Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.
In the Time of the Butterflies
How would you respond if a murderous dictator took control of our nation? In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez is a historical fiction novel based on the true story of the Mirabal sisters. This family was executed for their work opposing Rafael Trujillo, the ruler of the Dominican Republic. The questions in this asset will guide classroom discussions about this novel.
- The author alternates the narrator each chapter. Each narrator speaks about a different time period. What effect does the author gain from this structure?
- In 1994, Dede meets with a journalist about her sisters. While waiting, she remembers a day when her father predicted that Dede would outlive the rest of the family and makes a negative comment about Trujillo that concerns the family. What do you think is being foreshadowed in this chapter? How is Dede's family and the political climate characterized by this entry?
- When Minerva goes to boarding school, her new friend, Sinita, tells her that Trujillo has killed her uncles and brothers. Why is Minerva surprised by this information?
- Trujillo has an affair with a 17-year-old classmate of Minerva's and impregnates her. Based on what you have learned about Trujillo, what kind of a leader do you think he is?
- Maria Teresa becomes friends with a girl named Hilda. What are some indications that Hilda is unconventional in her community? Why is Hilda arrested?
- Patria seems to be searching for something through religion and then through her relationship with Pedrito. What do you think she needs?
- Minerva begins dating Lio, a communist. How does Lio influence Minerva, Dede, and Jaimito? How do Minerva's parents react to Lio's political affiliation? Why? Dede destroys Lio's letter asking Minerva to run away with him. Did she do the right thing? Justify your answer.
- Minerva learns that her father has been keeping secrets from her and the rest of the family. What is his excuse? Do you think he is justified? Why? Minerva's father is arrested and questioned about Lio. What is Trujillo's true motivation? How do you know?
- Mate seems to be struggling after the death of her father. Find text evidence to prove this point. When visiting Minerva, Mate becomes part of the underground group Minerva has joined. What factors in Mate's life contribute to her attraction to this group?
- Patria and Perdrito are persuaded to allow the group to meet on their land and stockpile ammunition on their property. Why do Patria and Perdrito agree to this? Do you think it is the right decision? Why?
- Dede remembers the night her family was arrested. Why wasn't Dede involved in their activities? Do you think Dede has any regrets? Why?
- When church leaders denounce Trujillo's regime, the government resorts to tactics to defile the church. Why do you thing the government chose these tactics instead of confronting church leaders directly?
- When Trujillo's torturers want information from Leandro, they torture Mate in front of him. Why do you think they electrocuted her instead of him? Is their method effective? Why?
- Dede feels uncomfortable that her three sisters are travelling together. Why? What are some warning signs that there is danger ahead? How would you respond in a similar circumstance?
- Dede is invited to many events honoring the sacrifices her sisters made. Does Dede think their sacrifices were worth the price? What do you think?
- What motivated the author to write this novel?
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