In the Time of the Butterflies is the story of the four Mirabal sisters, who lived through the despotic regime of General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. Throughout the novel that spans more than 50 years, Julia Alvarez masterfully weaves fact with fiction as she shares the hopes, fears, and struggles of Patria, Dedé, Minerva, and María Teresa.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In “Trujillo & the Mirabal Sisters,” Mike Kubic explores Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo’s rule from 1930 to 1961, before the oppressed people of his nation would no longer stand for his regime.
Introduce this text prior to beginning the novel so students can gather background knowledge on the Mirabal Sisters and Trujillo’s regime.
In “Our Deportment, or the Manners, Conduct, and Dress of Refined Society,” John H. Young explains the rules of etiquette during the early 19th century. In this excerpt, Young explains the proper etiquette for wives and husbands.
Introduce this text after the end of Chapter 4 and ask students to determine how each of the four Mirabal sisters would feel about the specific ideas laid out in John H. Young’s writing.
This article describes life in North Korea under totalitarian government rule. In North Korea, the government has total control over the economy, the military, education, and people’s access to information—and it punishes those who try to change the status quo.
Introduce this text after reading Chapter 6 and have students compare the practices of North Korea under Kim Jong-Un to those of Rafael Trujillo, as portrayed by Julia Alvarez. How are these two societies both similar and different?
In the informational text “Recalling Castro’s Ascension — And CIA Reaction,” Tom Gjelten explores Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Cuba and the responses of CIA officials at the time.
Introduce this text after students learn during Chapter 8 that Fidel Castro and his revolutionary army took over Cuba. Ask students to more deeply analyze the factors that led to Castro’s ascension. How did the United States’ government feel about Castro’s rise?
China’s first female historian Zhao Ban instructs women on proper behavior toward their husbands.
After reading Chapter 9, have students read this text and compare the ways in which Zhao Ban and Dedé view the role of married women.
In this early 20th-century story, a poor mother refuses to give up on her ailing daughter, and turns to a spiritual healer when a doctor tells her there is nothing left to do.
Introduce this text after students read Chapter 10 and have students compare Patria’s relationship with her faith to the experiences of Martha in Dunbar’s short story.
This article discusses modern diplomacy, what it means to deal politically with other nations and maintain these friendships—or at least, to get what your country wants.
Introduce this text after students read Chapter 11 and ask them to identify the different ways that countries apply pressure to foreign governments. Students should identify which strategies were used against the Trujillo regime in Chapter 11 and to what effect.
In “The Landlady,” Roald Dahl tells the story of a young man offered lodging by a landlady who has dark plans for him.
After reading Chapter 12, students should read this text and compare the ways that Dahl and Ovid chose to use foreshadowing and suspense in their respective stories. How and why did their use of these literary devices impact the mood of their respective stories?