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Why is Rene Gallimard an unsympathetic or sympathetic character in M.Butterfly?I am...

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sydneyemily | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted October 30, 2011 at 1:31 AM via web

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Why is Rene Gallimard an unsympathetic or sympathetic character in M.Butterfly?

I am referring to the audience being able to sympathize with him or not being able to sympathize with him. What qualities or actions make him either symathetic or unsympathetic?

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lprono | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted October 31, 2011 at 3:02 AM (Answer #1)

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The main trait that makes Gallimard unsympathetic is his racism and his complete adherence to Western stereotypes about the weakness and passivity of the East and its people. Gallimard cannot conceive that eastern populations can rebel to the power of the West. This is clearly shown in his attitude towards Song (whom he thinks to dominate, but who ultimately dominates him, forcing him to pass important military secrets to her) as well as his opinions about the Vietnam War. In addition to racism, Gallimard's sexism also makes him unaware that Song is actually a man.

Yet, the audience cannot feel completely unsympathetic toward Gallimard as the play operates a complete deconstruction of his racism and sexism that puts him in the position of the "exploited and weak oriental". Gallimard is so blinded by his own racial and gender bias that he fails to see how Song is exploiting him. In the final scenes, Gallimard dresses as Song and commits suicide, in an event that also recalls and subverts the ending of Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly which Hwang takes as a target for its stereotyping of the East. In addition, Gallimard's love for Song, which is initially based on a violent and cruel behavior that makes him feel manly, gradually becomes more genuine.

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