We touched upon the grouping the occurs in M. Butterfly in previous classes, such as grouping all Asians and stating that they are all demure and weak, particularly the Chinese and Japanese since Song is Chinese and portrays Butterfly, a Japanese character. Something I did notice was that the entire Asian population is grouped together, but the Chinese language, in particular, was grouped as well. In China, several dialects exist. We see Song speak in Mandarin in Act 1, Scene 10, through the written pronunciation, “Kwai-lah,” which means “fast.” However, later in scene directions and through Gallimard we see the pronunciation, “chong-sam,” which is the Cantonese pronunciation of the traditional Chinese gown. By having Gallimard say it makes it seem that he is not throughly educated about Chinese language and culture. I find this funny because in Act 1, Scene 8, Song says, “Well, education has always been undervalued in the West, hasn’t it?” Do you guys think that this is grouping? What other examples of grouping did you see in M. Butterfly?
Throughout M. Butterfly, we see Gallimard wonder in and out of his fantasies and also confuse his fantasy with reality. For example, we see Gallimard in his fantasy world by calling Song “Butterfly” and viewing her as a stereotypical submissive Asian woman. Although, as the audience, we are aware of the line between reality and Gallimard’s fantasy in the play, sometimes the line is blurred. For example, in Act 3, Scene 2, Gallimard only says, “I am transported,” to notify the audience that this is his fantasy. And in the movie, under the same name, this scene happens in reality. I think by bringing the audience along into the fantasy is another element of “breaking the fourth wall.” By confusing the audience, it allows the viewers to confuse fantasy with reality, just as Gallimard does. What do you guys think about the effect of this confusion?
Right before killing himself on page 92 and 93 Act 3, Scene 3, Gallimard says, “Death with honor is better than life… life with dishonor. (He sets himself center stages, in a seppuku position) The love of a Butterfly can withstand many things–unfaithfulness, loss, even abandonment. But how can it face the one sin that implies all others? The devastating knowledge that, underneath it all, the object of her love was nothing more, nothing less than…a man.”
While this quote does most directly depict Gallimard’s transformation into Butterfly but killing himself due to, for simplicity’s sake, abandonment just as Butterfly in Madame Butterfly ends up doing, I think more than that he kills himself out of complete humiliation and loss. Rather than being so noble and living out his fantasy by killing himself, I feel like the shock of realizing his fantasy was nothing more than a fantasy instead of the reality he thought it was also drives him to kill himself. I also think we see a lot of shame from him when he says that death with honor is better than life with dishonor. He sees Song as having made a fool of out him. Today in class we discussed a lot about the idea of this moment being one of power for Gallimard because he gets to live out his fantasy and escape reality but I want to also consider the idea of this scene being one of Gallimard’s weakness. Throughout the book the woman is portrayed as being weak and submissive and in this scene I think Gallimard can be interpreted as submitting to his loss and humiliation through death as an escape. Do you guys think Gallimard’s speech before his suicide represents his strength or weakness?
Gallimard says this after having received letters from Song and he realizes that he has her completely wrapped around his finger. Gallimard relishes this power, because he has never had it before. For example, when he describes his first “experience,” he was in the submissive position, and he only got the girl because his friend Marc helped him out. Having gained this power over a woman all by himself, naturally, the first thing he does is abuse it. He leaves Song hanging for weeks on end only to wait for her to desparately admit that she belongs completely to him. His realization of his power leads us to wonder if he will ever be able to relinquish it. However, knowing this story is based on a real life event, the entire situation is completely ironic since Song is really a man and is playing the role of butterfly to get Gallimard wrapped around his/her finger and to get information from him because he/she is a spy. What do you guys think of Gallimard’s power over Song, or his lack thereof? In this quote does he appear as the “man” or “woman” in his relationship with Song?