Courageous Love, Courageous Loss “
You cannot love without the risk of loss.” -Charlie Day.
In Dreaming in Cuban, In the Time of the Butterflies, and Breath, Eyes, Memory, love and loss intertwine so that one element can not exist without the other. It is by love, courage, and perseverance that the protagonists of the story are able to face the devastation of losing family, innocence, and love. Love creates unbreakable family bonds in Breath, Eyes, Memory and In the Time of the Butterflies, while it destroys the fulfillment of a character’s life in Dreaming in Cuban. Unlike love, which fluctuates and has different consequences in each story, loss carries constant clouds of devastation and brings pain to the characters in all three stories.
The treasures of love come at a price of pain and loss. In all three stories, the characters who expose themselves to the heartfelt emotion find themselves lost in a world of death, hurt, or pain. Every character in the story who is courageous enough to love makes themselves vulnerable to the possibility of losing love, innocence, and purity and while it may not seem so at first, the loss of love in all three stories changes the character who experiences the loss for the better. In The Time of the Butterflies, written by Julia Alvarez, is an action-packed story of love, loss, and courage. Following four sisters throughout many different time periods, the novel unravels to reveal a daring journey of rebellion. In this story, the love between the Mirabal sisters creates an unbreakable bond of sistership between Patria, Dede, Minerva, and Maria Teresa. Family is the bonding element that drives the revolution: the unity and determination between the Mirabal sisters create the endurance to fight against Trujillo, ““We want you with us. That’s why we’re here.” Minerva’s eyes as she fixed them on her sister were full of longing.” (pg 179) The sisters work together and never leave each other behind. Though some sisters are more invested in the revolution than others, the union of all four sisters reigns integral to the uprising. The love between the sisters is potent and pure, but sadly it is not sufficient in preventing the death of Patria, Minerva, and Mate. The courageous sisters stand strong together throughout the story, but towards the end of the story, Dede decides not to participate in a journey that the rest of her sisters embark on.
A seemingly innocent expedition to visit their husbands in prison results in the death of Patria, Minerva, and Mate. Although she is not at fault for the planned murder of her sisters, Dede carries the lost lives of her sisters for the rest of her own. Regretful of her decision not to join them, Dede suffers from the anguish and heartache of losing her best friends, “I didn’t want to hear how they did it. I saw the marks on Minerva’s throat; fingerprints sure as day on Mate’s pale neck. They also clubbed them, I could see that when I went to cut her hair.” (pg 303) Besides Dede, every Mirabal sister pays the ultimate price in honor of the revolution: death. A result of undying courage and dedication, each sister endures a unique amalgamation of love, pain, and conflict. Dede, the last sister standing, lives to tell the tragic story of courage and loss. Though she forever grieves the broken physical bond of sistership, the spiritual connection between the sisters lives on and is preserved by Dede. The death of ¾ of the Mirabal sisters shines light on Trujillo’s evil to the people of their society.
Determined to honor the death of her siblings, Dede works for the rest of her life to fight for justice. The pain of death reveals an everlasting love between the sisters that is permanent. Love quietly surrounds the chaotic events of Breath, Eyes, Memory, as protagonist Sophie Caco and her mother, Martine Caco, reunite to courageously face their demons of the past and present. Martine’s demise is her traumatic childhood, which consisted of dehumanizing tests by her mother and a morbid rape by Sophie’s father. Her innocence is instantly shredded and replaced with an everlasting mark of agony. While Martine always had the best intentions for her daughter, her inability to recover from her own mental and physical harassments causes Sophie great agony and misery. Fearful of her daughter getting raped like she was, Martine attempts to “protect” Sophie by testing her. Martine knows nothing better than to test her own daughter, and as a result, Sophie’s innocence, confidence, and courage is lost at the hands of her own mother. The societal injustices and perceptions that are adverse to women cause a cascade of hurt and pain for the women in the Caco family.
Thankfully, time and space provide an occasion for Martine and Sophie to reflect on their traumatic pasts and eventually, they both learn to heal and grow together, ““I did it,” she said, “because my mother had done it to me. I have no greater excuse. I realize standing here that the two greatest pains of my life are very much related. The one good thing about my being raped was that it made the testing stop. The testing and the rape. I live both every day.”” (pg 173) Martine recognizes her failure to conquer the testing and the rape and apologizes to Sophie for the mistakes of her past. The animosity Sophie once felt towards her mother crumbles and is quickly replaced with forgiveness. Through love, Sophie is able to understand her mother’s motive for causing Sophie’s own pain and trauma, “ I was okay. I was safe. We were both safe. The past was gone. Even though she had forced it on me, of her sudden will, we were now even more than friends. We were twins, in spirit, Marasas.” (pg 203) The loss of innocence is replaced with love, and Martine and Sophie’s relationship grows to become one of support and encouragement. After Sophie forgives her mom for the testing, their mother-daughter bond solidifies. As the story seems to reach a resolution, love surrounds the narrative. Although Sophie and Martine never say “I love you” to one another, their love for each other is expressed through their thoughtful actions and meaningful dialect. Sadly at the very end, despite overcoming the many hardships she was faced with in her early life, Martine is unable to love herself and the child that she carries. The love that Sophie has for Martine is conquered by Martine’s inability to love herself and her child. Martine finally loses her courage to face her demons when she is impregnated with a reminder of her chilling past.
Martine ultimately kills herself and the story ends with Sophie losing her beloved mother and sibling. This seemingly devastating ending is truly a blessing in disguise- it allows Martine to be released from her eternal agony while resolving Sophie’s hardships. Though sad, Sophie understands her mother’s inability to face the continuous suffering. Though a morbid death, Martine escapes her pain and abandons her family knowing that she is loved. Though Cristina Garcia’s Dreaming in Cuban follows the many members in each generation of the del Pino family, Garcia highlights the hardships of Celia del Pino, the binding character throughout the story. Unable to let go of her lost love, Celia causes herself to suffer an everlasting pain of sadness and loss, and this ultimately leads to her demise. Gustavo, already married, meets Celia in her store at El Encanto the spring before she was pressured to marry to Jorge. Their wistful and passionate relationship, a short-lived yet magical affair, leaves Celia with the dream of an unattainable life with Gustavo. During their affair, Gustavo gifts Celia with drop pearl earrings to express his love for her. Her deep obsession and desire to be with him cultivate from that moment on, “Gustavo returned to Celia’s counter again and again. He brought her butterfly jasmine, the symbol of patriotism and purity, and told her that Cuba, too, would one day be free of blood suckers. Gustavo sang to her beauty mark, the lunar by her mouth. He bought her drop pearl earrings.” (pg 36) Despite the fact that she marries Jorge, Celia’s infatuation with Gustavo grows because she believes they are soulmates. The magical love story, represented by the pearl earrings, comes to an end when Gustavo decides to return to his wife in Granada. Devastated by Gustavo’s decision to abandon their relationship, Celia mourns for her lost love through written letters, “For twenty-five years, Celia wrote her Spanish lover a letter on the eleventh day of each month, then stored it in a satin-covered chest beneath her bed. Celia has removed her drop pearl earrings only nine times, to clean them.
No one ever remembers her without them.” (pg 38) Celia, stuck in a fantasy world in which she and Gustavo are meant to be with each other, holds fast to the earrings and their representation of Gustavo’s love. Because she is unable to relieve herself of the elusive utopia in which they are together, Celia inhibits the growth of her and her husband’s relationship. Celia’s inability to gain the courage to live life without Gustavo leads her to live a life of yearning for the unattainable. Her obsession with her lost love leads to her inability to live life to the fullest. The loss of love in this story follows Celia throughout her entire life until she reaches the grave. Celia’s death, though unfortunate, releases her from the burden that she was never unable to let go of. The mysteries of the ocean liberates Celia from the loss that she never recovered from. Often faced with hardship and disappointment, the main characters of each story fight the pain of loss while attempting to embrace the beauty of love. The sad and painful death of 3 Mirabal sisters forces Dede to grow and mature to be a strong, independent woman who fights for what she believes in. She carries the courage of her dead sisters and lives the remainder of her life honoring her sisters by battling injustice. Patria, Minerva, and Mate do not die in vain, as their honorable deaths spark an urgency in the revolution and prove the unbreakable bond of sisterhood. Sophie and Martine prove that while love can mend broken relationships, it cannot always overcome the loss of the pass. Though a morbid death, Martine escapes her eternal agony knowing that she is loved by her husband, daughter, and child. Celia proves the dangers of love, as her inability to recover from the loss of the love of her life, Gustavo, results in her death. Although unfortunate, Celia’s death releases her from the monsters within her. In Dreaming in Cuban, In the Time of the Butterflies, and Breath, Eyes, Memory, loss disguises itself as an evil concept of pain and agony, when it is really a representation of love- of life, happiness, and family.