M. Butterfly

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

M. Butterfly Act 2, Scene 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The night after her dramatic conversation with Gallimard, Song paces their apartment while Comrade Chin reads from a notepad. Gallimard is watching their dialogue from another part of the stage. Chin is trying to inform Song about Gallimard’s affair with Renee, but Song interrupts to tell her that she needs a baby. Song narrates their encounter in frantic, ecstatic language: she explains how Gallimard ordered her to strip the night before, and how she was forced to take a gamble in a moment of panic, knowing her entire mission could have been upended if he had forced her to reveal her naked body.
Though her exchange with Gallimard put Song in a hard, dangerous position, she seems to enjoy a pleasurable rush of adrenaline as she describes their conversation to Chin. Song uses dramatic narration techniques that emphasize the psychological gameplay in her relationship with Gallimard: she sees a silent power play between them, in which she is always struggling to keep an upper hand while allowing him to believe he is in control.
Themes
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon
Song, still recounting the events of the previous night, tells Comrade Chin about a revelation that struck her while she was trying to craft a response to Gallimard’s order: that Gallimard did not care whether he saw her body, only whether she proved willing to submit to his will under any circumstances. Song says giving Gallimard a baby will guarantee his fidelity for life. Chin resists, calling the idea “counterrevolutionary” — contrary to the values of the Communist Party — but Song insists that it is necessary to guarantee the mission’s success. She tells Chin to make sure the baby is a boy.
Though her mission is simply to collect information, Song has darker and more complex motivations. She wants to gain profound understanding of Gallimard, and then use that understanding to manipulate his emotions. She understands that the possibility of infertility threatens Gallimard’s sense of masculinity, and wants to use the birth of a son — proof that he is virile and masculine— to make herself an indispensible part of his male identity. To Gallimard, being the father of a son — of implanting a son within Butterfly, to put it bluntly — is another emblem of his power. And Song wants him to feel that power, because it is through that feeling of power that she controls him.
Themes
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Memory, Imagination, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon
As Comrade Chin prepares to leave, Song asks why, in her opinion, the Peking Opera always casts men in women’s role. Chin guesses the tradition is a remnant of the patriarchal social structure that dominated China before the Communist Revolution. Song rejects this answer, and tells her the real reason is that “only a man knows how a woman is supposed to act.”
Song understands that male fantasies of femininity bear no resemblance to womanhood as the vast majority of women experience and perform it in the real world. A real woman knows her own complexity and humanity, and cannot reduce womanhood to the tropes that persist in male fantasy. Only a man, who learns from a young age to see women as less than human, is able to dehumanize in this way.
Themes
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Memory, Imagination, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Comrade Chin leaves the stage, and Gallimard calls out to Song. He tells her that he would forgive all her betrayals, if she would return to him and “become Butterfly again.” Song scoffs at the idea, telling Gallimard she has a superior deal: she has been pardoned for her role in the treason she and Gallimard committed together, and is safely home in China. Gallimard insists that she must wish they could be together again, at least on some level. Song laughs, telling Gallimard he was just an artistic challenge — a way to prove her skills as an actress. Song mocks Gallimard gently. She says he will always adore her, no matter what terrible truths she tells him — this, she says, is the very reason she loves him.
This conversation reveals the official reason for Gallimard’s imprisonment — he committed treason by passing government secrets to Song — but more importantly, it shows his deep commitment to the fantasy of Butterfly. Song, like all other characters, is only a memory; her speech is a reflection of Gallimard’s mind. When she tells Gallimard he will always adore her, she is expressing a thought from Gallimard’s own mind. He knows himself to be hopelessly devoted to his imaginary lover, whom he dominated and who was always using him.
Themes
Memory, Imagination, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon
Get the entire M. Butterfly LitChart as a printable PDF.
M butterfly.pdf.medium
Song points to the audience and reminds Gallimard where he left off his story: he was telling the audience about the night she announced she was pregnant. The two of them resume their positions from the end of the previous scene, and prepare to pick up where they left off, as though nothing had happened to interrupt them.
Gallimard is constantly losing and regaining control of his story. He wants to present an image of himself that an audience can “envy,” but the sad realities of betrayal, self-deception, and love misused cannot be ignored indefinitely.
Themes
Memory, Imagination, and Self-Deception Theme Icon