Study Guide

In the Time of the Butterflies Part 1, Chapter 1

By Alvarez, Julia

Part 1, Chapter 1

Dedé 1994 and circa 1943

  • So Part 1 isn't titled, exactly, but we get the time frame: 1938 to 1946. Now we know when we are, even if we don't know where we are yet.
  • Dedé waits for a woman who is coming to interview her about her sisters.
  • The woman is from the United States and doesn't speak Spanish so well, which is Dedé's language.
  • Dedé is taking care of her butterfly orchid and, startled by the slam of a car door, breaks off a blossom.
  • Dedé gives the woman a tour of her family home, showing her famous photographs of her three sisters.
  • She tells the interviewer about her sisters' personalities: Minerva was strict, María Teresa very young, and Patria religious.
  • The woman asks Dedé how she keeps on keepin' on after such a tragedy, and she says that she focuses on the happy times. The woman asks her to tell her about one.
  • Flashback. Dedé remembers a night when she, her parents, and her three sisters sat in the front yard of their house.
  • Her father begins making predictions about each of his daughters. He says that Dedé will become a millionaire and outlive everyone else in the family.
  • The father says that María Teresa will be a bombshell, but before he gets to Patria, their mother interrupts, saying that the priest has warned them against telling fortunes.
  • Minerva, who wants to be a lawyer, defends her father. Her mother makes a snide comment about women lawyers.
  • The father answers with a snide comment about Trujillo, and everyone goes silent. (Hold up —who's Trujillo? Read up here if you can't stand the suspense, or just keep reading the novel.)
  • Everyone in the family clams up real quick after the dad's comment, because they're afraid spies will run and tell on them for their subversive remarks.
  • The whole family gets up and goes inside, and Dedé realizes that her future is the only one that her dad really told. She feels a chill in her bones.

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