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Contemporary World Literature Essay


The books “In the Time of the Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez and “Autumn of the Patriarch” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez are fictional works that both embody the theme of freedom fighters through their characters and plot. “In the Time of the Butterflies” is a based on the real lives of four sisters from which three join a resistance movement against Trujillo, who is a ruthless leader sanctioning killings, rape, and other forms of violence. The three sisters are referred to as La Mariposas, meaning the Butterflies. The three sisters are eventually murdered but are regarded as heroes in the Dominican Republic. On the other hand, “Autumn of the Patriarch” is a story about a tyrannical leader in the Caribbean, who after the British leave, takes over leadership. The dictator exhibits corruption of power accompanied by violence against his people. When he finally dies, his subjects are overjoyed as it symbolized the end of a dictatorship. The two stories are similar in that they refer to the aspect of creating freedom fighters from their readers. The narratives also employ a similar literary technique to convey the messages of the stories. The literature technique they share in common is the motif of dictatorship. In definition, dictatorship refers to a situation where power and authority are concentrated in an individual or a group of people with the characteristic of having no regard of the input of the subjects towards their leadership. The analysis of both the texts is based on the literary technique of the theme of dictatorship.

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Dictatorship being the main theme contributes to the development of other themes such as family, feminism, and politics. The primary theme drives the Mirabal sisters to fight for freedom and the citizens of the Caribbean to celebrate when they learn about the death of their leader. The evidence of dictatorship in these two books is undeniable with the ruthlessness that is portrayed and undergone by the characters. Evidence from both books will propagate the analysis of the theme of dictatorship. In the book, “In the Time of Butterflies,” the dictator is Raphael Trujillo who rules over the Dominican Republic. The instances where Trujillo vividly shows dictatorship are uncountable, but only sampling will only be of a few. Even before installing himself as the President, Trujillo had always exhibited characteristics of dictatorship beginning with rewriting history books to document his birth and highlight it as the peak of history and renaming the capital city of the Dominican Republic as Trujillo city. He also regarded himself as second to God according to the slogan he forced churches to adopt, “God in Heaven Trujillo on Earth” (Alvarez, 1995). Trujillo is the true representation of a dictator.

It is, therefore, no surprise when he places spies all over the country to report anyone who dared to mention his name in an unflattering way. In Chapter one, the Mirabel family is under suspicion when the girl’s father mentions Trujillo’s name in an unflattering way, and the spies get interested. Maria Teresa clearly expresses the character of Trujillo as a dictator in Chapter 12, when she compares him to Hitler and Mussolini who are recognized as the worst dictators there ever lived (Alvarez, 1995). Trujillo’s dictatorship drives Minerva to fight for freedom when her friend Sinita who shares the atrocities committed against her family by Trujillo. He also prevents her from utilizing her law degree when she refuses his advances. Trujillo’s dictatorship drives the Mirabel sisters to oppose and antagonize him in their pursuit of freedom.

In the book “Autumn of the Patriarch,” the General is the dictator. The British appointed him as the leader but more of their puppet. His dictatorship is tolerated as the military has the power to remove him from his leadership position but his appointment prevents them. Unlike Trujillo, the General is manipulative as he manages to convince the citizens and military to cooperate with him. The General murders the Defence Minister, his closest friend, and consults when he suspects his involvement in conspiracies against him (Marquez, 1976). The General’s dictatorship is also shown when he expels the clergy and pope’s representative for not agreeing to canonize the mother as a saint just because she was the only closest person to him. He also punishes the people who celebrate his death when he stages his death. The general’s ability to manipulate is seen when he somehow convinces the people to kill Jose, a torturer and assassin (Marquez, 1976). The dictatorship of the General ends when he truly dies, which is why when the people hear of his death, they flood the palace to ascertain its truth.

Both books present the characteristics and doings of a dictator towards his people. The two dictators divulge similar traits with the only manipulation being their differentiation. “In the Time of Butterflies,” presents the Maribel sisters who are an embodiment of true freedom fighters while “Autumn of the Patriarch” presents some people plotting conspiracies and seeking to expose the doings of the General, and finally remove him from power. About Julia Alvarez’s argument, both stories act as a gateway into a different reality, which allows the reader to see the effects of dictatorship and actions taken to crush it from an unveiled perspective. Reading and analyzing a different reality presents an opportunity for the reader to form a clear perspective on dictatorship as opposed to analyzing a real situation where factors, such as biasness and fear may hinder clarity.

The adventures in the books become simulations of what dictatorship is, its effects on every aspect of life, and the deterrents of its happening. The stories inspire us to stand for truth, democracy and humanity in leadership, which are key values that freedom fighters embody. As readers, we become mentally equipped, alert in viewing our leaders and their characteristics, and learn how to recognize manipulation. The books appeal to people’s emphasizing nature when they relate with the victims, their families, the kind of life they lead, their memories, and their strength. The readers identify with the freedom fighters, such as the Maribel sisters and admire their courage and determination to fight for their country’s freedom due to their level of patriotism. Both books, “In the Time of Butterflies” and “Autumn of the Patriarch,” provide all information on the topic of dictatorship and freedom fighters such that, at the end of the books, the reader cannot easily be manipulated or dictated upon by any leader in the real world. If any dictator exists, the reader is capable of fighting for their rights by any means possible and not necessarily by physical means.

In conclusion, by virtual of reading the two books while regarding them as simulations of the real world, readers become alert in identifying dictatorship, recognizing manipulation and pursuing justice which is the definition of a freedom fighter.

Alvarez, J. (1995). In the time of butterflies. New York: Plume.
Marquez, G. G. (1976). The autumn of the patriarch. New York: Harper and Row.
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