Living amidst Dictatorship

We have focused on the novel, “In the Time of the Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez, which is a historical fiction piece that imagines the lives and deaths of real women, the Mirabal sisters who fought against the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, which began in 1930 and ended with Trujillo’s assassination in 1961. Tragically, 3 of the Mirabal sisters did not survive the dictatorship and were killed by the Trujillo regime just one year before Trujillo’s assassination. However, their heroic story leaves a lasting impact on the people of the Dominican Republic, and the revolutionary spirit and actions of the sisters lives on in their story, in history, and in some actions of the people of the Dominican Republic.

The first 7 chapters of the novel emphasize the themes of liberation, repression, patriarchy, and resistance. Identify a theme to focus on for Essay #1: Living Amidst Dictatorship. Choose 1 prompt from the 4 below, and write a 3.5 page essay answering the prompt.

  • The Mirabal sisters, Dedé, María Teresa, Patria, and Minerva each fight for their individual liberation, and at times, for the liberation of their communities. Focusing on chapters 1-7, identify examples in the novel of this fight for liberation. You may focus on one character or several. What does liberation look like? What does the fight for liberation look like for the sisters? What experiences of liberation do the sisters experience? What experiences of liberation do the sisters hope for?
  • The Trujillo dictatorship represses the people of the Dominican Republic through violence, media control, sexualization, religion, and fear. As a fascist regime, the dictatorship silences anyone who does not agree with its direction. Focusing on chapters 1-7, identify examples in the novel of this repression. How does the dictatorship create and sustain fear? What strategies are used by the regime? What is the impact on the society? How do the people of the Dominican Republic respond?
  • In the novel, patriarchy impacts the Mirabal sisters in a variety of ways: patriarchy exists within the family structure, within the community, and within the dictatorship. The Mirabal sisters must fight for their education, their freedom to express themselves, and their freedom from sexual coercion. Focusing on chapters 1-7, identify examples of patriarchal control in the novel and the impact this control has on the Mirabal sisters. How do they experience and resist patriarchy at the familial, social, and governmental level, and how do they respond differently to these various forms of patriarchal control?
  • The Mirabal sisters engage in many struggles as they fight for their liberation. Not only do the sisters learn to resist the fascist control of the dictatorship, they also learn to advocate for themselves and to strive for their desires, despite the perspectives of their family, community, and government. Focusing on chapters 1-7, identify examples in the novel of the Mirabal sisters’ resistance to the fear of the regime, the power of the regime, the traditions and norms of society, and the traditions of family. How do the Mirabal sisters approach the idea of education? Of marriage? Of choice? How must they resist various forms of control in order to exercise their beliefs?



Your essay will to rely on quotes from the novel, as well as research for historical context. You will need to respond to the questions of the prompt in the form of a claim: state your opinion or arguments and use evidence to support. We will be working on shaping inferences, theses, and arguments in class this week and in future weeks.


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