M. Butterfly

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M. Butterfly Act 3, Scene 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Gallimard appears onstage, crawling toward the wig and kimono Song abandoned in the previous scene. Song is still on the witness stand. Gallimard tells the audience how, watching Song deliver his testimony, he found him shallow and unsubstantial — nothing like “Butterfly,” the woman he loved for twenty years.
Seeing Song testify in court is painful to Gallimard not only because it represents betrayal, but because it brings to light how little he really knew about the person who shared his life for two decades. Gallimard is closer to Song than he is to anyone else, and to recognize that this closeness has been predicated on false beliefs is devastating and isolating.
Themes
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon
Song calls out to Gallimard from the witness stand, addressing him as “white man.” The court scene fades away as Song walks across the stage to Gallimard, asking whether Gallimard remembers the night they met. Gallimard avoids answering the question. Song goads him, saying that Gallimard has been flattering him for the past twenty years, and shouldn’t feel shy about flattering him a little more. Song admits he has always been arrogant — it was arrogant, for example, to believe that he could change Gallimard’s destiny through the force of seduction.
When Song calls Gallimard by the generic and disdainful name “white man” (instead of using Gallimard’s given name, as a friend or lover would), he reveals his true feelings for the first time. Song has no love or respect for Gallimard; though other moments in the play may have suggested some warmth between them, that has clearly vanished, at least as far as Gallimard can imagine. Now, Song only wants to torment and humiliate Gallimard.
Themes
Memory, Imagination, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon
Song taunts Gallimard, flirting with him aggressively but leaving him unsure of whether that flirtation is sincere. He tells Gallimard to admit that he still wants him, even when he is dressed like a man, and repeats lines from their earliest conversations — in which, as a woman, he claimed to long for the Western cafes and the pre-Revolution era — using the feminine voice he adopted to fool Gallimard. All this leaves Gallimard extremely distressed, uncertain of how to feel or what to do.
When Song combines a female voice and affect with male clothing, he forces Gallimard to see both the artificiality of their relationship and the latent homosexual desire that brought them together. While Song and Gallimard may not have discussed Song’s gender, the incredulous comments of the judge and partygoers make it clear that Gallimard must have had some evidence that Song was not who he seemed to be. That Gallimard chose to maintain a relationship with Song regardless is evidence of unacknowledged homosexual inclinations, but also a testament to the overwhelming sense of power and safety that his relationship with Song gave him, such that he never wanted to question it.
Themes
Memory, Imagination, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Song begins to remove his clothing. Gallimard, in shock and horror, asks what he is doing. Song says he is helping Gallimard to see through his act. Gallimard urges Song to stop, telling him he doesn’t want to see him naked. Song recalls the night Gallimard ordered him to strip. Though nothing happened on that night, Song says, it was inevitable that this moment would come. Gallimard begs and orders him to stop, to which Song answers: “Your mouth says no, but your eyes say yes.”
Song replies to Gallimard’s protests using the same words he used to describe the “rape mentality” Westerners have toward Asians. By exerting an abusive and sexually charged power over Gallimard, Song turns the tables and forces the Western man into the helpless, submissive position.
Themes
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon
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Gallimard insists he knows what Song is — a man — but Song says Gallimard doesn’t really believe that. He takes off his briefs, and stands completely naked in front of Gallimard. Gallimard seems to be sobbing, but it slowly becomes apparent, to both the audience and Song, that he is actually laughing. He tells Song that he finds it ridiculous and hilarious to know he has wasted so much time on “just a man.” Song insists he is not “just a man” — he is Gallimard’s Butterfly. He covers Gallimard’s eyes, and places Gallimard’s hand on his cheek, reminding Gallimard that his is the same skin he has touched and adored for years. Gallimard seems entranced, and for a moment he appears to recognize Song as Butterfly. When Song uncovers his eyes, however, the intimacy between them evaporates.
For decades, Gallimard has thought of Song not only as a woman, but as “the Perfect Woman” — someone beyond compare, more precious than anyone or anything else. It is not the disruption of gender, but sudden realization that Song is no different from any other person that causes Gallimard to break down in laughter. He has begged Song to come back to him and play the role of Butterfly again, but in this moment he realizes that the fantasy of Butterfly does not depend on Song. Song is a disappointingly ordinary man, a vessel for an ideal that transcends him rather than a realization of that ideal.
Themes
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Memory, Imagination, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Gallimard says Song was a fool to show him the truth, because all he loved was the lie Butterfly represented. Song seems surprised and hurt. He realizes, thinking aloud, that Gallimard never really loved him the way he believed he did. Gallimard tells Song: “I am a man who loved a woman created by a man. Everything else — simply falls short.”
Just like Gallimard, Song (at least in Gallimard’s imagination) has maintained illusions about the nature of their relationship. Though Gallimard only loved Song because he represented an unattainable ideal — a man’s vision for a perfect woman — Song believed they shared a real, substantial relationship. In a way, he felt that Butterfly was a convenient mask hiding their real homosexual love, but here discovers that for Gallimard it was the other way around: he, Song, was merely an instrument for the creation of Butterfly
Themes
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Memory, Imagination, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon
Gallimard says he has finally learned to tell the difference between fantasy and reality, and that he has chosen to commit himself to fantasy. Song insists that he is Gallimard’s fantasy, but Gallimard scoffs at this, telling Song he is all too real. He orders Song to leave so that he can enjoy “a date with my Butterfly.” Song angrily accuses Gallimard of being the same as every other man: infatuated with “we” women because of their clothing and makeup and feminine charm. He accuses Gallimard of lacking imagination, to which Gallimard replies scornfully: “I am pure imagination.” Finally, Gallimard removes Song from the stage by force. He keeps Butterfly’s kimono.
The final sequences in this scene show Gallimard taking power back from Song, a last victory in the long power struggle that has defined their life together. Song seems to be outraged on behalf of women, as he counts himself among the community of women when he uses the word “we” instead of “they.” When Gallimard claims he is “pure imagination,” he recalls the comment he made to Song on the night of their reunion in Paris: that he had to choose between her and the rest of the world, and chose the fantastic memory of her over everything real and immediate in his life.
Themes
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Memory, Imagination, and Self-Deception Theme Icon