M. Butterfly Characters
by David Henry Hwang

M. Butterfly book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download M. Butterfly Study Guide

Subscribe Now

M. Butterfly Characters

(Drama for Students)

Comrade Chin
Comrade Chin is the Chinese Communist Party official who instructs Song to spy. Chin unthinkingly accepts communist doctrine. As the representative of the Communist Party during the revolutionary upheavals in the 1960s, she supervises Song's confession of his offenses against party dogma.

Rene Gallimard
Gallimard is a former French diplomat who has been imprisoned for treason. His crime was passing classified documents to the Chinese, through his lover, Song. Gallimard is an unimpressive man, who by his own admission is not ''witty or clever.’’ At high school, he was voted ‘‘least likely to be invited to a party.’’ He is uncomfortable in his relations with the opposite sex, and has had little success in romance. He married for practical reasons rather than for love. However, he still longs for a beautiful woman who will be completely devoted to him. When he thinks he has found such a woman in Song, he gains pleasure in dominating her, and behaves arrogantly and cruelly towards her. This makes him feel for the first time that he is a real man. Eventually, however, he does develop a genuine love for Song. As a diplomat, Gallimard is a failure, and is ordered back to France for giving poor advice to the French ambassador. Gallimard's greatest mistake, however, is that he fails to realize that Song, his long-time lover, is, in fact, a man. When his error is revealed at his trial, he becomes a laughing-stock in France and around the world.

Helga is Gallimard's wife. While the couple lives in Beijing, she remains ignorant of Chinese culture and appears to dislike the Chinese. She is concerned that she and Gallimard seem unable to produce a child. When the couple returns to Paris, Helga is upset by the demonstrations in the street and realizes that she was happier in Beijing.

At Gallimard's trial in Paris in 1986, the judge questions Song about his relationship with Gallimard.

Song Liling
Song is a Chinese singer and actor. Although he is a man, he plays female roles in Chinese opera, which is a traditional practice in China. When Song and Gallimard first meet, Song allows him to think that he, Song, is really a woman. Song pretends to fit the stereotype that Western men have of the submissive Oriental woman: he appears modest and retiring in a way that Gallimard finds enticing.

However, Song can also be assertive in his views about how women are treated in Chinese society and of the West's prejudiced attitude to China. But all the time he is with Gallimard, Song is merely acting a part. In reality, he is using Gallimard to obtain sensitive political information, which he passes on to the Chinese government. Song shows no qualms about his deception of Gallimard, and even goes as far as acquiring a baby (supplied for him by his...

(The entire section is 721 words.)