In most of the books we’ve read this year, power and control have been major themes. In Heart of Darkness, Conrad discusses the power of language and the gift of expression (along with Kurtz’s enchantment/control over the natives and whoever else heard his voice). In Things Fall Apart, one of the most important things in life (if not the most important) to Okonkwo was being strong and powerful. He was intensely afraid of weakness. Now, in M. Butterfly, we see that the lack of power Gallimard experienced all his life will make him eager to accept any situation that gives him power. He tells the audience that he was always the shy, wimpy, pimply guy who was afraid girls would reject him. Finally, he “gained power over a beautiful woman” (1.11 pg 36) (and acts like a complete jerk…but that’s besides the point). This helps explain why Gallimard could have been able to ‘overlook’ or just refuse to see the truth about Song. He “knew this little flower was waiting for me to call, and, as I wickedly refused to do so, I felt for the first time that rush of power—the absolute power of a man” (1.11 pg 32).
Even in the second scene of Act 1, we see that society pities Gallimard in a sort of inferior way. They laugh at him, call him ignorant, and say he was “overly anxious”, but in reality he wanted a sense of power. A sense of power that these people prove (by looking down on him in a pitiful tone) he had no where else but in his relationship with Song.
And, since Song is a spy and has her own agenda, she understands what this feeling of power can do. She plays up her helplessness in order to keep Gallimard interested. Together they prove the incredible power of having power.