinity, authority, and honor by running their business affairs, usually with disastrous consequences. Her business success after her divorce testifies to falseness of these gender distinctions.

    Alvarez represents the complexity of women's lives by portraying women who challenge gender limitations, such as Minerva and her friends at school, many of whom go on to have successful professional careers.

    An Essay on Courage: Butterfly and the Lost Coast An Essay on Courage: Butterfly and the Lost Coast
    An Essay on Courage: Butterfly and the Lost Coast An Essay on Courage: Butterfly and the Lost Coast
    An Essay on Courage: Butterfly and the Lost Coast An Essay on Courage: Butterfly and the Lost Coast
    An Essay on Courage: Butterfly and the Lost Coast An Essay on Courage: Butterfly and the Lost Coast
    An Essay on Courage: Butterfly and the Lost Coast An Essay on Courage: Butterfly and the Lost Coast
    An Essay on Courage: Butterfly and the Lost Coast An Essay on Courage: Butterfly and the Lost Coast
    An Essay on Courage: Butterfly and the Lost Coast An Essay on Courage: Butterfly and the Lost Coast
    An Essay on Courage: Butterfly and the Lost Coast An Essay on Courage: Butterfly and the Lost Coast

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