Illusion in M. Butterfly In David Henry Hwang's play M. Butterfly we are introduced to Rene Gallimard who has unknowingly been sexually involved with another man for twenty years. The idea of mistaken gender within the play causes the reader to question how could one mistake his/her lover's gender for so long? In Rene Gallimard's search for self-identity he ignorantly chooses illusion over reality. Hwang effectively uses the opera Madame Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini as a framework to mold the main character, Rene Gallimard. Gallimard longs to be like the hero in Madame Butterfly, Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, who dominates and possesses a beautiful Asian woman. Within the drama Gallimard concedes that he is not very attractive and that he hasn't always been popular amongst the ladies. Gallimard states We, who are not handsome, nor brave, nor powerful, yet somehow believe like Pinkerton, that we deserve a Butterfly(747). Obviously Gallimard is not happy with himself or his life so he goes in search for his Butterfly or more importantly a new identity. Gallimard thinks he has found his Butterfly when he meets and Asian actress named Song Liling. Unaware of Song's real gender he shows interest in her. As the drama progresses so does Gallimard and Song's relationship. Upon becoming intimate Song exclaims, No
keep my clothes. [. . .] Turn off the lights(761). Song's repeated modesty should invoke curiosity within Gallimard but he chooses to overlook her strange requests. As the readers, we too could find nothing wrong with her modesty at this point, but during the trial, revealing facts are exposed. Song replies to the judge I suppose he might have wondered why I was always on my stomach(780). Now that we have the details of their sexual relationship, it is quite clear that Gallimard chooses illusion over reality in order to maintain his new identity. Gallimard becomes as sick as his idol Pinkerton when talks about Song's reaction to his affair It was her tears...
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