The Act 1 Scene 1 of the play describes his cell and his fame for some monumental event in his past and later the apparent hallucination of Song Liling, a Chinese woman performing in the opera Madame Butterfly. The opera has symbolic significance and there is a reference to it off and on in the play.
The character of Gallimard has been presented as in contrast to Pinkerton in Giacomo Puccini’s Madam Butterfly (produced, 1904; published, 1935). Gallimard evaluates himself as gauche and inept in love making, but is quite surprising that he could woo Song Liling, the charming Oriental woman.
Gallimard was totally unaware of the fact that Liling is a communist agent, assigned to extract the information about the Vietnam War. Though Gallimard could attain high positions because of his Oriental affairs, he was demoted and sent back to France when his analysis on East-West relations proved wrong. To pursue their plans, the communists sent Liling to France to resume his affair with Gallimard.
When Liling is arrested and produced before the court for espionage, he agrees that Gallimard had handed over him confidential documents and supported him and his son for fifteen years. At the court, Liling reveals his real gender and appears in men’s clothes. Towards the last part of the play Gallimard realises his own faults that he had kept the false concepts about an Oriental woman who can sacrifice everything for him. The last scene of the play witnesses the death of Gallimard.