What is the psychology of Gallimard in M. Butterfly, leading to 24 years of relationship with Song, and why is this relationship a metaphor to Orientalism?

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Gallimard appears to exemplify the usual distorted view that westerners have of "the Orient." He seems to understand that the submissive Asian female is a cultural stereotype, but he nevertheless embraces it and finds that Song is the realization of this "ideal" for him. Song thus uses Gallimard's assumptions in...

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Gallimard appears to exemplify the usual distorted view that westerners have of "the Orient." He seems to understand that the submissive Asian female is a cultural stereotype, but he nevertheless embraces it and finds that Song is the realization of this "ideal" for him. Song thus uses Gallimard's assumptions in order to manipulate him in a kind of perverse reenactment of the plot of Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly, which is itself a crystallized form of this whole gamut of western assumptions about "the East," its women, and the power that western men supposedly wield over them.

"Orientalism" usually refers to this artificial, conventionalized picture of Asia that Europeans have cultivated. When Song's true identity is revealed, it destroys not only Gallimard's personal view of himself and his lover—it destroys the stereotypical assumptions he and his culture believed in. His psychology has been one in which he believed himself dominant, all-powerful, and manipulative, but he ends up seeing himself weak and having been duped to a extraordinary and nearly implausible degree.

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In David Henry Hwang's play M. Butterfly, Gallimard is a metaphor for Orientalism because he views Song as the idealized, mysterious "Other."  In Edward Said's explanation of Orientalism, the "Other" is placed in a position of hierarchical subornination, and this is what Gallimard, from his perspective, has done to Song.  Readers understand that Song has actually tricked Gallimard into this position and actually has the upper hand; however, for Gallimard to admit this he would also have to denounce his sense of manhood that he has constructed around his relationship with Song.  In the dichotomy set up by Orientalism, the West is strong, because the East is weak:  in Gallimard and Song's relationship, he is strong because she is submissive.  Admitting that the relationship was never valid is the equivalent of saying that Gallimard's sense of manhood is also invalid.

On another note, there is a line in the play that says that the perfect woman can only be created by a man.  Ironically, this is what happens when Song takes on the persona of a woman, so Gallimard, for 24 years, had "the perfect woman."

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