"I got braver like a crab going sideways. I inched towards courage the best way I could, helping out with the little things."
In Part II, chapter eight, Patria gradually begins to look beyond the needs of her immediate family and joins the revolution with Mate and Minerva. Like all the sisters, Patria struggles to find the courage to rebel against the government. The metaphor of a crab contrasts Patria’s gradual process of joining the revolution with Minerva and Mate’s greater boldness. Patria defines herself principally in relationship to her family. She marries very young and begins raising children while she is still a teenager, keeping her tied to her home while her sisters are going to new places and encountering new ideas. Patria finds the courage to aid the revolutionary cause through a sense of maternal care: her first contributions are to take in her young niece and nephew, allowing their parents to devote themselves to the cause without putting their small children in danger.
"I could be brave if someone were by me every day of my life to remind me to be brave. I don’t come by it naturally."
"None of us do," Minerva noted quietly.
In Part III, chapter nine, Dedé struggles with her desire to join her sisters in the revolution and her fear of losing her children to Jaimito, who threatens to leave her if she becomes involved. Dedé makes up her mind to leave her domineering husband, only to realize that even if she sets aside her fear of Jaimito, she is too frightened to rebel against Trujillo. Dedé tells Minerva she is not like the other sisters, whom she imagines are naturally brave. Minerva’s correction reminds the reader of the struggles each sister goes through to overcome her own fears, a major theme of the novel. Alvarez presents the Mariposas as human heroes who decide to work for the liberation of their country not because they do not fear but because they choose to act courageously. In the conclusion of this scene, Minerva notes that Dedé is very brave in her own struggles because she stands up to Jaimito and demands he return her children.
Where does that sister of mine get her crazy courage? As she was being marched down the hall, a voice from one of the cells they passed called out, Mariposa does not belong to herself alone. She belongs to Quisqueya! Then everyone was beating on the bars, calling out, ¡Viva la Mariposa! Tears came to my eyes. Something big and powerful spread its wings inside me. Courage, I told myself. And this time, I felt it.
In Part III, chapter 11, Minerva is sent to solitary confinement at La Victoria for fighting the guards, who try to remove her crucifix as part of ending a solidarity movement among the prisoners. Despite her attempts to train her mind and stay busy, Mate struggles throughout this section of the book with fear and despair, particularly after Minerva insists they have a responsibility to set a good example by refusing the pardons they are offered. However, in this moment, Mate finds she feels her own courage grow. Seeing Minerva’s bravery and the support her actions inspire from the other prisoners finally gives Mate the courage she has been pretending to have while in prison. The prisoners claim Minerva, in her role as a Mariposa, belongs to Quisqueya, or all of the Dominican Republic. The claim suggests that the sisters’ sacrifice in refusing the pardons has been worthwhile. This passage compares the courage Mate feels to a powerful winged creature, extending the book’s association of butterflies with bravery.