Essential Passage 1: Act 1, Scene 1
GALLIMARD: …But, to be honest, I’m not treated like an ordinary prisoner. Why? Because I’m a celebrity. You see, I make people laugh.
I never dreamed this day would arrive. I’ve never been considered witty or clever. In fact, as a young boy, in an informal poll among my grammar school classmates, I was voted “least likely to be invited to a party.” It’s a title I managed to hold onto for many years. Despite some stiff competition.
But now, how the tables turn! Look at me: the life of every social function in Paris. Paris? Why be modest? My fame has spread to Amsterdam, London, New York. Listen to them! In the world’s smartest parlors. I’m the one who lifts their spirits!
Rene Gallimard, a French diplomat to Communist China, has been charged with treason. The play opens with Gallimard in his prison cell, explaining (and justifying) himself to the audience. With ironic cheer about his surroundings, he extols the “luxury” of French prisons. Yet he himself, he states, is more than just a prisoner as are the other inmates. He claims he is a “celebrity.” The fact that his crime involves complicity with a Communist agent who was his lover for more than twenty years, without his knowing either that the agent was a spy and not a woman, has made him a laughingstock. It is this that has made him a “celebrity.” He pretends to glory in it. As a school boy he had been unpopular and shunned. He now sees that, if he is not famous, at least he is infamous and the subject of much attention. He tries to convince the audience that he is happy with the “fame” he has earned. Yet it is all bluff.
Essential Passage 2: Act 1, Scene 9
GALLIMARD: You embarrass me. She…there’s no reason to think she likes me.
MARC: “Sometimes, it is mutual”?
MARC: “Mutual”? “Mutual”? What does that mean?
GALLIMARD: You heard!
MARC: It means the money is in the bank, you only have to write the check!
GALLIMARD: I am a married man!
MARCH: And an excellent one too. I cheated after…six months. Then again and again, until now—three hundred girls in twelve years.
GALLIMARD: I don’t think we should hold that up as a model.
MARC: Of course not! My life—it is disgusting! Phooey! Phooey! But, you—you are a model husband.
Gallimard has met Song Liling, a Chinese opera singer at a performance. Song has approached Gallimard and seemingly expresses an interest in him. Gallimard has paradoxical reactions to this situation. First of all, as a married man, he needs to resist the attentions of another woman, but he finds Song fascinating. Secondly, he has never felt comfortable around the opposite sex, nor has been especially attracting of them, so he is flattered that this beautiful woman is interested in him. His school friend, Marc, appears, who functions almost like the devil on his shoulder. Marc has known of Gallimard’s discomfort around women, so he almost taunts him with this potential conquest. He encourages Gallimard to realize that yes indeed this woman is interested in him. Marc blatantly goads him into proceeding into a relationship with Song, despite his being married. Marc...
(The entire section is 1448 words.)
Essential Passage 1: Act 1, Scene 3
The duet plays on the speakers. Gallimard, as Pinkerton, lip-syncs his lines from the opera.
GALLIMARD: To give a rough translation: “The whole world over, the Yankee travels, casting his anchor wherever he wants. Life’s not worth living unless he can win the hearts of the fairest maidens, then hotfoot it off the premises ASAP.” (He turns toward Marc) In the preceding scene, I played Pinkerton, the womanizing cad, and my friend Marc from school… (Marc bows grandly for our benefit) played Sharpless, the sensitive soul of reason. In life, however, our positions were usually—no, always—reversed.
Rene Gallimard is in prison awaiting trial for treason, stemming from his affair with a Chinese national, whom he did not realize was neither a spy nor a man. As a Frenchman in China, involved with a Chinese “woman,” Gallimard is victimized by his own, as well as others’, view of the stereotypes of the different nationalities. Gallimard has been acting out a scene from the opera Madame Butterfly, which centers on the relationship between an American man and a Chinese woman. Both are portrayed strongly according to their stereotypes, Gallimard relates. The American, “Yankee,” is portrayed as a vagabond and a womanizer. His main goal is conquest, in this case the conquest of as many women as possible, with no attachments. The American is presented as callous, unfeeling, manipulating, and untrustworthy, a typical representation of the view of Americans in many parts of the world. This opens the stage for further stereotypes, based both on nationality and on gender.
Essential Passage 2: Act 1, Scene 6
GALLIMARD: No! I was about to say, it’s the first time I’ve seen the beauty of the story.
GALLIMARD: Of her death. It’s a …a pure sacrifice. He’s unworthy, but what can she do? She loves him…so much. It’s a very beautiful story.
SONG: Well, yes, to a Westerner.
GALLIMARD: Excuse me?
SONG: It’s one of your favorite fantasies, isn’t it? The submissive Oriental woman and the cruel white man.
GALLIMARD: Well, I didn’t quite mean…
SONG: Consider it this way: what would you say if a blonde homecoming queen fell in love with a short Japanese business man? He treats her cruelly, then goes home for three years, during which time she prays to his picture and turns down marriage from a young Kennedy. Then, when she learns he has remarried, she kills herself. Now, I believe you would consider this girl to be a deranged idiot, correct? But because it’s an Oriental who kills herself for a Westerner—ah!—you find it beautiful.
Rene Gallimard has attended a party at the home of the German ambassador, where he first heard Song perform an aria from the opera Madame Butterfly. He is very moved by the story of the love between an American naval officer and a Japanese woman. In the end, the American man betrays the Japanese woman and she commits suicide. Song, however, is not impressed with the romance of the story, pointing out to Gallimard that is based on pure racist and gender stereotypes. She reverses the genders and demonstrates to Gallimard the difference in one’s attitude, to think that an American woman would fall in love with and kill herself for a Japanese man. However, because the opera speaks of an Asian woman, the impression on Westerners is that this is more appropriate, because of their prejudiced views of the submissiveness of Asian women. This scene foreshadows the conclusion of the play when Gallimard, a European male, kills...
(The entire section is 1581 words.)