In M. Butterfly, how does Gallimard’s perception of himself change when he starts a relationship with Song?

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Gallimard has always thought of himself as ugly and undesirable to women. In a scene from 1947 (act 1, scene 4), he tells his friend Marc that he can't go out with him because he doesn't know how to talk to women. Gallimard later marries to gain a professional advantage,...

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Gallimard has always thought of himself as ugly and undesirable to women. In a scene from 1947 (act 1, scene 4), he tells his friend Marc that he can't go out with him because he doesn't know how to talk to women. Gallimard later marries to gain a professional advantage, not for love.

When he sees Song, he feels immediately moved by her and her portrayal of Madama Butterfly. When she seems to show interest in him, Gallimard has a dream about his friend Marc (scene 9). Marc says that Gallimard has had to see other men with beautiful women while he was left out. Marc refers to Gallimard as a "saint." Now, Gallimard can claim a beautiful woman. Gallimard is amazed that Song seems to like him, but he attributes it in part to imperialism—of the power of a western man to capture an Asian woman. By the end of act 1, scene 10, Gallimard refers to himself as a "devil." His conception of himself has changed from that of a man who is powerless with women to that of a powerful cad.

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The protagonist of the play, Rene Gallimard, is a man who lacks a sense of accomplishment. He suffers from a fear of rejection. Hapless and awkward, he considers himself unworthy of female attention. He falls in love with a Chinese opera singer, who he believes to be female. The woman's docile and submissive temperament attracts him. Her seemingly innocent and sexually compliant nature gives him a sense of masculine power and pride. Gallimard develops his identity as a dominant Western male by juxtaposing it against a submissive Eastern female. Song's calculated role-playing not only reinforces Gallimard's fantasy but also caters to a broader sense of imperialist nostalgia and "orientalism."

After a relationship that spans two decades, Gallimard is shocked to discover that Song is a man and a spy. The devastated lover commits suicide. Death is the price of his impossible love.

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Gallimard in this play is presented as rather an unimpressive individual. He himself states that he is an ugly man, and tells the audience he is not "witty or clever." In addition, the audience is told that at school he was voted "least likely to be invited to a party." Yet, however, when his interest in Song is kindled, he begins to change the way he views himself as he finally feels that he is a man and can enjoy the absolute power men have over women. Note the following quote that comes after Gallimard decides to devote himself to his work and to not follow Song around, waiting for her to contact him:

Over the next five weeks, I worked like a dynamo. I stopped going to the opera, I didn't phone or write her. I 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.

Gallimard finds that he is able to see himself in a far more positive light, as through his relationship with Song, and his ability to dominate her, he is able to become the man he has always wanted to be but has never been able to become. He grows in his own estimation. This is of course before he realises the true identity of Song.

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