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Cruz-Ventura 1

Antonio Cruz-Ventura

Professor Batty

English 102

December 11, 2017

Taking control of fantasies

Whoever has the most power has the most respect. In many older cultures men fought for

power; the more power they had, the more they were respected as men. In the play M. Butterfly

by David Hwang power and sexual identities are controversial topics. Some literary critics might

argue this play shows the struggle between identities in character. But Colonialism power

inspires characters to uphold traditional power dynamics between West/East. Hwang shows

power struggles through the display of men's superiority over a woman and also advantage the

west has over the eastern nations through the use of theme, characters, and symbolism.

In this drama, the theme fantasy over reality becomes factors to oppositional binaries. At

the begging of play, the author introduces to Madame Butterfly an opera that becomes an

inspiration for western fantasies over Eastern women. In the opera, it shows what the western

men think about women in the east but also show how they treat them "When I leave, she'll know

what is like to have loved a real man. And I'll even buy her a few nylons." (11) To put it

differently, in history the west has always had power over the east. The men from the west

identify power as their masculinity. In this case, a real man represents someone who comes from

the west because there are no real men with power in the east. Also leaving a woman is ok

because women are submissive to the western men. These ideas of the east become the desired

fantasy of this play.

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The idea to have power changes characters and their behavior as they gain power or lose

power. When the characters gain power they become the masculinity figure, but when they lose

power they represent a femininity, which was can also represent power over east and west. For

example, Gallimard is a character represents these ideas. At the beginning of the play he starts as

a neutral character, someone that is described as not attractive, a married man but is not happy

with his relationship, and he also had trouble getting girls when he was younger. Theses factor

make Gallimard seem like a character that is not going anywhere in life. Gallimard character

starts and changes as he obtains power over Song another character in the play. Song is a male

character that portraits a female spy for China. Gallimard is attracted to Song when he sees her

perform in the opera Madame Butterfly. He thinks that Song is the most beautiful women but

doesn't that Song is a man. He stars a relationship with Song, and he begins to relate himself to

the idea of westerners in the opera. Gallimard uses colonialism tactics to gain control over Song.

He starts to behave like a real man. Song makes him believe that he's accomplishing his

masculinity fantasy. But in reality, Gallimard just being a fool because he thinks Song is female.

When Gallimard finds out that Song is a man, his western fantasies fall with him. He loses

power, and he takes on the role of the east. Act three scene three reflects what has happened to

him "Love warped my judgment, blinded my eyes, rearranged the very lines of on my face . . .

Until I could look in the mirror and see nothing but . . . a woman." (68) In other words, he's

accepting his lost in power. Now that he doesn't have the power he has taken on the role of songs

female character. The loss of power represents oppositional binaries.

In addition, songs character changes as well. Song's character has to manipulate Galliards

character in order show the desire of power that the east would want over the west. Song uses

eastern way to accomplish his lust for power. Like Gallimard, Song starts to develop his fantasy
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towards power by using appositional binaries. In act two scene seven, Song shows how his

behavior has changed "I'm an artist, Rene. You were my greatest . . . acting challenge." (49) In

other words, Song finally sees results by fooling Gallimard and making him believed that he is a

female. Song knows that he could do a lot of damage to Galliard this way. Songs behavior

change as he accomplishes his success to execute his plan as a spy but also to gain power over


Some scholars might argue that the characters were not looking to gain power, but they

were promoting homosexuality between these characters. On the article "Bisexual Identity in

Literature." Mann, Barry states that "in the years of 1960, there were more people freely writing

about lesbian and gay literature, this opened the door for writers to make stories that allow

homosexuality" (Mann 1). Even though, these character sleep together there is a desire to want

power as their way to represent east versus west because in act three scene three Gallimard says

"I have a vision. Of the Orient. That's deep within its almond eyes; they are still

women. Women who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the love of a man. Even a

men whose love is completely without worth."(68)

Gallimard states he fell in love with the female side of Song, not the male side. He sees himself

as a loser without the submissive side of the oriental.

The dialog in this drama plays a significant role when it comes to opposition binaries.

There are many conversations between characters that show the differences between opposite

powers. In act one scene eleven Song and Gallimard have a discussion, and brakes the fourth

wall and says to the audience" Better, but I don't like the way she calls me "friend." When a

women call a man her "friend," she's calling him a Eunuch or a homosexual." (30) In this quote,

we can see that Gallimard talks about the most controversial subject in this play which is
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homosexuality. Some literary critics believe that Gallimard mas confuse about his identity as a

man. On the literary article. "Performing gender and fictions of the nation in David Hwang's M.

Butterfly." By Balaev, Michelle, the author says "the argument that all heterosexual

relationships are performative, regardless of the "true" gender and sex of the partners because

gender itself is a fiction that causes identity also to be a type of fiction. Sexual partners perform

their respective gendered identities dictated by social discourse. Gallimard's futile efforts to find

the foundation of "true" identity and his struggle to distinguish between inner and outer reality is

manifested throughout the play with his monologues in prison."(Balaev 1) In other words, she is

saying that Gallimard's character can't accept his genuine love for a male character because

society tells humans what role they play. The quote to the drama says a lot Gallimard's visions

towards his vision of conquest for Song female character because he doesn't want just to be a

friend, so he views homo-sexually as something that degrades his goal of colonialism.

Symbolism is another way to represent opposition binaries in this play. There's a couple

of symbols that represent masculinity over femininity. The word butterfly becomes a very

significant symbol. Butterflies represent insect that could identify with female qualities like

delicateness and beauty. Gallimard creates an illusion that makes him what to capture beautiful

butterfly thought play. This action of captivity can represent an idea of colonization over

someone that represents weakness. Also the title M. Butterfly can be looked like a symbol that

represents opposites. The M. represents masculinity, and the butterfly can be seen as feminine.

When we put them together, they show the idea of power that men had over woman back in the


The desire for Power can sometimes blind the person who wants it. In M. Butterfly by

Davis Henry Hwang, power is an idea that becomes the superiority that men have over women
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and west over the east. This drama promotes colonialism though Binaries that can be shown

through theme, characters, and symbolism.

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Work cited

Balaev, Michelle. "Performing gender and fictions of the nation in David Hwang's M. Butterfly."

Forum for World Literature Studies, vol. 6, no. 4, 2014, p. 608+. Literature Resource

Center, library.lavc.edu.

Hwang, David Henry. M. Butterfly. Dramatists Play Service, 2008.

Mann, Barry. "Bisexual Identity in Literature." Salem Press Encyclopedia of Literature, January.

EBSCOhost, library.lavc.edu.