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Time of the Butterflies
“Life is what you make out of it: one can go through it and let things pass them by, or a person can actually go out and get what he or she wants in that life.” These are common words repeatedly embedded into my head by my father, as maybe the same from one of your parent’s. In the Time of the Butterflies is a book about sisters that fight to take their god-given right of freedom in the Dominican Republic. To win this freedom, the Mirabal sisters had to give up their safety, give up their childhoods, and give up their lives. Julia Alvarez, the author of the book, takes the readers through these sisters journey’s of fighting against their dictator Trujillo, and the many hardships while under this political oppression. It is evident in the book that some sisters had to be the leaders of the group and some had to be the followers. The Mirabel sister that is believed to be the leader and the strong one is Minerva. Minerva, although strong-willed, is still not as strong of an individual as she would like to believe she is.
Minerva is the individual that always makes sure that she is perceived as strong; however, in actuality this strength and desired image is only a deception of herself. Many heroes, courageous leaders, and brave characters in stories never have health problems or other character flaws exploited. However, Minerva is shown in the book to always have problems with her health. She is always described as being sick, weak, and needing rest. Another down flaw of her character exploited in this book is that she gets captured and thrown in jail. Once in jail she breaks down – loosing control of herself and ultimately loosing her drive that she once had. These exploitations in the novel show that Minerva can be broken down and make Minerva a more average human being, rather than an audacious hero as everyone would like to believe.
“I was hurt that he hadn’t even said goodbye…Mama, of course, noticed the tightening in my face. My bad headaches and asthma attacks always worried her. “You need rest,” she prescribed one afternoon and sent me to bed in Papa’s room, the coolest in the house.”(Alvarez 87). As one can see here, Minerva is worn down and needs rest. One can also observe how her mama always has to worry about Minerva’s health.
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It is always mom who always first recognizes her child needing comfort. This passage reminds me of my mother needing to take care of me when I kept pushing myself in training this summer. “You need to slow down, Brian,” she would always say. I would practice night, morning, under the sun, or in the rain. I didn’t slow down until my mother recognized that I had dark circles under my eyes and developed a bad cough. She repeatedly had to tell me over and over until I finally took her advice to rest. Here, one can see how Minerva is no stronger than an average human being such as me. That is, Minerva needed someone just as I needed someone to tell me what was best for my health and wellbeing. Genuine strong characters and heroes in books are never described as being unhealthy, or needing advice, and this is why I see Minerva as a weaker individual than she is drawn out to be. Minerva, needing her mother’s assistance, proves that she is still not a full grown, independent woman as she wants to be.
Another example that shows flaws in Minerva’s character is when she is captured and sent to jail. Not that Minerva going to jail was completely her fault, but showing that she did get captured and put in jail gives Minerva less power as a character. As I mentioned before, heroes and strong characters in books are never weak and would never be mentioned in a jail cell. Here, Minerva loses some credibility as a strong and powerful character. I do see her as strong willed, but one has no strength, power, or control behind bars and this shows her as being weakened as a character.
Once out of jail, Minerva looses her drive and enjoys just staying at home with her mom. “I couldn’t stand the idea of being locked up in any one life. So when we were released in August and put under house arrest, you’d have thought I was getting just the punishment for me. But to tell the truth, it was as if I’d been served my sentence on a silver platter”(Alvarez 257). Here, you see there is nothing else that she would rather do than to sit at home and be with her mother. Although this is cute that she wants to be with her mom, it shows how jail got the best of her. It proves my theory that she is not as strong as she thought she was, and it took only one obstacle in her life to break her down. Here, in this part of the book, she has even lost her driving soul that she used to have. Being put under house arrest, one would have expected Minerva to find a way to break free from this and continue to fight for her freedom. Instead, she is content and has been transformed from a courageous individual to a scared and timid character. This just proves how Minerva can be broken down and is not a strong individual. That is, inside that fighting, rebellious woman that everyone sees is just a little girl wanting love and care just as everyone else.
Heroes and courageous characters are individuals that never fail when needed to the rescue. A literary hero is one with courage, one who is healthy, one who never fails and only knows how to succeed. Therefore Minerva, as I have pointed out, is weaker than she thinks and is not the courageous character that everyone would like to believe. This is as important to the book as it is to real life because it is a flaw that nobody seems to realize or recognize. Maybe Alvarez did not think Minerva is the strongest character, and that readers just want to believe she is because a couple of courageous acts that she performs. As in real life, people that always keep their emotions to themselves and hide their fears inside are thought of and perceived as brave. But who says that this is what courage is?