This study guide will help you analyze the text “Butterflies” by Patricia Grace. The text is found in Targets, pp. 275-276. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Patricia Grace (b. 1937) is a Maori author from New Zealand. Her work includes children’s books, short stories and novels. She is considered one of the best known contemporary Maori authors. “Butterflies” was published in 1987 together with other short stories in a collection titled Electric City and Other Short Stories. Grace received an international prize for literature in 2008.


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Social setting

The social setting of the story explores the differences between people who earn a living as rural farmers and middle-class people. 

The grandparents belong to the working class. They work the land to feed themselves and their granddaughter, so they see things from a practical point of view. To them, butterflies are pests because they cause great damage to their crops. If their crops are damaged, it means they might have to go hungry. 

The teacher, however, is middle class. She buys her vegetables from the supermarket (p. 275, ll. 36-37). She sees the butterflies as “beautiful creatures. They (…) visit all the pretty flowers” (p. 275, ll. 30-31). Her point of view is limited and impractical, as her life experience has not provided her with the information which the grandparents have gained first-hand. 

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