Quote 1

I’d just left a small cage to go into a bigger one, the size of our whole country.

In Chapter 2, Minerva uses these words to describe going to school and learning the truth about Trujillo’s cruelty. Thoughout the book, Minerva seeks freedom for herself and others—as a child by attempting to force a rabbit to escape its cage, later by demanding she be allowed to attend law school, and ultimately by fighting for her nation’s freedom from dictatorship. In this quotation, she explains that being allowed to leave home to go to school is not true freedom, just moving from one cage to another, still constrained by others’ rules. However, she claims this epiphany is itself a liberation, saying, “And that’s how I got free.” Understanding how the regime controls her and others allows her to imagine a life free of that repression. This realization gives her true freedom and courage for the rest of her life. In prison, she develops techniques for calming her mind, so that worries for her safety do not distract her from continuing to work to advance the revolution. While under house arrest, she refuses to let Dedé talk her out of traveling to visit the men in prison, because deserting the movement would mean giving up this sense of inner freedom.

Quote 2

Until the nail is hit, it doesn’t believe in the hammer.

Minerva uses this proverb in Chapter 2 to describe her own innocence. Sinita tells Minerva the “secret of Trujillo,” that “we can all be killed.” But although Minerva sympathizes with Sinita, she does not understand, seeing what happened to Sinita’s family as a fluke. It takes the tragedy of Lina Lovatón for Minerva to believe that she and all Dominicans are in danger. After Trujillo decides to take Lina for himself, no one can stop him from ruining Lina’s life. Indeed, no one tries, knowing that attempting to stand in his way is futile and will only invite him to strike at them, too. Lina is the nail in this metaphor, the helpless victim who does not see the danger until too late.

Although Minerva scolds herself for not believing Sinita, she is unusual for seeing what happens to Lina and considering that harm to have befallen their whole community. In this way, Minerva does not fit the proverb, since she comes to believe in the hammer before she is the nail. Throughout the book, the Mirabal sisters understand that others’ misfortunes also apply to them. This sense of shared destiny inspires them to work for their nation’s freedom.Ay, m’ijita,” she says. “You’re going to fight everyone’s fight, aren’t you?” 
“It’s all the same fight, Mamá.

Quote 3

Ay, m’ijita,” she says. “You’re going to fight everyone’s fight, aren’t you?” 
“It’s all the same fight, Mamá.

Mamá sighs when Minerva tells her in Chapter 6 that, after spending a day at the police station helping an elderly man seeking the release of his son from prison, she did not have time to seek the release of Papá and will have to return the next day. Mamá is frustrated that her daughter, who loves to fight for what she believes is right, has forgotten to put their family first. Helping the old man means Papá will spend longer in prison. But for Minerva, helping the old man was the right thing to do. She tells her mother “it’s all the same fight” because she is fighting not just for the release of her own father but for justice for all Dominicans. This sense of community responsibility continues throughout Minerva’s life and the life of all the Mirabals.

Quote 4

Voz del pueblo, voz del cielo,’ Dedé would quote. Talk of the people, voice of God.

Alvarez repeats this phrase in Chapters 9, 10, and 12, deepening its meaning from a familiar proverb to a subtextual declaration that both God and the people of the Dominican Republic are on the Mirabals’ side, connecting their political work to the strong religious themes of the book. First Dedé and then Mamá use these words to refer to rumors that the Trujillo regime plans to have the sisters killed, as a warning to Patria, Minerva, and Mate against traveling over the mountains to visit Leandro and Manolo in prison. Patria calls the pastoral letter priests all over the country read in support of the opposition movement “the Voice of God,” showing her belief that working for the movement is an extension of her Catholic faith. “Talk of the people, voice of God” is the title of the final section of Minerva’s story, leading up to the ambush. In the novel’s epilogue, the people who met the sisters that day or witnessed their deaths visit Dedé, bringing their stories as offerings. Alvarez uses these stories to create a sense of the love and respect people have for the Butterflies as civic saints.