29 February 2008
“I don’t know if you realize how advanced I am for my age! I think it’s because I have three older sisters, and so I’ve grown up quick. I knew how to read before I even started school!” (32). Maria Teresa wrote this in the first passages of her diary. Having three older sisters, Dede, Patria, and Minerva, Mate is the baby of the family. They live fruitfully in a small town in the Dominican Republic where they are under an oppressive dictatorship of the antagonist, Trujillo. In Julia Alvarez’s historical fiction, In the Time of the Butterflies, Mate’s diary entries directly relate her growth to that of the nations through her aging diction and her point of view.
In this story, both Mate and the nation were obedient. After many trials tribulations, both learn. “At first, I thought someone had died in our family until I noticed Minerva’s eyeballing me as if to say, watch what you say girl” (38). Although very youthfully revealed, Mate notes of Minerva’s rebellion against Trujillo. At a younger age, little naïve Mate would have tattled on her sister, now she knows better. Later in her diary she writes “My soul has gotten deeper since I started writing in you. But this what I want to know that not even Minerva knows. What do I do now to fill up that hole?” (43). In this last, more mature, passage Mate writes of her own growth. This is her last entry before she has to bury her diary to hide what she has written from Trujillo.
Mate is the youngest and Alvarez portrays her point of view through diary passages. Her diary passages demonstrate her personal growth and hint about the growth of society under the oppressive dictatorship. “The drive today was horribly tense. Manolo and Minerva kept addressing all their conversation to me, though every once and awhile, they’d start discussing something in low voices. It sounded like treasure hunt clues or something. The Indian from the hill has his cave up that road” (138). This observation exhibits censorship and the decline of free society. Not only is Mate writing in a new diary but Manolo and Minerva are speaking in a secret code. “What a way to spend my twenty second birthday! (If only Palomino would come tonight with a delivery.) I have been a little mopey, I admit it. Sonia reminds me that we have to make sacrifices for the revolution” (143). This passage also uncovers the impact of Trujillo’s oppression of society on normal people through the eyes of Mate.
In conclusion, Mate develops from a young girl to a mature woman while documenting her life. Her struggles reflect the societal changes that are occurring in the Dominican Republic. Through Mate’s point of view and aging diction, she directly relates her growth to that of the nation. “There is something deeper. Sometimes I really feel it in her, especially late at night, a current going among us, like a invisible needle stitching us together into the glorious, free nation we are becoming” (239).
Alvarez, Julia. In The Time Of The Butterflies. New York: Penguin,1995.