Orientalism in M. Butterfly

Topics: Western world, Orient, Orientalism Pages: 3 (936 words) Published: November 21, 2010
In the play M. Butterfly, David Henry Hwang portrays examples of how the practice of Orientalism and race and gender stereotypes in western culture functioned in the relationship between Gallimard and Song and he subverts these stereotypes towards the end of the play. It is apparent that Hwang is showing us how Song played up to the exploited image of Oriental women as demure and submissive and used Gallimard’s exotic and imperialistic view of the East to trick Gallimard for Song’s own needs.

The scene where Toulon is asking Gallimard for advice about what to tell the Americans is a perfect example Orientalism. Toulon comes to Gallimard because he is the one with an “Oriental” mistress and he thinks he would have better insight into the eastern way of thinking. This shows Orientalism is already at play. Toulon already assumes that Orientals think and react differently from themselves, the westerners. Gallimard further pushes the envelope by insisting to Toulon that the Orientals are “just like us” and that the Vietnamese people would be welcoming to the Americans coming into their country. During the conversation between Toulon and Gallimard, it almost seems as though Gallimard’s entire dialogue is describing Song and his relationship with “her”. He says that Orientals will always give in to the greater power eventually. The way Gallimard says this shows how he views the Orient. If the west is the great, strong, masculine power then the east has to be weak and effeminate in nature. This is an example of the binary opposition of east and west.

Gallimard views the Orient with this combination of the gender and race stereotypes hugely due to his relationship with Song. In the beginning of their relationship, Song was confident and outspoken, which surprised Gallimard because he had a different idea of how Oriental women were supposed to be. However, the minute Song admitted that she dropped her pride and gave her heart, Gallimard’s suspicions were...
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