Summary: Chapter 2
1938, 1941, 1944
Minerva’s story begins, in first person narrative, when Papá agrees to allow his three eldest daughters to go away to the convent school, Inmaculada Concepción. Minerva meets a fellow student, Sinita Perozo. In exchange for Minerva explaining the secrets of puberty, the “complications,” Sinita tells Minerva the secret of Trujillo. She describes the corrupt way Trujillo came to power, how her uncles, father, and brother were killed by Trujillo’s men after they discovered the bad things Trujillo was doing. The night Minerva learns the secret of Trujillo, her “complications” begin.
Minerva tells the story of Lina Lovatón, a girl about to graduate. She caught the eye of Trujillo, who visits her frequently. Lina confesses she loves Trujillo, who throws her an extravagant seventeenth birthday party. Lina doesn’t return to school, and later Papá tells Minerva that Lina is one of Trujillo’s many girlfriends. Lina becomes pregnant, and is exiled to Miami, her life having been threatened by Trujillo’s wife, Doña María. Sinita calls Trujillo “the devil.” But Minerva pities him.
The Performance 1944
Minerva and her classmates are invited to the capital to perform a skit for Trujillo to celebrate the country’s centennial and the generosity of Trujillo. In the skit, Minerva represents the oppressed Motherland, Sinita is Liberty, and other classmates are Glory and the narrator. During the skit, Sinita is to unbind Minerva. Instead, she steps in front of Trujillo with an arrow, as if to shoot him. Trujillo’s son, Ramfis, grabs Sinita and violently restrains her. Then, he orders Sinita to untie Minerva. “Use your dog teeth, bitch,” he snarls at her. When Minerva is freed, she shouts “¡Viva Trujillo, ¡Viva Trujillo!” According to Sinita, Minerva saved the day.
Summary: Chapter 3
This little book belongs to María Teresa
1945 to 1946
We first come to know María Teresa, who her family calls Mate, through entries she writes in the diary given to her by Minerva for her First Communion. María Teresa is at Inmaculada Concepcion. She doesn’t like school, but it helps that Minerva is still there, in her final year.
While on Christmas break, the family celebrates Benefactor’s Day. (Trujillo is the Benefactor, and he’s also known as El Jefe.) María Teresa is so grateful that Trujillo is their president.
María Teresa returns to school. One day, Minerva is caught sneaking out of school, she says to visit their sick Tío Mon. María Teresa corroborates Minerva’s story, but later confronts Minerva about her lying. María Teresa discovers that her sister has been attending secret meetings with a group opposed to Trujillo. Trujillo orders people who oppose him to be killed. María Teresa reevaluates everything she believes to be true about Trujillo.
Over the next several months, María Teresa writes that police come to the school, looking for Hilda, a member of Minerva’s dissident group. Minerva graduates, and María Teresa recounts the sad occasion of burying her sister Patria’s baby boy, born dead. The final entry reports that Trujillo’s men have arrested Hilda. Minerva buries all evidence of her involvement in the resistance. María Teresa should bury her diary as well, Minerva suggests.
Analysis: Chapter 2 & Chapter 3
These chapters revolve around the theme of personal awakenings that start Minerva, María Teresa, and Patria on their paths to adulthood. At school, Minerva meets and immediately befriends Sinita, who is impoverished because Trujillo has killed all her male relatives. Through her sympathy for Sinita, Minerva begins to understand the ruthless nature of the Trujillo regime. When Trujillo visits the school and subsequently chooses a student there, Lina Lovatón, as a mistress, Minerva learns how even Trujillo’s favor can ruin a life. Lina goes from a vivacious schoolgirl to a pampered prisoner, pregnant and trapped in a mansion, waiting for Trujillo to return to her until she is ultimately exiled to Miami, her life destroyed by Trujillo’s whim. At the beginning of the chapter, Minerva is frustrated with a rabbit she tries to free who will not leave her cage, believing the rabbit who prefers captivity is nothing like her. However, after she sees what happens to Lina, the rabbit cage takes on symbolic meaning, and Minerva comes to see the world as a series of cages. She becomes determined to work for true freedom. By the end of her chapter, Minerva has begun attending political meetings and works with Sinita and other classmates to turn the patriotic skit they perform for Trujillo into a bold protest.
Minerva’s friendship with Sinita, Elsa, and Lourdes becomes the basis for the ways she will organize groups of women throughout her life. By the end of her chapter, the closeness among the “quadruplets,” as the four friends are known, has become a tool for political protest. This group foreshadows the revolutionary cells Minerva will be part of later in her life, including, ultimately, the Butterflies. Sinita and Elsa will both play roles in her adult political life, underscoring the theme of loyalty that runs through the book.
María Teresa undergoes her own political awakening in these chapters. Much younger than her sisters, she fills the early pages of her diary with excited descriptions of clothing and other childish delights. However, after she catches Minerva lying about leaving the school grounds to visit their uncle, Minerva confides in her about her growing political involvement. This sets up internal conflict for María Teresa. She struggles with imagining that Trujillo, whom she has imagined watching over her like God, could be bad.
Secrets are a motif throughout this section of the book. After Minerva tells Sinita everything she knows about menstruation, Sinita trades her the secret of Trujillo: “We can all be killed.” María Teresa keeps Minerva’s secret about the political meetings. Minerva’s friend Hilda is hidden from the police by the nuns after secret papers she had hidden in a car are discovered. Because María Teresa has written about Hilda in her diary, Minerva makes her bury it with Minerva’s own poems and papers and letters. Secrets remain a frequent pattern throughout the book, reflecting the necessity of keeping secrets while living under a repressive political regime and the impossibility of fully understanding or negotiating rationally with a government determined to keep secrets from its people.