Essay, 5 pages (1200 words)

Patria’s eternal courage

Patria, of Julia Álvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies, contrasts devastating acts of courage with moments of uncertain fragility. She lives in a time period when her country is ruled by the harshest of leaders, Raphael Trujillo. After gaining power, Trujillo established a secret police force that tortured and murdered the opposition to his rule. The Mirabel sisters overcome the regime of one of the cruelest dictators in history through their determination. Patria in particular indicates that she is mentally and morally prepared to surmount adversity. As the oldest of the Mirabel sisters, she uses her experience and religious beliefs to aid her in surviving. Throughout Patria’s journey, she depends on various characters to help her vanquish the challenges she faces. Although Patria encounters moments of weakness, she exposes the strength of her character by persevering till the end. Patria exposes her first example of courage when she shows concern for her sister Minerva. Minerva speaks out against the government because she has lost her religious faith. Through worrying about Minerva, Patria begins to question her own faith. Her confession comes as a shock. She describes it as, “[…] I admit it, Minerva’s talk had begun affecting me. I started noting the deadness in Padre Ignacio’s voice, the tedium between the gospel and communion […] My faith was shifting, and I was afraid,” (Álvarez 52). Patria feels confused and questions her own religious beliefs because she comes to the realization that it may not be a necessity to her life. Patria nearly gives up her faith, but then realizes it is an essential part of her life. She does not want to give up her religion because she is afraid; she has never lived as a secular person. Ultimately, she retains her religious faith because of her husband’s grief. Patria puts aside her own suffering to rescue him from his, and in doing so, realizes that religion is part of her. Patria’s mini-epiphany demonstrates that Patria not only cares immensely about her husband to put his needs in front of her own, but also that she does have courage to push through, even in the most difficult of circumstances. In addition, while listening to Brother Daniel speak about the Assumption, the mountainside is bombed and chaos immediately ensues. Patria reveals how drastically the incident has affected her when she says, “ Coming down that mountain, I was a changed woman. I may have worn the same sweet face, but now I was carrying not just my child but that dead boy as well,” (162). Trujillo’s men bomb the mountainside and Patria watches an innocent boy die, scarring her memory. After his death, Patria struggles to reconcile her commitment to God, and she begins to question her identity and morality. Although this incident scars Patria for the rest of her life, it also strengthens her shattered morale. She is now able to tolerate more than she could before. In response to the bombing, Patria vows to help in the resistance against Trujillo and his men—a promise she bravely keeps. Patria utilizes religion in order to cope with the loss of her family. She also uses it to help her believe that one day Trujillo will be gone and her family can live in peace, “ Maybe because I was used to the Good Shepherd and Trujillo side by side in the old house, I caught myself praying a little greeting as I walked by […] I wanted something from him, and prayer was the only way I knew how to ask,” (202). The theme of Trujillo being compared with Jesus is prominent for Patria throughout this chapter. She relies on praying to him because she desperately wants her family back from Trujillo. Her religious faith surfaces once more, but this time in a distressed manner. Patria’s religious beliefs are portrayed as the only way of achieving her ultimate goal of seeing her family again. Patria further uses religion to help her overcome the pain of her imprisoned son. The violent imagery that infuses all the sisters’ narrations persists throughout the latter parts of the novel. Patria suddenly comes to the realization that she can do something to stop Captain Peña’s madness, “ That’s when it struck me. This devil might seem powerful, but finally I had a power stronger than his. So I used it. Loading up my heart with prayer, I aimed it at the lost soul before me,” (216). Patria visits Captain Peña in order to see if there is any way of him pardoning her son. When Peña tells her that this is not a matter that he can deal with, Patria is shocked and begins to cry. She quickly realizes, however, that even though Captain Peña has all the power, she has a power stronger than his—her belief. She refers to Captain Peña as a “ lost soul” because of his empty character. Captain Peña refuses to see the situation from Patria’s perspective, which is what bothers Patria the most. She “ aims” her prayer at Captain Peña’s “ lost soul” hoping that he will come to the realization that he can in fact do something to help Patria. Although Patria is very optimistic, she also depicts her courageous morale. She never stops believing—a unique trait only Patria possesses. Patria indicates that religion is not the only important part of her life; she also cares very much for her family, “ But Nelson found out about the letter from his blabbermouth aunt in the capital […] But I stood firm. I’d rather have him stay alive, a boy forever, than be a man dead in the ground,” (158). Patria sends a letter to the head of Nelson’s school requesting for Nelson not to be released from school unless he is coming home. Patria sends the letter because even though Nelson is very studious, he is not always in control of himself. Sending the letter is a testament to her love for Nelson and the good intentions she has for him. She only wants the best for her son. Furthermore, Patria continues to prove that she is very much a family-oriented person. She always puts her family before herself as seen when Patria shockingly tells Captain Peña, “‘ Take me instead, please.’ Patria knelt by the door, pleading with Captain Peña. ‘ I beg you for the love of god,”’ (195). When Captain Peña, head of the northern division of the SIM comes to take Mate, Patria boldly tells him to take her instead. Although Captain Peña does not end up taking Patria in place of Mate, offering herself only solidifies how caring of a person she is. She puts her own life at risk in order to protect her baby sister. The end of the novel signifies that Patria is a changed woman. She experiences many situations to which she is not accustomed. These incidents make her leave her comfort zone, and in doing so, Patria gains a wealth of knowledge and experience that shape her into a dignified woman who exhibits the traits of a courageous human being. Time and time again, Patria is put into a difficult situation, but she comes out each unharmed and as a stronger person. These incidents come to define the Patria we know at the end of the novel; she is a mature young adult who has survived the toughest of obstacles, and in doing so, she has not only helped herself, but the people that she loves the most.

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