M. Butterfly

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Song Liling Character Analysis

A male, homosexual Chinese opera singer who masquerades as a woman to gain access to Gallimard, then exploits their intimacy to collect classified information for agents of the Chinese Communist Party. Tremendously perceptive and intelligent, Song develops a profound understanding of Gallimard’s psychology that allows him to deceive and manipulate Gallimard. Specifically, he understands Gallimard’s desire for a particular kind of woman: beautiful, submissive, and unquestionably devoted to him. He performs the role of that fantasy woman, and in doing so possesses Gallimard’s love completely. Song serves the Communist Party mostly out of necessity; as an actor and a homosexual man, he is considered criminal by the Party’s doctrine and needs to ingratiate himself with Communist officials to prevent devastating punishment for his “crimes.” However, he also resents Westerners for their systemic abuse of Asian nations and people, and has no regrets about undermining the work of Western governments.

Song Liling Quotes in M. Butterfly

The M. Butterfly quotes below are all either spoken by Song Liling or refer to Song Liling . 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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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

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 7 Quotes

Miss Chin? Why, in the Peking Opera, are women’s roles played by men? … Because only a man knows how a woman is supposed to act.

Related Characters: Song Liling (speaker), Comrade Chin
Related Symbols: Madame Butterfly
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

Miss Chin visits to follow up on Song's gathering of classified information from Gallimard. Before she leaves, Song asks her why she thinks the Peking Opera might cast men in all roles, including the roles of women. Miss Chin theorizes that it is a remnant of patriarchal China, but in this quote, Song refutes her guess and says it is because "only a man knows how a woman is supposed to act."

Song's seduction of Gallimard works because she acts as the Perfect Woman--that is, not a real woman. She is submissive to Gallimard's every whim, and grows only more attached to him the more cruelly he treats her. Few real women would act this way--hence the implausibility of Madame Butterfly--yet it is the masculine fantasy to have a woman who submits to these stereotypes, as the converse of such fantasies is the reinforcement of the cruel, dominant man as the Perfect Man. Here, Song reasons that men play the parts of women because they are not real women, but rather the fantasies of male composers and librettists, understood only by male actors who submit to the same stereotypes. Thus, Song, as a man, is perfectly cast for the role of the Perfect Woman. 

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

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. 

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. 

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Song Liling Character Timeline in M. Butterfly

The timeline below shows where the character Song Liling appears in M. Butterfly. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
...music of the kind that might be performed at the Peking Opera. This woman is Song Liling. As the dance continues, the music changes. The traditional Chinese song and instruments are... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 5
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
...to Puccini’s opera, now focusing on the heroine, whom he calls Butterfly rather than Cio-Cio-San. Song appears onstage in the Butterfly costume, dancing to the opera’s “Love Duet.” Gallimard imagines the... (full context)
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Comrade Chin, still playing the role of Suzuki, helps Butterfly, played by Song, change into her wedding dress. At the same time, Gallimard’s wife, Helga, enters and begins... (full context)
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Memory, Imagination, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Adjusting his tuxedo as Song finishes changing into her wedding dress, Gallimard tells the audience that his fidelity to Helga... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 6
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon
...the home of the German ambassador to China. Chairs are gathered around a stage where Song, still dressed in the wedding costume from the previous scene, sings the death scene from... (full context)
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Song finishes the death scene. The diplomats applaud and flock to her with congratulations. Gallimard tells... (full context)
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
Song breaks away from the diplomats and introduces herself to Gallimard. He is shocked to find... (full context)
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon
Gallimard rushes to justify his comment, saying Song has helped him see the beauty of Butterfly’s death: that, though Pinkerton is not worthy... (full context)
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
While Gallimard stumbles over himself trying to answer Song’s accusatory comment, Song asks him to imagine his reaction if Madame Butterfly were about a... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 7
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
Gallimard tells Helga about his conversation with Song, whom he calls “the Chinese equivalent of a diva.” Helga is surprised to learn that... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 8
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
...of the Peking Opera for four weeks after his conversation with Helga. He wondered how Song became so “proud” — which is to say, confident and forthcoming about her opinions. Though cowardice... (full context)
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Song freezes, holding a pose, in the middle of her dance. The two dancers leave the... (full context)
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
When Gallimard objects, laughing, to Song’s analysis of Western values, Song tells him he is too close to his own culture... (full context)
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
As she and Gallimard walk through the streets of Beijing, Song wishes aloud that there were a café where they could drink cappuccinos and listen to... (full context)
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Song says Caucasian men have always been fascinated with Asian women. Gallimard reminds her of the... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 9
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Memory, Imagination, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon
Gallimard insists a romance with Song is impossible because he is a foreigner. Marc tells Gallimard that the taboo nature of... (full context)
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Song appears onstage, wearing a sheer robe. Marc says Gallimard has spent his entire life waiting... (full context)
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 10
Memory, Imagination, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
...Peking Opera every week for fifteen weeks in a row following that first encounter with Song. After each performance, he says, she would indulge him in fifteen or twenty minutes of... (full context)
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon
On this night, Gallimard has finally been invited to Song’s apartment. Waiting for Song to change her clothes, he picked up a framed photograph. Song... (full context)
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Song realizes that Gallimard has not been served tea. She calls her servant, Shu-Fang, to bring... (full context)
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
Gallimard does not understand how his presence in Song’s parlor, which would bother nobody in France, could cause a scandal in China. The difference,... (full context)
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
When Gallimard compliments her evening gown, Song gets flustered. She tells Gallimard she is not herself. Though she tries to behave like... (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 audience, he... (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... (full context)
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...had been absent from the opera for six weeks, he began to receive letters from Song. In her first letter, she asks him to come back to the opera and jokes... (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 behind dignity no longer. What do you... (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... (full context)
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...him as well, and thinks this must be God’s way of punishing him for mistreating Song — taking away the woman he failed to appreciate. To his great surprise, however, Toulon... (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 no attention as... (full context)
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Gallimard asks Song again whether she is his “Butterfly.” She tells him she doesn’t want to answer. Gallimard... (full context)
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Gallimard tells Song that she has changed his life, and that she is the reason for his promotion.... (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 audience how, shortly after beginning their... (full context)
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Song is telling Gallimard that Chinese men keep their women down, and that the Communist government... (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 takes place in the French embassy — but Song watches them from... (full context)
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Comrade Chin appears onstage. Gallimard, distressed, turns to Song — who has been sitting quietly onstage this whole time — and asks why Chin... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
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Song addresses the audience for the first time. She tells them the year is 1961, and... (full context)
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Chin remarks on Song’s ability to keep so much information in her head. Song reminds Chin that she is... (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 is, and invites him to continue telling the story “in your... (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 how he and “Butterfly” passed three years of... (full context)
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Returning to Song, Gallimard complains about the humiliation of not being able to conceive a child with Helga.... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 6
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Renee walks offstage, leaving Gallimard behind. Song appears, shaking and distressed, in a different corner of the stage from Gallimard. Gallimard says... (full context)
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...he would never risk his own career by supporting Gallimard’s recommendations publicly. While they talk, Song dissolves into a fit in her corner of the stage. She throws a vase to... (full context)
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...he needed an outlet for his anger and humiliation, and so he went to see Song for the first time in weeks. (full context)
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Gallimard finds Song drunk and despairing. She says their problem is an old one: men grow tired of... (full context)
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Gallimard tries to comfort Song by telling her that his seeing her naked will remove the last barrier between them.... (full context)
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...the role of lecherous Pinkerton, abusing his loving Butterfly, made him sick. The confrontation with Song killed the last traces of Pinkerton in him, he says, and left behind a feeling... (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 dialogue... (full context)
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Song, still recounting the events of the previous night, tells Comrade Chin about a revelation that... (full context)
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As Comrade Chin prepares to leave, Song asks why, in her opinion, the Peking Opera always casts men in women’s role. Chin... (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 she would return to... (full context)
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Song points to the audience and reminds Gallimard where he left off his story: he was... (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 in France. Song says she is ashamed by his generosity,... (full context)
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Song returns to the stage holding a bundle in her arms. Gallimard examines the baby and... (full context)
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Song tells Gallimard she has named the baby Peepee. Gallimard urges her to consider a different... (full context)
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Gallimard tells the audience that Song’s stubbornness — her insistence on staying in China, on the fringes of his life where... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 9
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...came under new leadership, and the government grew even more extreme and violent. He and Song were enemies of the state, because his wealth and her opera fame both ran counter... (full context)
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Two dancers drag Song onto the stage and mime beating her. She is wearing male clothing, distinctly Chinese in... (full context)
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Comrade Chin forces Song to respond to a series of humiliating questions. She claims that Song has been oppressing... (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 for the past four... (full context)
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Comrade Chin tells Song he can serve the people of China, but that he will not be permitted to... (full context)
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Song insists Gallimard will never take him back, that he was only ever Gallimard’s “plaything” and... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 11
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...drinks. Gallimard begins to tell him about the magnificent life he had in China, where Song’s love made him feel special and exalted. He says life in the West is a... (full context)
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Song appears onstage, wearing the wedding kimono from Madame Butterfly. Gallimard notices her, but is convinced... (full context)
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Gallimard reaches to embrace Song, but she steps out of his reach. Song begins talking to the audience, but Gallimard... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
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Song’s makeup is gone. He takes off his wig and steps out of his kimono, under... (full context)
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As Song tells his story, the scene changes. The same actor who plays Toulon appears onstage, wearing... (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... (full context)
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To his first claim, Song adds that Western men become “confused” when they come into contact with Asian people and... (full context)
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...judge, who does not understand how these comments relate to the success of the deception, Song offers a brief summary of his ideas: Gallimard convinced himself Song was a woman because... (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 is still on the witness stand. Gallimard tells the... (full context)
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Song calls out to Gallimard from the witness stand, addressing him as “white man.” The court... (full context)
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Song taunts Gallimard, flirting with him aggressively but leaving him unsure of whether that flirtation is... (full context)
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Song begins to remove his clothing. Gallimard, in shock and horror, asks what he is doing.... (full context)
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Gallimard insists he knows what Song is — a man — but Song says Gallimard doesn’t really believe that. He takes... (full context)
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Gallimard says Song was a fool to show him the truth, because all he loved was the lie... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
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...fantasy world that gave birth to her. He picks up the kimono left behind by Song, and two dancers appear onstage. They help Gallimard apply makeup to his face while he... (full context)
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...the men do not deserve their devotion. Gallimard says he has known the truth about Song for a long time, and that he must now make a sacrifice for his mistake:... (full context)
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Gallimard says again that he loved Song — though he pretended this wasn’t the case — and that this love was the thing... (full context)
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Gallimard is now in full Butterfly costume, holding a hara-kiri knife like the one Song once used to perform the death scene from Puccini’s opera. He sits in the center... (full context)