Responding to Literature
March 29, 2018
Not Just Rain
The novel In The Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez, is a story told by four sisters living under the rule of dictator Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic from 1938 to 1994. All four sisters alternate turns telling stories from their perspectives and fight for their entitled rights while they battle Trujillo who constantly creates setbacks and denies them their right to freedom. Throughout the novel In the Time of the Butterflies, rain is used to portray gloominess and despair and also portrays the slow but important unification of the Mirabal sisters. In the book, rain is a recurring symbol for negative outcomes, like the rain before the disastrous Discovery Day party which ends when Minerva slaps Trujillo. Yet rain is also used to represent hope as shown in the dice rolling scene in Trujillo’s palace. While there are many scenes in the book with rain in them representing sadness and hope, the rain can also symbolize unification.
The negative effects of rain begin when Minerva finds a letter in her father's coat pocket that is an invitation to Trujillo’s house party. The note gives specific instructions for Minerva to attend. When her family gets out of the car at Trujillo’s palace, they note that it had been raining during the day. The significance of the rain is noticed by the Mirabal family. Minerva says, “It’s been raining on and off all day, the usual October hurricane weather” (93). Minerva negatively associates the rain with hurricane weather showing that she believes the rain comes before bad outcomes. They get to Trujillo’s mansion an hour late. Trujillo’s Secretary of State is waiting for them which creates an ominous feeling because he helps seduce young women for Trujillo. While Minerva and Trujillo are dancing, Trujillo “yanks her by the wrist, thrusting his pelvis” (100). Right after Trujillo thrusts his pelvis, Minerva slaps him. Right after she slaps him, “the rain comes down hard, slapping sheets of it” (100). The rain shows how much trouble Minerva and her family will be in because she slapped Trujillo. For the next day or so, it continues to rain; the whole family is scared that someone will be taken away. The continuous rain creates an ominous feeling in the text and hints that Trujillo will try to retaliate against the family because Minerva dangerously rejected him. The rain symbolizes the fear that the family is feeling.
An example of rain representing hope is when Minerva meets with Trujillo to get her father out of jail. Minerva asks Trujillo if she could go to law school. Trujillo suggests that they roll dice and whoever wins gets what he or she wants. Trujillo says to Minerva, “I'll tell you what. I'll let you toss for the privilege. You win, you get your wish. I win, I get mine” (115). Minerva quickly realizes that the weighted dice on the scale they were going to use were given to Trujillo by her cheating Uncle Don Chiche and she intentionally grabs the weighted ones. They both roll doubles and agree to call it even. Here, Minerva learns that there are other ways to win against Trujillo even if it seems hopeless. Minerva thinks, “For a moment, I imagine them evenly balanced, his will on one side, mine on the other” (115). After they leave the capital because Minerva changed the power dynamic between Trujillo and her, the rain reflected it by lightning . “We pass La Vega, and the rain is lighter now, but shows no sign of letting up” (116). This quotation shows that even though the sisters still have a long and hard journey ahead of them, it will now be easier. Even though the rain still surrounds them, they will have an easier time getting through it and that's something that keeps their hopes alive for a brighter future.
At the beginning of the book all the sisters are not 't working as a team because they are all figuring out what they want to do with their lives. But as the book progresses, they start to realize that coming together to fight the same cause is the only way to accomplish their goal. In the book, Minerva says, "a drizzle that builds to a steady downpour" (115) right after they leave the capital. The reason this is significant is the drizzle is all the small efforts each individual is contributing at the beginning. When the sisters finally unite towards the end of the book, the drizzle turns into a downpour and their efforts are a lot more significant. Julia Alvarez uses rain to symbolize that a joint effort is the most efficient way to create change.
In the novel In the Time of the Butterflies, the author uses the rain to portray sadness, hope, and unification. On rainy days, bad things usually happen to the Mirabal family like one of them angering the dictator Trujillo, getting hurt, or being buried. Julia Alvarez usually uses rain to symbolize negative feelings. But, at the end of the book, she also uses rain to symbolize happiness and an optimistic future.“The rain had washed the lawns, and the grasses and hedges shone emerald green. Groups of children played in puddles on the street, scattering as the Jeep approached, so as not to be sprayed" (292). The author changes the use of rain at the end of the book to symbolize the future hope for the Dominican Republic and its people.