Characterization of Papa

By Catherine C, Meara I, & Amanda M

Choose your Side:

Situation 1

You and your friend both apply for the same job. Your friend, whom you have worked with for several years, had their interview before you. When you go in for yours the interviewer asks you about your friend's work ethic and general questions about how they are in the work place.

Do you say your friend is a hard worker, boosting their chance of getting the job?

Or

Do you say their are not a good person to work with to help your chances of getting the job?

Situation 2

Your birthday is coming up and you want to have your party on the exact day. It turns out one of your friends is wanting to have a party on that same day.

Do you ask your friend to move their party so everyone will go to yours?

Or

Do you move your party so your friend can have their party on that day?

Situation 3

You are on a sports team. Usually you play about once a game. Today is the day college scouts come to watch your team and your coach asks if you want to go in. The other person who could go in has been on the bench the whole game and probably won't get the chance to go in again. Unsure if you get another chance to play this game

Do you take the opportunity to play?

Or

Do you let the person who is usually on the bench play?

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Selfless vs Selfish

Overview

In the novel "In the Time of the Butterflies", by Julia Alvarez, Enrique Mirabal Fernandez is the father of the Mirabal sisters. He owns a successful farm and is a wealthy merchant. Because Papa is wealthy, he is invited to events celebrating Trujillo and he attends not to cause trouble. He always says that Trujillo needs help running the government, but he never acts on his words. It is learned that he also has a second family that he takes care of. Papa is aware of the revolution going on around him, but he chooses not to get involved because he fears for his family. However, his family disrespects Trujillo and Papa is placed in jail. In jail, he suffers a heart attack or stroke and he doesn't receive proper medical treatment. When he is finally released from jail, he is very weak and distraught. Papa always appeared to be strong and firm on his beliefs, but after prison it is apparent that it was all just an act. He would criticize the government in the safety of his own home or car where he knew it was okay to speak of such things. However when it came time to stand up the government and Trujillo publicly he would back out and become a coward. Papa contradicted himself throughout the novel until he died. At the beginning novel, his family thought that he was a selfless person that would do anything to keep them safe and happy. But it is learned later on in the novel Papa's true characteristics are shown when he chose his own protection over his family's well-being.


Quote 1

"He pulled a long face. 'If all my little chickens go, what will become of me?' I thought he was joking, but his eyeshade their serious look." (Alvarez 12)

Quote 2

"Papa's eyes light up, remembering. 'The first year you wanted to look pretty for me, so you wore a nice dress to the fields. By the time we finished, it looked like the sackcloth the Yuccas were in!' He is looking directly at her, smiling. She stares at him, her eyes glistening with tears." (Alvarez 113)

Quote 3

"Right then and there, it hit me harder than his slap: I was much stronger than Papa, Mama was much stronger. He was the weakest one of all. It was he who would have the hardest time living with the shabby choices he'd made. He needed our love." (Alvarez, 89)

Conclusion

Papa always said that Trujillo needed help running the government, but he never acted on his words. Papa is aware of the revolution going on around him, but he chooses not to get involved because he fears for his family or really he fears for himself. Papa always appeared to be strong and firm on his beliefs, but after prison it is apparent that it was all just an act. He would criticize the government in the safety of his own home or car where he knew it was okay to speak of such things. However when it came time to stand up the government and Trujillo publicly he would back out and become a coward. Papa contradicted himself throughout the novel until he died. At the beginning novel, his family thought that he was a selfless person that would do anything to keep them safe and happy. But it is learned later on in the novel Papa's true characteristics are shown when he chose his own protection over his family's well-being.

Questions

  1. Do you think Papa was more selfish or selfless? Give examples.
  2. Is there such a thing as selfless-selfishness (being both selfless and selfish)? Give examples from Papa or in the real world.
  3. If the affair did not take place, would Papa be considered a selfish character?
  4. As we have seen, the battle of selfishness vs selflessness was prominent with Papa. Is there other characters who have both of these qualities prominent in them?
  5. How would the story different if he was an only selfless character? What about only selfish?