M. Butterfly Essay - Suggested Essay Topics

David Henry Hwang

Suggested Essay Topics

Act I, Scenes 1-6
1. Do you think it is possible for a man to love a woman for over twenty years without realizing that “she” is really a man? Think up a scenario where this is possible. Remember, the play is based on real events, no matter how far-fetched they may seem.

2. Find a libretto for Madame Butterfly and/or listen to a performance of the opera. Do you think that Pinkerton is a moral character? Why or why not? Is Gallimard’s assessment of Pinkerton accurate in your opinion?

Act I, Scenes 7-13
1. By Western standards, how does Song conform to the ideal stereotype of the Oriental woman? Give examples to back up your assertions.

2. In act 1, scene 11, the event where Gallimard loses his virginity is described. Is the setting “romantic”? How might this experience have affected (scarred) Gallimard? What points was Hwang trying to convey in including this scene?

Act II, scenes 1-7
1. Compare and contrast Song with Renee, the other woman with whom Gallimard has an affair. How are the two polar opposites of one another?

2. How does Gallimard “face reality”? Discuss Gallimard’s refusal to see a doctor and the ease with which he can be talked out of seeing his mistress naked to back up your points. Do you think Gallimard is intentionally blind?

Act II, scenes 8-11
1. Chin scorns Song for not having hands like a worker. Do you think that the laboring class should be granted a higher status that the intellectual class in a society? Should any one class be granted favoritism? How is the laboring class treated in U.S. society?

2. In Act II, scene 10, Song describes her homosexual acts as a crime. Do you think that homosexuality should be considered a crime? Give historical examples form another culture. Check a literary encyclopedia under “Oscar Wilde” to find out about one prominent case.

Act III, scenes 1-3
1. Look up the word “catharsis” in a good dictionary or encyclopedia. In what way is the realization and accompanying laughter of Gallimard when he finally sees Song naked an example of catharsis?

2. Playwright David Hwang briefly considered calling the play, Monsieur Butterfly? Why do you think M. Butterfly is more appropriate? Give specific examples? Is Monsieur Butterfly too obvious?