1. How does each sister lose her innocence or faith in the novel’s opening chapters?
2. Minerva says she “got free” after she moved away to go to boarding school. What does she mean by this?
3. The Mirabal sisters all learn in adolescence that Trujillo, the dictator who rules the Dominican Republic, is closer to their lives than they initially thought. Give at least three examples of Trujillo’s proximity to their lives.
4. Trujillo governed by the idea, "It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both" (Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince). Was this an effective form of government for Trujillo? For his subjects? What was the price of any effectiveness?
5. In the middle of the book, after she is released, Minerva is torn between her old dangerous spirit and thirst for freedom and her more safe and "normal" lifestyle. Which of the two had she chosen towards the end of the book, and in what ways is her struggle somewhat a struggle between good and bad?
6. In the epilogue, Jaimito says to Dede, "This is your martyrdom, Dede, to be alive without [your sisters]" (308). Even though she did not join the revolution, she suffered along with her sisters. What is the importance of Dede in the novel? Why do you think Julia Alvarez chose to make her one of the major characters, even though she wasn't directly involved in the revolution?
7. If you were placed in the same position as one of the sisters, who would you rather be? Why? Now in their position, what would you do differently?
8. Both in the story and in real life, the Dominican people stood behind the Mirabal sisters and saw them as great heroes and martyrs. Why is the Dominican nation so taken with the Mirabal sisters? What about them is so captivating? Of all those who fought for freedom from Trujillo, why does the story of these women endure?
9. In the Time of the Butterflies is only a fictionalized telling of the Mirabal sisters' history. Do you think this method is detrimental or beneficial to helping you understand what actually took place?
10. In a common novel, there is a character who faces a problem and solves it by the conclusion of the story. Why do you think the author chose to write a story around women that die before they accomplish the story's goal?