M. Butterfly

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Rene Gallimard Character Analysis

A former French diplomat who relates the story of his passionate, disastrous affair with Song Liling from his cell in a Paris prison, where he is serving a long sentence for treason. Gallimard falls in love with Song, whom he believes to be a woman, during his tenure as a diplomat in Beijing. Hapless and awkward, Gallimard is an unlikely candidate for the attentions of a beautiful woman. Knowing this, he treasures Song’s love and submissiveness, and the feeling of masculine power and pride it gives him. Gallimard has an attitude of benevolent condescension toward Asians, and particularly Asian women. He is not arrogant or sexually aggressive, as are many of the Western men around him, but he is heavily influenced by the orientalist and imperialist ideas that pervade his culture. He is particularly attached to a vision of Asian women as being modest, submissive, and unfalteringly devoted to their men.

Rene Gallimard Quotes in M. Butterfly

The M. Butterfly quotes below are all either spoken by Rene Gallimard or refer to Rene Gallimard. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Plume edition of M. Butterfly published in 1989.
Act 1, Scene 3 Quotes

You see? They toast me. I’ve become patron saint of the socially inept. Can they really be so foolish? Men like that — they should be scratching at my door, begging to learn my secrets! For I, Rene Gallimard, you see, I have known, and been loved by … the Perfect Woman.

Related Characters: Rene Gallimard (speaker), Song Liling
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

Onstage, both a party and Gallimard alone in his cell are shown. At the party, guests marvel at the thought that Gallimard continues to claim that Song is a woman, and that Gallimard must be foolish and inept to have believed him to be a woman for twenty years. They mockingly toast Gallimard for his social and sexual inadequacies.

In this quote, Gallimard embraces the toast, and states that he believes that telling his story will absolve him of all his supposed crimes and foolishness. In fact, he believes that he will eventually be envied by men, since Gallimard believes he was loved by the Perfect Woman--Song, whom he continues to choose to believe is a woman. 

Gallimard, as depicted by the various imagined scenes on the stage, is a man who firmly lives in his own fantasy land. By continuing to believe Song is a woman, he continues to play out the fantasy that attracted him to her in the first place--that he is a Western, dominant man who can control a submissive Eastern woman as he pleases. In fact, Hwang brilliantly subverts this stereotype by placing Song as the dominant man, and as a result, Gallimard is placed in the role of the submissive woman-figure. Like Madame Butterfly, he is now literally trapped in a jail of his own memories and fantasies, while Song is absolved of all crimes despite technically being the one to orchestrate the treason himself. By telling his story, Gallimard only serves to retreat further into his delusions, rather than bring clarity to his situation, as he believes himself to do. 

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It’s true what they say about Oriental girls. They want to be treated bad!

Related Characters: Rene Gallimard (speaker)
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

To illustrate the plot of Madame Butterfly--the Puccini opera which the play, and Gallimard, are influenced by--Gallimard and his friend Marc do a quick, crude rendition of the opera in colloquial language, rather than turn-of-the-century elegant Italian. In this quote, Gallimard, portraying Pinkerton, says that "Oriental girls" want to "be treated bad," crudely summarizing the sexist and racist treatment of Eastern women by Western men.

In the summary of the opera, Pinkerton consistently treats his Japanese wife horribly, claiming that it's his right to do so, despite the fact that it brings his wife immense pain to the point that she commits suicide. Though Gallimard doesn't explicitly support the notion that Eastern women want to be treated badly, he does, in practice, exemplify these ideals: he ignores Song so that she reveres him even more highly, and projects all of his fantasies on a woman whom he believes is allowing him to assert his dominance in the way he deserves. Of course, at the same time it is Gallimard who is being tricked, just like Madame Butterfly. Hwang illustrates the opera in the play in Gallimard's terms to show how, by the end of the play, it is Gallimard who is Madame Butterfly, and Song who is more like Pinkerton, despite Gallimard's belief to the contrary.

Act 1, Scene 5 Quotes

But as she glides past him, beautiful, laughing softly behind her fan, don’t we who are men sigh with hope? We, who are not handsome, not brave, nor powerful, yet somehow believe, like Pinkerton, that we deserve a Butterfly.

Related Characters: Rene Gallimard (speaker)
Related Symbols: Madame Butterfly
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

In the retelling of Madame Butterfly, Song appears onstage to play Cio-Cio-San. In this quote, Gallimard revels at her beauty, and notes that she is a fantasy that every man believes he deserves.

Though Gallimard condemns Pinkerton's actions towards Cio-Cio-San, he does not condemn the idea that every man--no matter how mediocre--deserves to dominate his fantasy woman. In the case of Gallimard's story, and also in the case of the opera, this is deeply tied into the colonialist perspective, wherein the West is seen as intrinsically dominant over the submissive East. When coupled with sexual politics, it leads to this philosophy that even the least-assertive Western man has, and deserves, sexual and political dominance over an intrinsically submissive Eastern woman. This is the philosophy that Gallimard essentially lives by, and is the reason that he refuses to acknowledge Song is a man: she is the Eastern woman he was destined to call his own, and he cannot fathom the concept that he was not given the chance to play out his true fantasy.

The sad truth is that all men want a beautiful woman, and the uglier the man, the greater the want.

Related Characters: Rene Gallimard (speaker), Helga
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

Gallimard marries Helga, whom he is fond of but who does not incite the passion that he has hoped for in a woman. He is faithful to her for the first eight years of their marriage, but in this quote, he expresses the desire of (supposedly) "all men"--and the uglier the man, the greater the desire--for a beautiful woman. Though Gallimard does not express this idea in the first person, it is clear that he, as a man who has not been considered particularly handsome or heroic, has a great desire for a beautiful woman.

Though Gallimard does not physically express the traditional masculine stereotypes (he is not handsome, aggressive, or assertive), he still internalizes these stereotypes as something that he, as a man, deserves and yet is lacking. He feels a kind of anger towards the world, and sees a woman as his prize for all that he has been deprived of in his lifetime. He does not see Helga as an adequate prize, and continues to desire a woman for whom he can embody all of these masculine ideals and more. Song, who plays out his every fantasy, is his Perfect Woman because he can be the Perfect Man when they are together. By refusing to deny that Song is a man, Gallimard, in his own mind, maintains his masculinity. 

Act 1, Scene 6 Quotes

It’s one of your favorite fantasies, isn’t it? the submissive Oriental woman and the cruel white man … Consider it this way: what would you say if a blonde homecoming queen feel in love with a short Japanese businessman? He treats her cruelly, then goes home for three years, during which time she prays to his picture and turns down marriage from a young Kennedy. Then, when she learns he has remarried, she kills herself. Now, I believe you would consider this girl to be a deranged idiot, correct? But because it’s an Oriental who kills herself for a Westerner — ah! — you find it beautiful.

Related Characters: Song Liling (speaker), Rene Gallimard
Related Symbols: Madame Butterfly
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

The fist time Gallimard meets Song, he mentions that he finds Cio-Cio-San's sacrifice for love at the end of Madame Butterfly to be beautiful. In this quote, Song vehemently disagrees, pointing out that he would find the plot to the opera completely ridiculous and implausible if the nationalities of Pinkerton and Madame Butterfly were reversed. Gallimard's belief that the sacrifice is beautiful, Song points out, is due to his racist and sexist Western viewpoint.

Gallimard, as a man who has not presented as a traditionally masculine Western man, does not believe himself to be racist or sexist since he has not reaped the rewards that someone like Pinkerton has. Here, however, Song points out that his point of view is intrinsically racist and sexist simply because he is Western, and the idea that Eastern women are submissive and powerless to the pull of a Western man is completely a Western invention. Song, like this "blond homecoming queen," has her own mind and ambitions, something that most Western men completely ignore as they project their fantasies onto women they deem as interchangeable and their passing playthings. As a French man, Gallimard has never been challenged to this extent by a woman, let alone a Chinese woman, whom he implicitly believes to be inferior to him. It is this challenge--and yet her subsequent revelation that she is seemingly powerless to his charms--that makes him obsessed with the idea that Song is the Perfect Woman that he deserves.

Act 1, Scene 9 Quotes

It’s an old story. It’s in our blood. They fear us, Rene. Their women fear us. And their men — their men hate us. And you know something? They are all correct.

Related Characters: Marc (speaker), Rene Gallimard, Song Liling
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

After Gallimard first sees Song in performance at the opera, Marc visits him in a dream. In this dream, he encourages Gallimard to pursue Song, since she is the "prize" that he has supposedly deserved all of his life. In this quote, Marc emphasizes the idea that Song is powerless to Gallimard's desires because she is a Chinese woman and he is a French man. 

Though Gallimard has been faithful to Helga thus far in their eight-year marriage, he actively notes that he "settled" for her, and still wishes he could have the woman of his fantasies. Song, it seems, could be just that woman--beautiful, and submissive to his whims and wants. Gallimard has felt cheated his entire life because he has not been the masculine, dominating person that stereotypically commands the attention and desires of beautiful women. In this quote, Marc (here representing Gallimard's subconscious, as he speaks to Gallimard in a dream) urges Gallimard to seize what is rightfully his: a beautiful woman. He justifies this sentiment by saying that as a Western man, he can take whatever he wants because he is intrinsically more powerful than Easterners, whether men or women--essentially, sexual colonialism. Just as in Madame Butterfly, Gallimard convinces himself that by pursuing and conquering Song, he is simply playing out a part written for him in the stars.

Act 1, Scene 10 Quotes

In my heart, I know she has … an interest in me. I suspect this is her way. She is outwardly bold and outspoken, yet her heart is shy and afraid. It is the Oriental in her at war with her Western education.

Related Characters: Rene Gallimard (speaker), Song Liling
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

After their initial meeting at the opera, Gallimard attends the Peking opera fifteen weeks in a row. Each time, Song speaks to him for fifteen or twenty minutes after the show, but then cuts the conversation short. In this quote, Gallimard comforts himself that Song's coldness is a front to mask her intrinsic Eastern shyness.

Though Gallimard is taken with Song's boldness, this quote illustrates the fact that despite evidence to the contrary, he is firmly convinced that deep down she is a stereotypically shy and meek Chinese woman. Song has been educated in the West, which accounts for her challenging statements and excellent French language skills, but which Gallimard believes serves to exist at odds with her natural "Oriental" ways deep down. This is evidence of Gallimard's deep-seated racist and sexist beliefs, despite the ways in which he tries to depict himself as a sympathetic narrator. No matter how Song presents herself to him, he will never see her as the person she truly is, but rather as the person he most desires. 

Please. Hard as I try to be modern, to speak like a man, to hold a Western woman’s strong face up to my own … in the end, I fail. A small, frightened heart beats too quickly and gives me away. Monsieur Gallimard, I’m a Chinese girl.

Related Characters: Song Liling (speaker), Rene Gallimard
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

When Gallimard first visits Song's apartment, she changes into a gown, which he compliments. Song blanches at his comment, and deems herself too shy to accept compliments from a strange man she has invited into her home. Gallimard contradicts her claim that she is shy, but in this quote, Song states what Gallimard has always assumed: that beneath her bravado, she is really a meek woman.

When Song confirms Gallimard's suspicions, he is not surprised, but is rather satisfied that he was correct in his assumptions--as the Western man seeking the affections of an Eastern woman, his racist and sexist perspectives mean that he does not doubt his power over Song. Of course, in this instance, Song is in fact playing into the very stereotypes that Gallimard wants her to in order to secure classified French information for the Communist Chinese government. Hwang's subversion of the Eastern/Western and male/female historical power structure serves to make Gallimard the inferior one in this situation, and Song the superior. Her supposed submissive nature is used not to fulfill Gallimard's desires, but rather to exploit the power he believes he wields.

Act 1, Scene 11 Quotes

I stopped going to the opera, I didn’t phone or write her. I knew this little flower was waiting for me to call, and, as I wickedly refused to do so, I felt for the first time that rush of power — the absolute power of a man.

Related Characters: Rene Gallimard (speaker), Song Liling
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

After Gallimard visits Song's apartment, he purposefully ceases contact with her for eight weeks. Instead of going to the opera, he works late or finds excuses to stay at home. In this quote, Gallimard expresses his delight at being, for the first time in his life, able to assert the dominance and emotional violence that he associates with total masculinity.

Throughout his adolescent and adult life, Gallimard has felt an acute lacking in his manhood. With Song, however, he believes he is finally reaping the feminine reward he deserves, and is determined to assert his dominance over her to the fullest extent possible. Convinced that his Western masculinity renders her powerless to his charms, no matter how badly he behaves, he chooses to ignore Song in the belief that each passing week will make her more desperate for his company. Gallimard feels no qualms or worries about ignoring Song, and is completely confident that the silence will only boost his masculinity. Though Gallimard is timid and awkward in most aspects of his life, this is the one area that he feels most confident, based on his internalized colonialist perspective: he sees absolutely no world in which Song would deny him, a powerful Western man, no matter how horribly he treats her. Gallimard is determined to become the ultimate Pinkerton to Song's Butterfly. 

I am out of words. I can hide behind dignity no longer. What do you want? I have already given you my shame.

Related Characters: Song Liling (speaker), Rene Gallimard
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

After eight weeks of silence and ignored letters, Gallimard receives a note from Song with this quote. In this letter, she says that she no longer has any strength or dignity left--she is completely at Gallimard's mercy. This quote serves to show that Song now places her longing for Gallimard above her own self-respect, which is exactly what Gallimard hoped to result from this "experiment." She no longer has any of her "Western" bravado, only pure desire to be dominated by Gallimard. Thus she plays right into the stereotypes that Gallimard sees as intrinsic to Eastern women, and he believes that she is playing exactly into his powerful masculine pull. Of course, Gallimard does not know that he is the one being "played" by an Eastern man, completely subverting the stereotype with which he has governed this experiment. The Eastern man, who is believed to be "afraid" of Western men, uses the submissive feminine mystique to bring a Western man to his knees, showing the absolute artificiality of East/West and female/male stereotypes. 

Act 1, Scene 13 Quotes

Are you my Butterfly?

Related Characters: Rene Gallimard (speaker), Song Liling
Related Symbols: Madame Butterfly
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

After receiving a promotion, Gallimard heads to Song's apartment to see her after eight weeks. Though she at first seems angry at him, Gallimard reminds her of the words she wrote to him--that she has "given him her shame"--and in this quote, asks her if she will be the Madame Butterfly to his Pinkerton.

Despite the fact that Song previously scorned the story of Madame Butterfly as an East vs. West colonialist fantasy, both Song and Gallimard here play into their respective roles in the narrative--Gallimard as the egotistical Pinkerton, and Song as the sacrificial Butterfly. In asking Song if she is his Butterfly, Gallimard is asking her to sacrifice everything for him, despite the fact that he has treated her poorly. In asking her to play this role, Gallimard is implying that he will be her Pinkerton--her shining Western knight, yet also one who feels less than tethered to their "marriage." When Song agrees that she is Gallimard's Butterfly, Gallimard realizes that he has walked right into the fantasy he has always wanted.

Act 2, Scene 6 Quotes

Renee was picture perfect. With a body like those girls in the magazines. If I put a tissue paper over my eyes, I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. And it was exciting to be with someone who wasn’t afraid to be seen completely naked. But is it possible for a woman to be too uninhibited, too willing, so as to seem almost too … masculine?

Related Characters: Rene Gallimard (speaker), Renee
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

Gallimard begins an affair with a young Danish student who propositions him for sex during their first meeting at a party. Though Renee, the student, is sexually experienced, uninhibited, and as beautiful as the women Gallimard admired in magazines as a young boy, in this quote, he expresses his disdain for her boldness. Her confidence, he reasons, makes her too "masculine."

This quote illustrates the fact that Gallimard has formed a strong emotional attachment to Song and her demure, stereotypically feminine ways. Though Renee expresses her attraction to Gallimard from their first meeting, Gallimard is now more attracted to Song and her submissive nature. Renee's confidence and assertion somewhat frighten Gallimard, who much prefers being the dominant man in his relationship with Song. Of course, ironically, Gallimard criticizes Renee for being too "masculine" when Song, the woman he prefers, is really a man. With this inclusion of Renee, and Gallimard's ultimate rejection of her, Hwang further reinforces the artificiality and fragility of masculinity. 

It was her tears and her silence that excited me, every time I visited Renee.

Related Characters: Rene Gallimard (speaker), Song Liling , Renee
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

Gallimard continues to keep up the affair with Renee, the young Danish student, while he still sees Song. He claims she did know of the affair, but does not confront him about it as a Western woman might. Instead, she weeps in silence. In this quote, Gallimard says that his affair with Renee's effect on Song was what actually excited him most. 

At first, Gallimard's excitement with Song is based on her infatuation with him and her appearance as the "Perfect Woman." As time goes on, however, Gallimard becomes drunk with power as Song apparently continues to fall deeper in love with him the crueler he acts. This is an exhibition of the "rape mentality," where Gallimard's racist and sexist point of view make him think that Song, as an Eastern woman, wants to be treated badly. Gallimard is gleeful over how his treatment of her makes her feel, yet she does not leave him--proof, Gallimard believes, of the irresistible masculinity he has always wanted and now finally has. 

No, Rene. Don’t couch your request in sweet words. Be yourself — a cad — and know that my love is enough, that I submit — submit to the worst you can give me … Well, come. Strip me. Whatever happens, know that you have willed it. Our love, in your hands. I’m helpless before my man.

Related Characters: Song Liling (speaker), Rene Gallimard
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

Gallimard tells Song he wants to see her naked body, as he never has before, and she becomes distressed, citing her modesty and shame. In this quote, she tells Gallimard she is powerless to his wants and desires, and tells him to strip her. However, she is careful to note that "whatever happens, know that you have willed it." After this quote, Gallimard chooses to not strip Song, likely because of this line--deep down, Gallimard perhaps knows he will confront Song's maleness, and is not prepared to destroy his fantasy. He likes living in his world of illusions far too much to want to burst them on a whim of his own. This quote shows that the deception in their relationship was a product of both Song's cleverness and secret agenda and Gallimard's wish to continue living in his fantasy world with the Perfect Woman. Though Gallimard seeks to absolve himself in his jail cell testimony, it becomes clear throughout the course of the play that he and Song were often equally complicit in the charade. 

Did I not undress her because I knew, somewhere deep down, what I would find? Perhaps. Happiness is so rare that our mind can turn somersaults to protect it.

Related Characters: Rene Gallimard (speaker), Song Liling
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

Gallimard ignores Song during his affair with Renee. When he finally goes to see her, she has been drinking to numb her pain in his absence. In her drunken state, she tells Gallimard to undress her, but Gallimard does not. In this quote, he acknowledges that perhaps he does not do so because, deep down, he suspected she was not the Perfect Woman.

By this point, Gallimard's entire world depends on his dominance of Song. For his whole life he has felt inadequate due to his perceived lack of masculine features and attitude. Song, however, seems powerless to his pull, and proves even more desperate to him when he is cruel to her. Gallimard himself then becomes drunk with this power, and refuses to believe that anything can get between him and his fantasy--even when he must know, somewhere inside, that his fantasy submissive woman is actually a manipulative man. Gallimard exhibits an extraordinary ability to play into an illusion that everyone else can see is manipulation, just like Madame Butterfly. As the play progresses, Song plays more into the role of Pinkerton, as Gallimard himself transforms into his Butterfly. 

Act 2, Scene 11 Quotes

This is the ultimate cruelty, isn’t it? That I can talk and talk and to anyone listening, it’s only air — too rich a diet to be swallowed by a mundane world. Why can’t anyone understand? That in China, I once loved, and was loved by, the Perfect Woman.

Related Characters: Rene Gallimard (speaker), Song Liling , Marc
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

In Gallimard's fantasy, Marc and Gallimard share a drink in his cell. Gallimard complains to Marc of the inadequacies of the West compared to the East, and Marc tells him to stop complaining. In this quote, Gallimard tells the audience how difficult it is to have experienced something so profound, and to have no one to share it with.

Gallimard is so intent on making others see how special is his experience with Song--The Perfect Woman--because, by proxy, it means that he, too, is special. Marc, by contrast, is a womanizing playboy who has always seemed special in Gallimard's eyes because he seems to have conquered the masculine stereotypes, and by extension, women, without the agony that Gallimard has endured. Gallimard wants very badly for society to acknowledge his and Song's love, because it will serve to reinforce his participation in the masculinity he believes he is supposed to embody. By saying that Song is not who she claimed to be, Gallimard, by extension, is not who he believes himself to be. 

Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

Okay, Rule One is: Men always believe what they want to hear. So a girl can tell the most obnoxious lies and the guys will believe them every time — “This is my first time” — “That’s the biggest I’ve ever seen” — or both, which, if you really think about it, is not possible in a single lifetime.

Related Characters: Song Liling (speaker), Rene Gallimard
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

On the stand, Song tells the judge that he knew how to act as the "perfect woman" to seduce Gallimard. The judge asks him to elaborate on his techniques. In this quote, Song replies that he knew exactly what to tell a man to make him feel special.

In his testimony Song invokes his mother, who was a sex worker whose clients were often white men. From her, Song learned what to say to Gallimard to make him fall in love with him (as evidenced in this quote). Thus, many of his tactics were rooted in colonialism--the submissive Eastern women sacrificing everything for the dominant Western man. Gallimard believed he had found the Perfect Woman because she subscribed to all of these stereotypes, but in reality, it was Gallimard who was the stereotype, because he fell for all of Song's tactics for manipulation. Thus, he was really the gullible Butterfly, rather than the assertive, dominant Pinkerton. Gallimard's quest to assert his masculinity ultimately only served, in terms of traditional stereotypes, to feminize him. 

The West has sort of an international rape mentality toward the East … Basically, “Her mouth says no, but her eyes say yes.” The West thinks of itself as masculine — big guns, big industry, big money — so the East is feminine — weak, delicate, poor … but good at art, and full of inscrutable wisdom — the feminine mystique. Her mouth says no, but her eyes say yes. The West believes the East, deep down, wants to be dominated — because a woman can’t think for herself.

Related Characters: Song Liling (speaker), Rene Gallimard
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

In further explanation of the political and sexual relationship between the West and East, Song descibes a "rape mentality" in which Westerners pillage Eastern lands and people and claim that they wanted to be treated this way. This stems, Song summarizes, from a belief that the East, like a stereotypical woman, does not know how to think for itself and therefore wants and needs Western masculinity to take over and dominate it.

Hwang here summarizes the thesis of the play: that sexual and political stereotypes are dangerously linked, and that intimate relationships can represent larger cultural trends. Gallimard's treatment of Song, and Song's ultimate manipulation of Gallimard, becomes an allegory for the Vietnam War--a war in which the United States and other Western nations believed they were entering to fix a problem, and ended up losing thousands of men (and any sense of a moral "high ground") to Eastern Communists. Western stereotypes of Eastern men and women can become dangerous to the point of life and death. 

Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

You, if anyone, should know — I am pure imagination.

Related Characters: Rene Gallimard (speaker), Song Liling
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

After Song taunts Gallimard, Gallimard orders Song to leave so that he can have a date with his "Butterfly." Song accuses Gallimard of subscribing to stereotypes of men and women, and therefore to be "lacking imagination." In this quote, Gallimard tells Song that he is "pure imagination." 

Gallimard admits that he knows who Song truly is, and Song's nakedness in front of him represents his inability to deny Song's maleness any further. However, he still firmly maintains that he prefers his illusions of Song as the Perfect Woman, because in that fantasy, Gallimard remains the Perfect Man who has lived the Perfect Life. Thus, as he tells Song here, Gallimard himself is "pure imagination"--he convinces himself that he lives a life that doesn't exist, and that he is someone who in reality he is not. By telling Song he wants to have a date with his "Butterfly," he tells Song that he still prefers his idea of the woman he fell in love with, rather than the actual human who served as the vessel for this fantasy. 

Act 3, Scene 3 Quotes

There is a vision of the Orient that I have. Of slender women in chong sams and kimonos who die for the love of unworthy foreign devils. Who are born and raised to be the perfect women. Who take whatever punishment we give them, and bounce back, strengthened by love, unconditionally. It is a vision that has become my life.

Related Characters: Rene Gallimard (speaker)
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

After Song leaves the stage, dancers begin to dress Gallimard in the kimono left behind. He is transforming into Butterfly. In this quote, Gallimard echoes the themes of Madame Butterfly, explicitly stating that his fantasies and stereotypes of the East versus the West have consumed him to the point of becoming his entire life. 

As Gallimard told Song more than twenty years before this moment, what he found most beautiful in Madame Butterfly was Cio-Cio-San's sacrifice to atone for her love of Pinkerton. By dressing as Butterfly, Gallimard prepares himself to atone for his love of Song. In this quote, Gallimard is the "slender woman" who loved Song, a "foreign devil." The subversion of the stereotype is nearly complete: Gallimard is the submissive Eastern woman, Song is the Western oppressor. Yet, the incomplete correlation of the cultures remain--Gallimard is still French beneath his makeup, and Song is still Chinese. The inability for the stereotype to absolutely flip shows its implausibility and artificiality in real life. Thus, Gallimard, who is "pure imagination," lives in a fantasy land and never in true reality. 

My mistakes were simple and absolute — the man I loved was a cad, a bounder. He deserved nothing but a kick in the behind and instead I gave him … all my love … Love warped my judgment, blinded my eyes, rearranged the very lines on my face … until I could look into the mirror and see nothing but … a woman.

Related Characters: Rene Gallimard (speaker), Song Liling
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

Gallimard continues to soliloquize while he is being transformed into Butterfly by the dancers. In this quote, he tells the audience that his blind love for Song ultimately transformed him into a woman.

Though Gallimard's transformation into Butterfly seems to suggest that he has developed empathy for the Eastern female experience, his words prove otherwise. He is still misogynistic in his view of others and even himself. For Gallimard, to have been manipulated is to be feminine, and to be dominant is to be masculine. Thus, because he proved to be the submissive one in his and Song's relationship, he is the "woman." This proves a stereotypical view of men and women deeply rooted in sexism and misogyny, one that not even deep reflection in a jail cell could root out of Gallimard. 

I have a vision. Of the Orient. That, deep within its almond eyes, there are still women. Women willing to sacrifice themselves for the love of a man. Even a man whose love is completely without worth.

Related Characters: Rene Gallimard (speaker)
Related Symbols: Madame Butterfly
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

Gallimard continues to speak about his "vision of the Orient" as he transforms into Butterfly. In this quote, he tells the audience that he still envisions a "perfect Orient" in which men and women are in their traditional places, according to the sentiments put forth by Madame Butterfly

As previously stated, Gallimard now considers himself to be a woman, since his experience with Song has "feminized" him. In the fantasy world that he has chosen to live in, the men around Gallimard are woefully inadequate but desired by women, and the women choose to sacrifice their lives rather than sacrifice the illusions of their perfect men. Gallimard thus chooses a world in which illusions trump reality, and in which sexist and racist stereotypes are not the stuff of colonial politics but the fluff of dreams. This is the world that Gallimard wants to live in, and it is the world that will ultimately bring him to his death. 

The love of a Butterfly can withstand many things — unfaithfulness, loss, even abandonment. But how can it face the one sin that implies all others? The devastating knowledge that, underneath it all, the object of her love was nothing more, nothing less than … a man.

Related Characters: Rene Gallimard (speaker), Song Liling
Related Symbols: Madame Butterfly
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

Gallimard continues to soliloquize to the audience, wearing the Butterfly costume. In this quote, he posits that the most devastating thing a "Butterfly" can come to realize is that the person she loves is nothing more than a normal man.

In this quote, Gallimard finally admits that the person he deemed to be his Perfect Woman was really a normal, and rather sinister, man. Song used Gallimard for French political secrets, and in return, Gallimard believed he was reaping the rewards he always deserved as a Western man. Here, Gallimard posits that he believes one of the worst things a person can be is "nothing more, nothing less than...a man." Gallimard is coming to the realization that to be human is to err, and is to have wants and desires that are not fulfilled. Sometimes, a person is just a person--not someone to fulfill a destiny or a fantasy. Song was just a person, with faults and secrets like everyone else. Gallimard, too, is just a normal human being who has some successes and failures, but who lets his failures completely overcome him. He is nothing more or less than a man, a male human, just like Song. Neither of them are particularly special or star-crossed--they are just human. It is this lack of speciality in his life that emotionally and figuratively kills Gallimard. 

My name is Rene Gallimard — also known as Madame Butterfly.

Related Characters: Rene Gallimard (speaker)
Related Symbols: Madame Butterfly
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

At the conclusion of the play, Gallimard is finally in full Madame Butterfly regalia. He is given a hara kiri knife by the dancers, and speaks this quote before plunging it into his body and killing himself. 

Onstage, Song is depicted in men's clothing, while Gallimard is dressed as Butterfly, completing the reversal--Song as Pinkerton, Gallimard as Butterfly. The only world in which Gallimard is happy is one in which he is special according to the tenants of his fantasy, where he loved and is loved purely to the point that he is willing to sacrifice his life for love. Deep down he knows that his fantasy has been an illusion, as has the last two decades of his life. Unable to bear the truth, he decides to fulfill his sacrifice and complete his transformation into Butterfly, performing the end of the opera--this time in reality, not fantasy, by killing himself in ritual Japanese fashion. The suicide is the one aspect of his life Gallimard realizes he has complete control over, and he seizes this control to overcome the manipulations and realities that he can no longer bear. 

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Rene Gallimard Character Timeline in M. Butterfly

The timeline below shows where the character Rene Gallimard appears in M. Butterfly. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
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The play opens on Rene Gallimard, alone in his prison cell in Paris. He is sitting on a crate, wearing a... (full context)
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Gallimard addresses the audience. He explains the layout of the cell, and the routines of eating... (full context)
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Gallimard tells his audience that he makes people laugh. Though nobody found him interesting or funny... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
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...a woman and two men, appear onstage. They are guests at a chic, high-class party. Gallimard, still in his prison cell, watches them. They are talking about Gallimard, ridiculing him. Gallimard... (full context)
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The three partygoers’ conversation makes reference to a trial, and to some “truth” Gallimard refuses to believe. One man, pretending to quote Gallimard, says: “[I]t was dark … and... (full context)
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The woman remarks that Gallimard is “not very good-looking” and says she feels sorry for him. One of the men... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
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Gallimard, still in his cell, tells his audience he has become “the patron saint of the... (full context)
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Gallimard tells his audience they cannot understand his story until they understand the story of his... (full context)
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Playing the roles of Pinkerton and Sharpless, Gallimard and Marc paraphrase a conversation from Puccini’s opera. While the opera is written in elegant,... (full context)
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Gallimard, speaking as himself again, introduces the actor playing Sharpless as Marc, his friend from school.... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
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Gallimard flashes back to 1947, when he and Marc were still young men studying at the... (full context)
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Gallimard tells Marc that making advances toward women always makes him nervous, because he is afraid... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 5
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Gallimard returns to Puccini’s opera, now focusing on the heroine, whom he calls Butterfly rather than... (full context)
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...kind of woman one might see in a pornographic magazine from the 1940s or 50s. Gallimard stares at her while she describes a sensual scene of undressing in front of her... (full context)
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Gallimard describes Puccini’s Butterfly, abandoned by Pinkerton — who has gone home to the United States... (full context)
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...of Sharpless. He has been sent to tell Butterfly that Pinkerton will never be returning. Gallimard describes Butterfly’s insistence that she would rather kill herself than rejoin Japanese society. Butterfly presents... (full context)
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...Suzuki, helps Butterfly, played by Song, change into her wedding dress. At the same time, Gallimard’s wife, Helga, enters and begins to help Gallimard change from his grim prison clothes into... (full context)
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Adjusting his tuxedo as Song finishes changing into her wedding dress, Gallimard tells the audience that his fidelity to Helga ended the day he saw “her” —... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 6
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When the scene opens, the year is 1960. Gallimard is in Beijing, sitting with several other diplomats in the home of the German ambassador... (full context)
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Song finishes the death scene. The diplomats applaud and flock to her with congratulations. Gallimard tells his audience that he never enjoyed opera before that night, but that Song’s grace... (full context)
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Song breaks away from the diplomats and introduces herself to Gallimard. He is shocked to find himself the object of such a woman’s attention. Gallimard praises... (full context)
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Gallimard rushes to justify his comment, saying Song has helped him see the beauty of Butterfly’s... (full context)
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While Gallimard stumbles over himself trying to answer Song’s accusatory comment, Song asks him to imagine his... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 7
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At home with Helga later in the evening, Gallimard complains about the arrogance of the Chinese people. He and Helga mock the Chinese tendency... (full context)
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Gallimard tells Helga about his conversation with Song, whom he calls “the Chinese equivalent of a... (full context)
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...sorry to have missed Madame Butterfly that night, and expresses her appreciation for Puccini’s music. Gallimard tells her the Chinese hate Madame Butterfly “because the white man gets the girl.” Helga... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 8
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Gallimard, addressing his audience, says he couldn’t stop thinking of the Peking Opera for four weeks... (full context)
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...and the scene shifts suddenly from a performance to a conversation backstage between Song and Gallimard. Song asks what has brought Gallimard to the opera so long after she invited him... (full context)
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When Gallimard objects, laughing, to Song’s analysis of Western values, Song tells him he is too close... (full context)
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As she and Gallimard walk through the streets of Beijing, Song wishes aloud that there were a café where... (full context)
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Song says Caucasian men have always been fascinated with Asian women. Gallimard reminds her of the opinion she expressed during their first meeting, that such a fascination... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 9
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Gallimard returns home late. He lies to Helga when she asks where he has been all... (full context)
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Marc appears in Gallimard’s dreams that night. He is jubilant, toasting Gallimard with expensive wine and encouraging him to... (full context)
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Gallimard insists a romance with Song is impossible because he is a foreigner. Marc tells Gallimard... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 10
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As the scene opens, Gallimard recounts how he went to the Peking Opera every week for fifteen weeks in a... (full context)
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On this night, Gallimard has finally been invited to Song’s apartment. Waiting for Song to change her clothes, he... (full context)
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Song realizes that Gallimard has not been served tea. She calls her servant, Shu-Fang, to bring some out, apologizing... (full context)
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Gallimard does not understand how his presence in Song’s parlor, which would bother nobody in France,... (full context)
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When Gallimard compliments her evening gown, Song gets flustered. She tells Gallimard she is not herself. Though... (full context)
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Before he leaves, Gallimard tells Song that he likes her just as she is at that moment. To his... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 11
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In the wake of his surprising experience at Song’s apartment, Gallimard tells his audience, he devised an experiment: he worked late hours instead of going to... (full context)
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Marc, dressed as a bureaucrat, appears onstage next to Gallimard. He is holding a stack of papers, which he hands one-by-one to Gallimard, who peruses... (full context)
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Marc asks whether Gallimard remembers a girl named Isabelle. It turns out that this girl was Gallimard’s first sexual... (full context)
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Gallimard explains how, after he had been absent from the opera for six weeks, he began... (full context)
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After eight weeks of silence and absence, Gallimard receives a seemingly heartbroken letter from Song. In the letter, she writes: “I can hide... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 12
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The same day he receives Song’s heartbroken letter, Gallimard attends a party at the home of Monsieur Toulon, another French diplomat and Gallimard’s superior... (full context)
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Toulon reveals that Gallimard’s boss, Vice-Consul LeBon, will be transferred out of China as a result of this shift... (full context)
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Toulon tells Gallimard that, had this shift happened a year earlier, he would have lost his job. The... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 13
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Gallimard arrives at Song’s apartment, having just left Toulon’s party. Song seems angry, but Gallimard pays... (full context)
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Gallimard asks Song again whether she is his “Butterfly.” She tells him she doesn’t want to... (full context)
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Gallimard tells Song that she has changed his life, and that she is the reason for... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
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Gallimard, in his cell again, reads from a review of Madame Butterfly. The reviewer writes that... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
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The scene opens with Gallimard sitting on a couch with Song curled up at his feet. Gallimard explains to his... (full context)
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Song is telling Gallimard that Chinese men keep their women down, and that the Communist government in China works... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
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Toulon appears onstage, and Gallimard goes to meet him. Toulon is not in Gallimard and Song’s apartment — the ensuing conversation... (full context)
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Toulon is telling Gallimard that the Americans have made plans to begin bombing Vietnam. Since there is no American... (full context)
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...they refused to help the French defend their colonial authority there during the Indochina War. Gallimard tells Toulon that the French lost in Indochina because they didn’t have the will to... (full context)
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Toulon makes a joke about Gallimard’s intimate knowledge of the Chinese, and reveals that he has heard rumors about Gallimard and... (full context)
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Toulon asks Gallimard again for “inside” information about Chinese popular opinion of the West. Gallimard tells him that... (full context)
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As Toulon prepares to leave, Gallimard asks him how many people have heard the rumors about his affair. Toulon assures him... (full context)
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Comrade Chin appears onstage. Gallimard, distressed, turns to Song — who has been sitting quietly onstage this whole time —... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
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...addresses the audience for the first time. She tells them the year is 1961, and Gallimard has just left their apartment for the evening. Comrade Chin tells Song to find out... (full context)
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Chin leaves the stage. Gallimard peers out from the wings, confirming that she is gone. Song assures him that she... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 5
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Gallimard begins the scene in his apartment with Song, his head in her lap. He explains... (full context)
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Helga appears onstage. She informs Gallimard that she has visited a doctor to talk about their difficulties conceiving a child, and... (full context)
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Returning to Song, Gallimard complains about the humiliation of not being able to conceive a child with Helga. Song... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 6
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It is 1963, and Gallimard is at a party at the Austrian ambassador’s house. He is talking to a young... (full context)
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Renee returns to the stage, toweling her hair in what is clearly supposed to be a... (full context)
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Renee walks offstage, leaving Gallimard behind. Song appears, shaking and distressed, in a different corner of... (full context)
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Toulon appears onstage. He tells Gallimard that the American military has plans to assassinate Ngo Dinh Diem, the president of South... (full context)
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Gallimard is furious to learn that Toulon does not plan to stand beside him if the... (full context)
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Gallimard finds Song drunk and despairing. She says their problem is an old one: men grow... (full context)
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Gallimard tries to comfort Song by telling her that his seeing her naked will remove the... (full context)
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Gallimard says the thought of himself fulfilling the role of lecherous Pinkerton, abusing his loving Butterfly,... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 7
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The night after her dramatic conversation with Gallimard, Song paces their apartment while Comrade Chin reads from a notepad. Gallimard is watching their... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Comrade Chin leaves the stage, and Gallimard calls out to Song. He tells her that he would forgive all her betrayals, if... (full context)
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Song points to the audience and reminds Gallimard where he left off his story: he was telling the audience about the night she... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 8
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Gallimard announces he will divorce his wife and live with Song, first in China and then... (full context)
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Song returns to the stage holding a bundle in her arms. Gallimard examines the baby and makes a few critical, but lighthearted, comments about the child’s looks.... (full context)
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Song tells Gallimard she has named the baby Peepee. Gallimard urges her to consider a different name, and... (full context)
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Gallimard tells the audience that Song’s stubbornness — her insistence on staying in China, on the... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 9
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It is 1966. Gallimard explains to his audience how a series of influential events completely altered the life of... (full context)
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Toulon appears onstage, and informs Gallimard he is being sent back to France because his poor predictions about the war in... (full context)
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...the stage and mime beating her. She is wearing male clothing, distinctly Chinese in style. Gallimard tells his audience that they said a hurried goodbye before he returned to France, but... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 10
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It is 1970, four years after Gallimard’s departure from China. Song is laboring on a commune in rural China, and has been... (full context)
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...“pervert stuff.” Chin orders Song to move to France and take up his affair with Gallimard again, in order to send secrets back to China. She tells Song he will have... (full context)
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Song insists Gallimard will never take him back, that he was only ever Gallimard’s “plaything” and will not... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 11
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Gallimard talks about the first years after his return to Paris. He describes a comfortable, predictable... (full context)
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Helga remarks on the smell of the incense Gallimard is burning in the house. She begins talking about China, and the resemblance between the... (full context)
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Gallimard tells Helga, suddenly, that he wants a divorce. He confesses that he has had a... (full context)
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Marc appears onstage, holding two drinks. Gallimard begins to tell him about the magnificent life he had in China, where Song’s love... (full context)
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Song appears onstage, wearing the wedding kimono from Madame Butterfly. Gallimard notices her, but is convinced for a moment that she is an illusion. When she... (full context)
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Gallimard reaches to embrace Song, but she steps out of his reach. Song begins talking to... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
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...tailor agreed to make him a kimono on credit so he could present himself to Gallimard. In the fifteen years following their reunion, Song says, Gallimard provided “a very comfy life”... (full context)
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...the year is 1986. Song is describing his activities as a spy for China, and Gallimard’s role in those activities. He tells the judge that he didn’t do much spying when... (full context)
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The judge asks Song whether Gallimard knew he was a man. Song answers that Gallimard never saw him completely naked, and... (full context)
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...relate to the success of the deception, Song offers a brief summary of his ideas: Gallimard convinced himself Song was a woman because he wanted to believe Song was a woman,... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
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Gallimard appears onstage, crawling toward the wig and kimono Song abandoned in the previous scene. Song... (full context)
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Song calls out to Gallimard from the witness stand, addressing him as “white man.” The court scene fades away as... (full context)
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Song taunts Gallimard, flirting with him aggressively but leaving him unsure of whether that flirtation is sincere. He... (full context)
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Song begins to remove his clothing. Gallimard, in shock and horror, asks what he is doing. Song says he is helping Gallimard... (full context)
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Gallimard insists he knows what Song is — a man — but Song says Gallimard doesn’t... (full context)
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Gallimard says Song was a fool to show him the truth, because all he loved was... (full context)
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Gallimard says he has finally learned to tell the difference between fantasy and reality, and that... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
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Back in his prison cell, Gallimard speaks again to his audience. He has searched a long time for an alternate ending... (full context)
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Gallimard tells the audience that he has committed his life to a vision of the Orient... (full context)
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Gallimard says again that he loved Song — though he pretended this wasn’t the case — and... (full context)
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Gallimard is now in full Butterfly costume, holding a hara-kiri knife like the one Song once... (full context)