Analysis of David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly

In David Hwang’s Butterfly, the concept of gender roles is created as a means of Gallimard’s demise. Efforts by Gallimard to prove his masculinity and as a powerful man is only seen to render him a feminine butterfly. The ancient Chinese music and clothing create the western picture of China as a mysterious and exotic culture. Western music seems to overtake Chinese music, so the longest conflict between Asia and other western counties comes into play as western nations seek dominance. Although the audience finds Gallimard to be very humble most of the time, he appears to be full of pride and considers himself special over the opposite gender. Though he claims his jokes make him famous, Gallimard seems to be protecting his pride from his audience, and so he is ironical.

The relationship displayed in the play is an example of a love that is focused on tentative happiness, notwithstanding the actual situation of the people in the relationship. Although Gallimard and his partner are trying to create a situation where they can be seen to be in love, it can be seen as a scheme to compensate themselves for their lackluster lives. They are creating a fantasy while living in denial, hence forming the major stereotype in the play. Gallimard expects a lot in his relationship, and he finally fails in everything. The relationship cannot work well because he is too demanding from the opposite gender, and so he appears to be in a disagreement with most of what is the real construct of gender, contrary to what he believes. He believes in the outstanding power of men and that women should remain submissive and in agreement with the ideologies of the man, as evident in the quote, “…you think I could’ve pulled this off if I wasn’t already full of pride when we met? No, not just pride. Arrogance..” (Hwang 85)  Consequently, he has to live in denial but to the disappoint of his ego.

At the beginning of the play, the protagonist Gallimard starts a narrator, asking the audience to accompany him on a journey to his current status. Initially, what comes out clear as part of his initial character is a lack of masculinity. He says, “..I never dreamed this day would arrive. I’ve never been considered witty or clever…” (Hwang 92). This shows the creation of his fantasy. The audience mocked and ridiculed him for a long, an act that translated to his lack of confidence. From a young age, the biggest obstacle has been the hegemony that society seems to have constructed. In some instances, Marc, who is his best friend, pressurize him to remain a man and defend it by all means. Marc even goes ahead to propose that they go out to the cabin one of the weekends so that they can meet college girls who were frequent at the venue. In this context, marc appears to be a true defender of hegemonic masculinity as he is fighting, by all means, the norms that criticize what men should do and how they should behave. Consequently, Gallimard is seen to be searching for every bit of power within the emasculated environment he is living in. Gallimard declares that he is on a journey to find a woman who would value him like a man, treat him like a king, feeling that the world has not treated him fairly based on his gender. This implies that for a long time, Gallimard has believed that women should accord men special treatment in the society, better than what he had witnessed.

The struggle for power between men and women is seen to dominate the play, and it forms the basis of the politics of masculinity. The song creates the picture of power relations in the play, exposing the nature of conflicting ideas between Gallimard and Madame Butterfly. According to the song, a woman is expected to remain submissive at all facilities, regardless of their race. For instance, the white woman is described as an idiot when she kills herself; the Asian woman, although beautiful and respected, must remain submissive to any man. The song equally supports the stereotypical idea that women have to stay at home nursing children while their men go out to work in the field, and even when they go out to work, they are to be paid relatedly lower than men. The play clarifies the notion that men should always have control over their great fortunes.

Gallimard continues to question his masculinity when he meets Renee, and he experiences moments of masculinity that falls short of his confidence. Renee is seen to take over the power roles in their relationship, an act that contradicts Gallimard’s initial beliefs concerning how women should behave. Renee’s behaviors and audacity based on her beliefs in the play made Gallimard cut short their relationship. Hwang emphasizes the same point in naming Renee. Renee shares a name with Gallimard when the reality has it that they are not matching at any single point. Therefore, it was a way of demonstrating in the play that Renee is indeed masculine and that she would never equal Gallimard; they are polar opposites. Moreover, the song used in the play gives Gallimard an untrue sense of masculinity. The song as a spy establishes the image of a woman that Gallimard would not run away from.

The song and Gallimard’s relationship, as brought out in the play, examines Feminism and the subversion of identity within the society. In connection to the relationship, the song examines the constructs of gender and what makes males and females. Due to the apparent nature of gender coming out in the play, the song creates a picture of the female gender. The says states, “..only a man knows how a woman is supposed to act.” (Hwang 57). Throughout the play, the song seems to have succeeded in creating the fantasy. The M butterfly makes the gender of the song a man from the beginning as much as the play seems to suggest that the song’s identity is ambiguous. Being in love with Gallimard, Renee plays as a submissive oriental woman.

From a different perspective, the song Gallimard’s relationship depicts the idea of struggle for power whereby every person wants to show that they are in control. Gallimard fails to succeed in believing that he is always right and has the power to do what he can without the influence of the female gender. His consistent battle of power based on gender makes it clear from the play to believe that the concept of subversion is indeed present in most families. He referred to himself as a madame butterfly towards the end of his life. He says, “…and I have found her at last. In a prison on the outskirts of Paris. My name is Rene Gallimard-also known as Madame Butterfly…” (Hwang 45). However, he gives up on the idea of Feminism and surrenders to the masculine tensions that he appears to have for a long in his life, as they seem to be of no help. The idea of what makes up gender, as he had always believed throughout his life, was not adding up with what he actually found out in the end. As a result, he abandoned his notions about gender as he transcended into a butterfly.

From the play, it is evident that the concept of gender construct runs in people’s lives and drives away humanity. Gallimard had a false sense of what male and female gender entails. He lived not in reality about the roles of women and men in society as he considered men more superior both in action and thoughts. Therefore, it can be argued based on his mentality that there is a problem with how people view their gender compared to the opposite gender. Gallimard failed in his expectation as what he believed about gender construct is not the reality.