The iron-winged butterflies: A story told by the sister who lived.

Karisah Watkins-Martin, Staff Writer

In The Time of The Butterflies is deemed an immortal novel.

A book that defies the constraints of time and lives on, despite being written in the 1960’s. Julia Alvarez manifested a timeless novel, one that it able to captivate the readers and bring them back to the haunting past of the Dominican Republic. This tale is able to make readers a little more compassionate and a little more courageous… she is able to make society a little more humane.

Told through the eyes of the butterflies, this historically accurate novel depicts the adventure of four intelligent Dominican sisters growing up under the oppressive boot of the heinous dictator, Trujillo. Alvarez skillfully takes on the voice of all four Mirabal sisters as they speak across decades to tell their own version of the story.

The beginning of the novel is mesmerizing, as it tells the adventure from Dede’s point of view: the only surviving sister of the four. The sister who is forced to hide behind a stoic exterior. The sister who’s left to raise the children of her siblings after Patria, Minerva, and Mate are found murdered on the side of the road. The sister who is left to tell the tale of a family entwined with the political turmoil that encompasses their country. The sister who lived.

The remaining chapters alternate between Dede’s deceased siblings and recount where it all started. While the Mirabal’s parents cling desperately to their false sense of safety in a swelling sea of intimidation and alarm, Minerva Mirabal– the fearless and boldest of the sisters, born with an unspoken duty to fight for those without a voice– dives headfirst into the revolutionary tide. Her sisters gradually follow her lead once they are aware of the injustices and of the harsh reality in a world that constantly wears blinders. The butterflies come together to create a seemingly invisible force, one that makes Trujillo appear a puny adversary who pales in contrast.

Through this novel brimming with fortitude and warmth, Alvarez is able to shed a light on the dark past of the Dominican through the eyes of the iron-winged butterflies. She conveys how it feels to live in the oppressive dictatorship and see the world through a “curtain of tears.” Alvarez is the author that set people free through both her message and her novel. She breathes life into the novel and gives it a voice.  Through this emotionally wrenching tale, readers are able to learn the details of the butterflies martyrdom. They are able to see it from the beginning and watch it as is slowly rises from its chrysalis. Readers recount a literature mosaic- one that spreads its wings and ever so gently takes flight in the face of freedom.