Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 641
M. Butterfly is based on the presumption that Westerners have falsely created and believe in the stereotype of the meek, submissive Oriental. How does western man’s blind acceptance of this stereotype make it possible for him to be duped by an Asian who plays up these stereotypes?
I. Thesis statement: The improbable scenario in M. Butterfly, where a man believes that his male lover is a woman, is only possible because the Western man believes stereotypes about the Oriental that are untrue.
II. The stereotype of the meek, submissive, loyal and true Asian woman are aptly represented in Puccini’s opera, Madame Butterfly.
A. Outline and define stereotypes of the Oriental women. Why do Western men find them attractive and alluring?
B. Cio-Cio-San, Butterfly, is meek and submissive. She is loyal to Pinkerton, a man unworthy of her love.
III. Gallimard is intrigued by the ideal version of love represented by the submissive and loyal Oriental woman in the Puccini opera. He falls for a “woman” who exhibits all these traits because they conform to his expectations.
A. Gallimard is not so much in love with a particular woman, rather he is in love with the ideal woman as represented in the Western stereotype of the Oriental woman.
B. Song is aware of this fallacy in Gallimard’s reasoning; Song exploits this weakness by exhibiting traits that reinforce the stereotype.
IV. Conclusion: If it had not been for the stereotype of the Oriental woman, Gallimard would not have believed his lover was a woman. Gallimard’s blind acceptance of a false stereotype leads him to overlook the completely obvious fact that his lover, Song, is a man.
The parallel structure that runs throughout the play, with constant references to Puccini’s opera, Madame Butterfly, is apparent from the very first scenes. However, while it is obvious that Gallimard thinks he is Pinkerton, Hwang makes it clear in the resolution of the play that Song is actually Pinkerton. What makes Song an ideal Pinkerton? Why is Gallimard, in no way, Pinkerton?
I. Thesis Statement: Although Gallimard identifies himself with the crass, womanizing Pinkerton from the Puccini opera, he realizes, by the end of the play that he is actually the Butterfly; Song is Pinkerton.
II. Relate Gallimard’s summary of Pinkerton from act 1, scene 3. What traits describe Pinkerton in the Puccini opera?
A. Gallimard has difficulties with women and wants to prove to himself that he can be a womanizer like Pinkerton.
B. In order to “be” Pinkerton, he must find a victim who adores him. He needs to find his Cio-Cio-San or Butterfly. Song plays this role, leaving Gallimard convinced that he is Pinkerton.
III. After the treachery of Song has been revealed in the Paris courtroom, Gallimard realizes that Song is actually Pinkerton.
A. Song is not really special at all. Actually, he is quite common (see act 3, scene 2). He uses people, much like Pinkerton.
B. Gallimard has fallen for an unworthy person. According to the opera libretto to which he relates his life, he is Butterfly, the woman who has been used callously.
IV. Gallimard realizes that the whole affair, as far as the roles that he has imagined, is backwards. He, Gallimard, is the romantic dreamer who has been blind to reality.
A. Song never really cared for him, rather he was only concerned with his acting performance.
B. Gallimard needs and relies on the false ideal of the unworthy Song, just like Cio-Cio-San relied on a false image of Pinkerton.
C. Ultimately, Gallimard remains in his fantasy world and adapts the role of Butterfly, the role to which he is better suited.
V. Conclusion: Song adapts the role of Pinkerton. In the end he is the callous user. His behavior in the last act and final words mirror Pinkerton’s in Madame Butterfly.
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