"In the Time of the Butterflies," Vocabulary from Part 2

Julia Alvarez's "In the Time of the Butterflies" follows the four brave Mirabal sisters as they seek to overthrow the corrupt Trujillo government in the Dominican Republic.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Epilogue

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. reluctant
    not eager
    Minerva had reluctantly chaperoned Dede and Jaimito and brought her cedula to be stamped.
  2. illicit
    contrary to or forbidden by law
    But they did want to know if he had ever offered me any kind of illicit materials.
  3. chastise
    censure severely
    Dede chastised him for suggesting such a thing about her sister.
  4. filigree
    delicate and intricate ornamentation
    A small diamond set at the center of a gold filigree flower.
  5. disembodied
    not having a material body
    Lio’s whispers were eerie, a disembodied voice from the dark interior of the car.
  6. premonition
    an early warning about a future event
    I was sure I was having premonitions that Lio had not escaped after all.
  7. ambivalence
    mixed feelings or emotions
    I forgot my earlier ambivalence, and I blamed Papa for everything: his young woman, his hurting Mama, his cooping me up while he went gallivanting around.
  8. debonair
    having a sophisticated charm
    But the truth was, Mama looked old, even older than Papa with his dapper new hat and his linen guayaberas and his high black boots, and a debonair cane that seemed more a self-important prop than a walking aid.
  9. relent
    give in, as to influence or pressure
    Finally, Mama relented, but she insisted Pedrito and Patria go along to take care of me, and Jaimito and Dede go to make sure Patria and Pedrito did their job.
  10. consolation
    the comfort you feel when soothed in times of disappointment
    As a consolation prize, I offered to bring her back another souvenir.
    A "consolation prize" is usually given to someone who lost at something in order to make her feel better.
  11. merely
    and nothing more
    Papa hadn’t broken with this woman but merely moved her off the grounds and into town.
  12. respectable
    characterized by conventionally acceptable morals
    We drove down narrow streets, past row on row of respectable little houses.
  13. devotee
    an ardent follower and admirer
    My theory is that the god of thunder Huracan always acts up around the holiday of the Conquistador, who killed off all his Taino devotees.
  14. benefactor
    a person who helps people or institutions
    Manuel de Moya is supposed to be so smooth with the ladies, they probably think they’re following the example of the Virgencita if they bed down with the Benefactor of the Fatherland.
  15. dais
    a platform raised above the surrounding level
    Only one reserved table is left in front of the dais.
  16. hesitation
    the act of pausing uncertainly
    “It is really quite an honor,” he adds when he notes my hesitation.
  17. illustrious
    having or conferring glory
    After the toast, the Spanish ambassador presents this illustrious descendant of the great Conquistador with yet another medal.
  18. pervasive
    spreading or spread throughout
    I start to tell her about the hanky-panky I saw under the table, but the pervasive Manuel de Moya is beside us again.
  19. ailment
    an often persistent bodily disorder or disease
    Later, at the table, I listen to him make idle conversation with the old senator about the various ailments they have both suffered.
  20. indulgent
    tolerant or lenient
    He gives me the indulgent smile of an adult hearing an outrageous claim from a child.
  21. incriminate
    suggest that someone is guilty
    All the way home, I keep going over and over them as if I were an intelligence officer marking all the incriminating passages.
  22. petition
    request formally and in writing
    We are driving around in the rain in San Francisco, getting our last-minute errands done before we leave for the capital this afternoon to petition for Papa’s release.
  23. cleave
    separate or cut with a tool, such as a sharp instrument
    That cleaving look in her eye is not just memory.
    Note that this word has two definitions that are almost opposite: one means to cut in two and the other means to stick to.
  24. peruse
    examine or consider with attention and in detail
    The general picks up a page from the folder and peruses it.
    Although "peruse" can also antonymously mean "to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner" the given definition is the one most often used.
  25. Epiphany
    twelve days after Christmas
    She was saving it up for my Epiphany present, but she saw me so upset at Papa’s funeral, she thought it would help me most now.
    Held on January 6th, the festival celebrates the manifestation of the divine nature of Christ to the Gentiles (as represented by the Magi). In a general non-religious sense, an epiphany is "a sudden intuitive realization or perception of reality."
  26. irreparable
    impossible to rectify or amend
    Knowing as I do, the high esteem in which my husband Enrique Mirabal held your illustrious person, and now somewhat less confounded by the irreparable loss of my unforgettable companero, I write to inform Your Excellency of his death on Monday, the fourteenth day of this month.
  27. beneficent
    doing or producing good
    Especially now, in this dark moment, we look to your beacon from our troubled waters and count on your beneficent protection and wise counsel until we should breathe the very last breath of our own existence.
  28. suffuse
    cause to spread or flush or flood through, over, or across
    This morning, Minerva came into the kitchen to get Manolo his cafecito, and her face was suffused with a certain sweetness.
  29. contraband
    goods whose trade or possession is prohibited by law
    I’m still worried she might have spotted our work, but Sonia says that woman has a different kind of contraband in mind.
  30. contraption
    a device or control that is very useful for a particular job
    Maybe she’ll think it’s some sort of abortion contraption!
  31. temporal
    characteristic of this world rather than the spiritual world
    The church, refusing as it did to get involved in temporal matters, remained the only sanctuary.
    The Latin "tempus" means "time"--the physical world and all the matters relating to it would be considered temporal in comparison to the eternal nature of the spiritual world.
  32. imminent
    close in time; about to occur
    Ever since I’d had my vision of the Virgencita, I knew spirit was imminent, and that the churches were just glass houses, or way stations on our road through this rocky life.
  33. yearning
    prolonged unfulfilled desire or need
    My old yearning to be in the religious life stirred.
  34. radiance
    the quality of being bright and sending out rays of light
    That room was silent with the fury of avenging angels sharpening their radiance before they strike.
  35. bountiful
    producing in abundance
    It was in those old and bountiful fields that Pedrito and his son and a few of the other men buried the boxes once we got them loaded and sealed.

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