Analyze the significance of clothing in Hwang's M. Butterfly.

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teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Clothing serves as a symbol of character in Hwang's M. Butterfly.  When Song takes on the role of Butterfly, he must dress in lavish feminine clothing and costumes to disguise his true sex.  But more than just a disguise, Song's clothing is symbolic of what entices Gallimard--he believes that not only is Song a woman, Song is a representation of the perfect "Oriental" woman.  The clothing is symbolic of the stereotypical images that men create of what this perfect woman really is.  Later in the play, after Song reveals that he is in fact a man, Gallimard cannot accept that he has been tricked because he feels that he has truly grown to love Song.  When he must accept the fact that he has fallen prey to this illusion, Gallimard dresses in one of Song's dresses so that he can relate himself with Butterfly from Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly.  Here the clothing is significant because Gallimard uses it to compare himself with a character from the opera who was also betrayed.