"In the Time of the Butterflies," Vocabulary from Part 3

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. oversight
    a mistake resulting from inattention
    Dede apologizes for her oversight and introduces the woman to her niece.
  2. delirious
    marked by uncontrolled excitement or emotion
    The interview woman is delirious at the good fortune of meeting both sister and daughter of the heroine of the Fourteenth of June underground.
  3. docile
    willing to be taught or led or supervised or directed
    She had always been the docile middle child, used to following the lead.
    The Latin "docere" means "to teach"--Dede is actually the second of four children, but her middle child docility is heightened by being surrounded by sisters, with the one immediately above her being very religious and the one after her being headstrong.
    Compare with the antonymous "domineering" from this list.
  4. domineer
    rule or exercise power over in a cruel and autocratic manner
    Her life had gotten bound up with a domineering man, and so she shrank from the challenge her sisters were giving her.
    Compare with "docile" from this list--the two example sentences seem to prove that opposites attract.
  5. demise
    the time when something ends
    She herself was preoccupied—by the births of their sons, by the family setbacks after Papa was jailed, by Papa’s sad demise and death, by their own numerous business failures.
  6. vestibule
    a large entrance or reception room or area
    He left her sitting in the small vestibule while he finished up with the delivery Dede could hear going on in the adjoining choir room.
  7. rendezvous
    a meeting planned at a certain time and place
    She told herself that she was going to be late for her rendezvous.
  8. curt
    marked by rude or peremptory shortness
    He was curt in his greetings, even to Manolo, whom he had always liked.
  9. assess
    estimate the nature, quality, ability or significance of
    Dona Leila hurried out to assess the porch.
  10. reconciliation
    the reestablishment of cordial relations
    “We went to Jarabacoa,” Minerva reminded Manolo in a tight voice that suggested she disapproved of the reconciliation he was engineering.
  11. deadlock
    a situation in which no progress can be made
    Her statement broke the deadlock, though it was probably the last thing Minerva had intended.
  12. dismantle
    tear down so as to make flat with the ground
    He had not wanted Dede to accompany me either, but she said she could not allow me to dismantle my house alone.
  13. desecrate
    violate the sacred character of a place or language
    All of it violated, broken, desecrated, destroyed.
  14. conflagration
    a very intense and uncontrolled fire
    And Nelson and Pedrito, seeing the conflagration and fearing for Patria and the children, came running down from the hills, their hands over their heads, giving themselves up.
  15. connoisseur
    an expert able to appreciate a field
    He had an emergency, he told Dede, but being a connoisseur of fear, she guessed he was afraid.
    The Old French "connoistre" means "to know" (which comes from the Latin "cognoscere" which means "to learn")--from these roots alone, the noun "connoisseur" would fit the example sentence, because Dede has experienced fear, so she knows how to recognize it in others. But because "connoisseur" is often used for an expert of the fine arts, connecting it to fear here gives the word an ironic tone.
  16. anguish
    extreme mental distress
    But for now, she wanted to spare the child even a moment of further anguish.
  17. unbearable
    incapable of being put up with
    The screams from the wagon were unbearable to hear.
  18. confiscate
    take temporary possession of a security by legal authority
    They were confiscating the two vehicles registered under a prisoner’s name.
  19. insomnia
    an inability to sleep
    It was not the naughty insomnia that resulted from a trip out to the shed to listen to the contraband station.
  20. proposition
    a suggestion offered for acceptance or rejection
    I guess I saw it as a clear-cut proposition I was making El Jefe.
  21. empathic
    showing empathy or ready comprehension of others' states
    Raulito was having one of his crying fits and Jacqueline, who is empathic when it comes to tears, had joined in.
  22. grievous
    causing or marked by grief or anguish
    “We cannot remain indifferent to the grievous blows that have afflicted so many good Dominican homes...”
  23. depicted
    represented graphically by sketch or design or lines
    The sun was shining through the stained glass window of John the Evangelist, depicted in a loincloth some church ladies had complained was inappropriate, even in our tropical heat.
  24. hilarity
    great merriment
    Inside, Dede and I could barely contain our hilarity.
  25. pittance
    an inadequate payment
    Capitan Victor Alicinio Pena was listed in the real estate transactions as having bought the old Gonzalez farm from the government for a pittance.
  26. distracted
    having the attention diverted especially because of anxiety
    I tried not to be distracted, but to keep right on praying.
  27. inflection
    the patterns of stress and intonation in a language
    I don’t know if I was praying as much as listening intently—trying to judge the success of my petition from every pause and inflection in Pena’s voice.
  28. allegation
    a formal accusation against somebody
    Their allegations against the government were lies.
  29. indiscreet
    lacking discretion; injudicious
    That night as we walked in the garden, I admitted to Mama that I had made an indiscreet promise.
  30. functionary
    a worker who holds or is invested with an office
    Finally, we were escorted down the hall by a nervous little functionary, who kept checking his watch and motioning for us to hurry along.
  31. interminable
    tiresomely long; seemingly without end
    All the way down that interminable hall, Noris held tight to my hand.
  32. consequence
    the outcome of an event
    As a consequence, there have been extra guards patrolling the hall outside our cell, so I didn’t dare write until tonight.
  33. solidarity
    a union of interests or purposes among members of a group
    Minerva and El Rayo cooked up this idea that everyone without exception was to wear a crucifix as a symbol of our solidarity.
  34. unfounded
    without a basis in reason or fact
    Now she’d see that her fears were unfounded.
  35. privilege
    a special advantage or benefit not enjoyed by all
    Magdalena has taught me more about how privileged I really am than all of Minerva’s lectures about class.
  36. memento
    a reminder of past events
    Some of them I’d taught how to write their names, so this is a real memento of my time here.
  37. passive
    peacefully resistant in response to injustice
    Elsa had given me this book when I first got out of prison to show me, she said, that being passive and gentle could be revolutionary.
  38. rhetoric
    using language effectively to please or persuade
    What I needed was a shot of Fidel’s fiery rhetoric.
  39. escapade
    a wild and exciting undertaking
    One night long ago, he had kept Manolo and me, as well as Elsa, in stitches with tales of his journalistic escapades.
  40. diminished
    made to seem smaller or less, especially in worth
    That story was remembered my way, but I felt diminished hearing it.
  41. reinstate
    bring back into original existence, function, or position
    It was the end of September before visiting days were reinstated at La Victoria, and we got to see the men.
  42. fabricate
    make up something artificial or untrue
    We grew suspicious, for a stranger in our midst probably meant a SIM plant with a fabricated name.
  43. imperious
    having or showing arrogant superiority
    Mama murmured her good days, but Dede gave the chauffeur the imperious look of a mistress whose servant has disobeyed her wishes.
  44. reprieve
    a relief from harm or discomfort
    I felt giddy, as if I’d been granted a reprieve from my worse fears.
  45. ubiquitous
    being present everywhere at once
    I had a brief, ludicrous picture of the old, rather heavy woman banging a SIM over the head with her ubiquitous black purse.

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