In the Time of the Butterflies | Critical Review by Janet Jones Hampton

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of In the Time of the Butterflies.
This section contains 497 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Review by Janet Jones Hampton

SOURCE: "The Time of the Tyrants," in Belles Lettres: A Review of Books by Women, Vol. 10, No. 2, Spring, 1995, pp. 6-7.

Hampton is a professor of Spanish. In the following review, she applauds In the Time of the Butterflies.

Julia Alvarez came to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 1960 with her family to escape the tyranny of the Trujillo regime. Shortly after their escape, the Mirabal sisters, who were part of Alvarez's father's resistance group, were murdered by the regime, becoming martyrs. Intrigued by the courage of these sisters, Alvarez, the highly acclaimed author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, decided to write a fictional version of their story. In the Time of the Butterflies is the result.

The novel relates the lives of the three Mirabal sisters—Patria, Minerva, and María Teresa—in their own words and as recalled by Dedé, their surviving sibling. Spanning the period from 1938 to the present, the novel focuses on the era of the Trujillo dictatorship, from 1930 to 1961. It reveals how each of the sisters, known together as the "mariposas" (butterflies), becomes a dissenter and ultimately a martyr.

The life of the Mirabal family was fairly normal until Trujillo tried to seduce Minerva, who spurned him. Like her namesake of Greek mythology, Minerva proves to be a warrior committed to defend both home and country from enemies. Until that time, the Mirabals, who operated a rural store, enjoyed a growing business, were respected in their community, were involved in their church, and had the opportunity to educate their daughters. Through education, the daughters grow aware of the possibility of a free society and eventually commit themselves to making it a reality. In spite of the need to be wary in both speech and action, the Mirabals' family life is marked by both hilarity and personal sadness. As the regime increasingly squeezes them, they eschew material acquisitions and further embrace one another. This solidarity, coupled with their resistance to Trujillo, makes the Mirabals enemies of the regime but heroes to their people.

The story is related through first-person accounts of each sister, resulting in multiple perspectives of central events. It is embellished with María Teresa's diary entries and sketches, as well as bits of poetry and song. Alvarez not only opens a window on the remarkable daily life of that period, but also provides a chilling view into the heart of Trujillo's darkness. Alvarez states: "I wanted to immerse my readers in an epoch in the life of the Dominican Republic that I believe can only finally be understood by fiction, only finally be redeemed by the imagination." She indeed realizes this goal….

Alvarez's grasp of metaphor and humor will delight the enthusiasts of Barbara Kingsolver's prose.

When the final pages of [this book] turned, I think that the reader will agree with the words of Julia Alvarez: "A novel is not, after all, a historical document, but a way to travel through the human heart."

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This section contains 497 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Janet Jones Hampton