The stereotypes of M. Butterfly
The play shows the situation of relying on unchallenged stereotypes and cultural confusion. David Henry Hwang attacks the western stereotypes by refiguring the well known theme of Madame Butterfly. He tries to break the century year old butterfly myths of the Asian obedience to a western authority. In the play instead of an submissive Asian women falling for a western man, the man falls in love with the women.
Even though the major event of the play are not in sequential order; being in the mind of Gallimard who takes the audience back and forth from when he was young and till he dies. This is a story of a man who falls deep into his own fantasy love with the image of Oriental woman and was deceived at the end. As Gallimard says at the beginning of the play, “ Alone in this cell, I sit night after night, watching out story play through my head, always searching for a new ending, one that redeems my honor, where she returns, at last to my arms”(Scene 3, Act 1 pg 831). Gallimard is still fantasying about the real ideal women, which does not exist except for in his mind. Gallimard, who is a low ranked diplomat in China, is seeking the prefect woman. He’s vision of a woman is based on the Western stereotypes. In the western imagination the east is feminine, passive and is always playing the victimized some way or another. Song, a Chinese opera singer, says, “It is one of your fantasies, isn’t it? The subservient Oriental woman and the cruel white man. But because it is an Oriental who kills herself for a Westerner-ah!-you find it beautiful” (Scene 4, Act 1 pg 835).
Song plays on the fact that the western men are attracted to weak Oriental women. Aware of this, Song puts on the best performance that attracts Gallimard, and lets him think she is frail and needy of a man’s help. Gallimard, after hearing her singing states, “They say in opera the voice is everything. Here….here was a Butterfly with a little or no voice, but she had...
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