M. Butterfly

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M. Butterfly Act 1, Scene 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Gallimard returns home late. He lies to Helga when she asks where he has been all evening, telling her he attended a talk by a visiting scholar at the home of the Dutch ambassador. Gallimard tells his audience he was not sure why he lied to Helga, since he did not have an obvious reason to do so.
Though he has not technically been unfaithful to his wife, Gallimard’s inclination to lie makes it clear that he feels an attraction to Song that might turn into infidelity given the opportunity. His meeting with Song was preparation for an affair, and so feels illicit even though nothing happened.
Themes
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon
Marc appears in Gallimard’s dreams that night. He is jubilant, toasting Gallimard with expensive wine and encouraging him to pursue an affair with Song. Gallimard balks at the idea, reminding Marc that he is a married man. Marc tells Gallimard that he began to cheat on his own wife after only six months, and has been with three hundred girls in his twelve years of marriage — compared to that, Gallimard’s eight years of fidelity make him a model husband.
Gallimard’s visions of Marc speak to the most aggressively masculine aspects of his mind. Through Marc, it becomes clear that Gallimard has long wanted to assert himself as an alpha-male, but never had the courage to do so. (Cowardice is one of Gallimard’s defining characteristics.) An affair with Song would affirm Gallimard’s manhood, as well as satisfying his lust.
Themes
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Memory, Imagination, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Gallimard insists a romance with Song is impossible because he is a foreigner. Marc tells Gallimard that the taboo nature of the relationship will draw Song to him. He tells Gallimard this is a timeless story: that Asian women have always found Western men frightening and therefore sexually irresistible. Marc points to a light burning in a nearby window, and tells Gallimard that Song has left the light burning for him. Gallimard refuses to look through the window, saying it isn’t respectful. Marc insists that, because they are “foreign devils” — Caucasian men — they have no obligation to be respectful.
In her first conversation with Gallimard, Song refers to the Western fantasy of “the submissive Oriental woman and the cruel white man.” Marc imagines this fantasy as a phenomenon among Asian women as well as white men. He sells Gallimard on the idea that Asian women find cruelty attractive, and that white men appeal to them because they are disrespectful. The fantasy Song points out can only work if the woman wants to be mistreated as much as the man wants to mistreat her; only this dynamic can spare a man like Gallimard the burden of guilt.
Themes
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon
Song appears onstage, wearing a sheer robe. Marc says Gallimard has spent his entire life waiting for the love of a beautiful woman. He describes a long struggle, in which Gallimard feigns happiness when his friends find romantic success, and wonders what is wrong with him that nobody seems to want him. He tells Gallimard that the time has come to stop struggling, because his wait is over. As Marc exits, Song drops her robe to reveal her bare back to the audience.
Marc’s parting words play into Gallimard’s self-righteousness and sense of entitlement. He has waited all his life for love, and so believes he deserves a reward for his patience. He sees women as prizes he can claim, rather than people — this makes it possible for him to disregard Helga and pursue Song without fear of rejection.
Themes
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
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The stage goes black and a phone rings next to Gallimard’s bed. When the lights come on again, Song is sitting in a chair with the phone pressed to her ear, wearing a robe. Across the stage, Gallimard is also talking into a phone. It is 5:30 in the morning. Song tells Gallimard she waited as long as she could bear before calling, then asks him to come and watch her at the Peking Opera again on Thursday. Gallimard promises he will be there.
Song makes herself vulnerable when she tells Gallimard she couldn’t “bear” to wait any longer before speaking to him. By showing him signs of her own intense desire, she creates a dynamic in which he may feel free to develop an increasingly intense desire for her without fear of being disappointed.
Themes
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon