Act I, Scenes 1-6: Questions and Answers

Questions
1. Why is Rene Gallimard in jail? What clues do we have?

2. Does Gallimard feel that people understand him?

3. Gallimard identifies himself with which character in Puccini’s opera, Madame Butterfly?

4. Which character in the opera Madame Butterfly does Gallimard most identify with?

5. Does playwright David Henry Hwang believe that the opera Madame Butterfly accurately depicts real life?

Answers
1. According to the playwright’s notes at the beginning of the play, a former French diplomat was sentenced to six years in jail for passing information to China as part of his twenty-year relationship with a man whom he believed to be a woman. The suggestion is that Gallimard had a similar affair and was incarcerated for it.

2. Gallimard does not think that the public understands him. When he imagines them, they mock him. They do not comprehend that Gallimard has been loved by the “Perfect Woman.” Ironically, Gallimard’s woman is physically a man.

3. Gallimard identifies with Pinkerton, a U.S. naval officer who buys a Japanese woman for a nominal fee, has sex with her, and abandons her.

4. Gallimard sees Pinkerton as a completely mediocre individual. He is, “not very good-looking, not too bright, and pretty much a wimp.”

5. The playwright uses the opera to emphasize Western stereotypes concerning sex roles. He does not think that it is an accurate depiction of reality.