Faith and Heroism: Sisters Mirabal Characters in In the Time of Butterflies
The novel In the The Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez, consists of a frame narrative told by the only Mirabal sister to survive the reign of Trujillo, Dede Mirabal. This story takes place in the Dominican Republic all the way back in 1938, leading up to the “present” time in 1994. At this time in the Dominican Republic, the country is being ruled by a man named Trujillo, and he is making their homeland an unsafe and horrible place. As young girls, the Mirabal sisters do not find Trujillo as any threat to them. They hear stories that he has many girlfriends and that Trujillo has people killed for him, but the ends did not seem to meet until after they grow up, get married, and have children. Patria Mirabal tries to put the rule of Trujillo deep in the back of her mind, but soon finds that as a child of God she should fight for what she believes in and put an end to the long list of sins Trujillo has committed. Patria uses her faith as a weapon to stay strong during the reign of Trujillo because she feels she has to fight for her son, husband, sisters, children, and the people of the Dominican Republic.
Patria has an unbreakable bond with God because she trusts His plans for her life even though she has suffered through many tragedies. Patria grows into a young woman and marries a man named Pedrito. She gets pregnant and as her due date arrives, a dead child arrives as well. At a time like this, Patria could lose her faith in God due to this miscarriage, but she does not. She tells her mother, “It is the Lord’s will” (53). Later on in Patria’s life at the age of twenty- four, she quotes God and says, “Build your house on a rock, do my will. And though the rain fall and the floods come and the winds blow, the good wife’s house will stand” (148).She then says, “I had built my house on solid rock, all right” (148). Here it seems Patria is content with what God blesses her with, but the true test to see if she if she has faith in Him is when she goes on a church retreat and comes out alive after a bombing by Trujillo near her retreat house. The bombs explode and Patria thinks, “…His Kingdom was coming down upon the very roof of that retreat house” (161). This shows the true way Patria feels at the time, an image of her Lord’s Kingdom falling down on her “crushing” her faith. Soon after she sees a young boy about her child Noris’s age get shot dead, she has a change of heart. Patria says, “Coming down that mountain, I was a changed woman…I was carrying not just my child but that dead boy as well” (162). Here, Patria’s faith is restored knowing that not only her and her unborn baby survives, but she knows God is sending her the message to fight against Trujillo and save His children.
The bombing on the mountain side during Patria’s church retreat helps her realize that she needs to fight for her country and family because she knows that is what the Lord put her on earth to do. Patria realizes after the bombing she is not going to let Trujillo kill innocent people and her family, so she says to God, “I’m not going to sit back and watch my babies die, Lord…” (162). This is when Patria decides to become a martyr against the reign of Trujillo, and she has confidence that the Lord put her here to do this because she says, “The minute I walked into that room, I knew something had changed in the way the Lord Jesus would be among us”(163). Patria has so much faith in God that she even makes her house the “motherhouse” of the Fourteenth of June Movement to overthrow Trujillo. She pleads Pedrito to join the movement and says, “…how can we be true Christians and turn our back on our brothers and sisters…” (166). Here Patria knows in her heart that God will keep them safe, so that is why she tries to get her loved ones involved. Her trust in the Lord is so strong she even goes against the government and has bombs built in her house because she feels as if it is her job as a Christian. Patria refers to her life as a house saying, “…I built it back up with prayer, hung the door on the creaky hinges, nailed the floorboards down…” (168). She has come to the conclusion that this is what she is supposed to do, and from all the bad she can create something good.
Patria is a martyr because she knows God will protect her and that it is her responsibility as a Christian is to protect the children of God. The SIM (police) find out about the plans for the revolution against Trujillo, and they come to Patria’s house and lock up her son Nelson and her husband. Patria proves she is a martyr when she pleads, “Take me instead, please. I beg you for the love of God” (195). This shows she is willing to suffer in jail and have her husband and son safe. Also, when the SIM ransack and burn her house down, she is still willing to undergo tragedies as a martyr because she knows that it happened for a reason- to fulfill her job as a Christian.
Many people today see the Mirabal sisters as heroines, and in many ways that is true. But being a heroine does not mean you cannot be an ordinary person. The Mirabal sisters are examples, as they all grow up with a desire for an education, to get married, and to have children. They too, like everybody else have their family problems such as having a father who cheats on their mother, having unknown half-sisters, and even dealing with death. During the Fourteenth of June Movement, there are about forty people to help with the revolution. Out of all of those people, the only ones to get recognized are Minerva, Patria and Mate Mirabal. The Mirabal sisters are just like all those ordinary people who helped to try to start the revolution, they were just the faces behind all the rebellion, determination, and faith. They just wanted their children and fellow Dominican Republicans to live a free and better life than they did. Patria Mirabal is a woman of strong faith, and without her belief in God she could have not accomplished what she did for the Dominican Republic today.
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