Because replies are only visible to those who have posted at least one reply. So after I get the forum, I will post my classmate’s reply and extend the time.
Origins of Play: 3 separate texts inspire M. Butterfly (1988)– Short story, Opera, NY Times article
- true event inspires a short story by John Luther Long
- short story inspires Opera by Giacommo Puccini, Madame Butterfly (1904)
- Act 1- Pinkerton in Japan, marries Butterfly (15), she converts to Christianity
- Act 2- Pinkerton leaves for 3 years, Butterfly thinks he will return, she is renounced by Buddhist priest and family
- Act 3- Pinkerton returns with new American wife, Kate, to take son; Butterfly commits ritual seppuku
- NY Times, May 11, 1980
- Bernard Boursicot- 20 year affair with a man he thought was a woman, had child as well
- Boursicot’s self-deception puzzled him; he faced a subconscious self-deception
Some specific theories to consider: Edward Said’s Orientalism, Postcolonial studies (and Gender Studies)
- According to these theories and Said, a divide exists between the East and West;
- the divide is created, not existing naturally
- superiority of west over east
- colonialism “others” the “orient”
- the Orient is not an actual place, but an imagined place that is all of the “East” according to the “West”
- This orientalism, has created a false, constructed, understanding of Asians and Asian culture.
- the operative term here is created because impressions of the East are made up.
- A view of Asians and Asian culture is created that is overgeneralized through a western ethnocentric lens.
- this view of Asians and Asia in general is racialized and gender biased
- colonial view,
- male dominated view
- exoticizing of women and the East
Setting of the Play:
- China’s cultural revolution (1966-76)
- Mao Zedong
- violence, abuse, displacement, economic damage
- decrease in bourgeois art
- increase in art that reflected benefits of a socialist society
- Peking Opera flourishes during revolution
- Gallimard’s seppuku (scene from the film version)
- seppuku: hara-kiri |ˌhärə ˈki(ə)rē, ˌharə-, ˌharē ˈkarē|nounritual suicide by disembowelment with a sword, formerly practiced in Japan by samurai as an honorable alternative to disgrace or execution.
- Gallimard and Song’s first conversation (scene from the theater performance) *note the farcical tone of the language as opposed to the dramatic tone in the movie
- The play’s structure (how it is constructed and arranged) questions the construction of reality; it is non-linear as it starts at the end: Gallimard in a prison cell.
“Only a man can play the part of an ideal woman” (Act 3, scene 1)
- Rene’s relationship with his wife and with his mistress, Renee, are not fulfilling his masculinity
- He is fooled because he wants to believe a lie… he wants to be fooled
- the parallel form between (1) the sexual exploitation of both characters and (2) the cultural imperialism of both cultures
- this power struggle between culture and gender is depicted by Gallimard and Song
- The questioning of identity as a construction → reality vs. fantasy (in all facets of Gallimard’s identity)
- It is possible to shed light on this issue by examining the causes of Gallimard’s self-deception
- the examples of sexual exploitation in the text can function as a political analogy for imperialism
How does the play parallel colonialism with western domination of 3rd world countries?
- Asia (women) is the play thing of the West (men)
- this idea is made absurd by the play and causes the reader to question the construction of gender roles and of the roles occupied by political forces
- How does the play suggest that everything is a farce, all identities are made up, created, socially constructed?
- A comparison of Gallimard’s role and Song’s role leads to objectified myths; they are not who/what they really are, yet the identity they project buys them each a false sense of acceptance.
- gender relationships and gender roles are brought into question, alongside –and independent of–ethnicity
Additional Questions to Consider as you Read:
- What is the point of the story?
- What is the significance of Gallimard’s self-deception?
- Why is Gallimard fooled?
- How is sexual identity called into question?
- How is identity questioned in the play?
- How does the gender mirror/parallel politics?
- How are the qualities Gallimard desires in Song related to his own qualities?
- What does an analysis of the title suggest? (as a redefining of the opera’s title from Madame Butterfly to the abbreviation M. Butterfly)
- Is Song a real person to Gallimard? What does Song represent?