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Hwang's M. Butterfly - Book Report/Review Example

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Hwang's M. Butterfly

Then, she dances to that same music dressed as Butterfly, the Japanese geisha (10) while Rene Gallimard watches.
The play is about two major characters both representing their respective countries and both have specific missions to fulfill. Rene Gallimard is an American diplomat, stationed in China, who falls head-over-heels in love with a local opera singer. He is transformed from a man who lacks self-confidence at his job and in his marriage when he spends a night at the opera and a brief exchange with the headlining star, Song Liling. Song is an opera singer who seduces Gallimard, and later, manipulates him into revealing a secret diplomatic information, and is also one who keeps a dark secret, which directly coincides with harboring an Adam's apple.
Naturally, like all other spies, Song must think of a way in order to fulfill her mission. What better way to get near a man than to behave like a woman. Song must have been a clever person for, along with the help of her liaison, she must have studied the background, personality and weaknesses of Gallimard and plays on it.
In the play, Gallimard is unable to have control of his psychic life, to fulfill his wishes not even over Song who, also playing out of character, disobeys Gallimard's commands. For instance when she allows Chin to appear on stage:
GALLIMARD (To Song): No! Why does she have to come in
SONG: Rene, be sensible. How come they [the audience] understand the story without her Now, don't embarrass yourself (47).

This is emphasized towards the end of Act two, scene eleven, just before Song announces her upcoming transformation on stage:
"GALLIMARD: You have to do what I say! I'm conjuring you in my mind!
SONG: Rene, I've never done what you've said. Why should it be any different in your mind Now split-the story moves on, and I must change" (78).

Song Liling, who happens to be Gallimard's Butterfly, finally has to reveal herself ass a Mata Hari employed under the Red Chinese government that wants to defeat the Americans who are at war in Vietnam.
Finally, when Song testifies against Gallimard and bares himself naked as proof of his masculinity, Gallimard is forced to realize and see for himself that he has been living in fantasy and has been brutally deceived and betrayed. Gallimard has learned the difference between fantasy and reality but consciously chooses fantasy and death in the manner of Madama Butterfly. Gallimard tells Song, "You showed me your true self when all I loved was a lie." It was Gallimard who is the one abandoned and disgraced in the end.
Song's speech in the courtroom is a sharp knife that cuts through the audience about the truth of the matter. In it he attempts to explain why Gallimard was so resoundingly deceived that he was a woman. The reasons are: men always believe what they want to hear; and the many mistaken assumptions by Westerners about the "Orient," such as: that the East is being seen as inscrutable, feminine, submissive, and agreeable and the Western male's "rape mentality." Because of this, Song concludes that this is the very reason why Westerners will "lose in all dealings with the Orient."
This brings us to the question of who then among the two main characters can be considered as the protagonist and the antagonist There is indeed a blurring of this distinction since both characters exhibit both ...Show more


Hwang's play M. Butterfly is perceived as an intriguing piece of literature that tackles the complex ideas of gender, love, identity, and perception. The play and film version of M. Butterfly, though slightly different in presentation and emphasis, both present the excellent characterization of the protagonist/antagonist Song Liling…
Author : yostfrankie
Hwangs M. Butterfly essay example
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