M. Butterfly

M. Butterfly Act 1, Scene 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Gallimard arrives at Song’s apartment, having just left Toulon’s party. Song seems angry, but Gallimard pays no attention as she chastises him for arriving late and unannounced and scandalizing her neighbors. He tells Song he has been promoted, and asks her: “Are you my Butterfly?” Song demurs, insisting Gallimard already knows her answer. Gallimard tells her that he wants to hear her say the words aloud. He reminds her of the line from her earlier letter: “I have already given you my shame.”
When Gallimard asks Song whether she is his “Butterfly,” he is asking whether she will love and devote herself to him in the same way the heroine of Puccini’s opera does for her husband. Given Song’s professed disdain for Butterfly and her story, conceding that she is willing to fill the role of Butterfly in Gallimard’s life would be a major change of heart, and a definitive victory for Gallimard in the power struggle of their relationship.
Themes
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon
Gallimard asks Song again whether she is his “Butterfly.” She tells him she doesn’t want to answer. Gallimard strokes her hair and tells her there should be no false pride between them. Song relents, and tells Gallimard that she is his Butterfly.
This is the moment when Song fuses, in Gallimard’s mind, with the image of perfect Asian womanhood he cherishes. Song ceases to be a real person, and instead becomes the fantasy of Butterfly.
Themes
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Gallimard tells Song that she has changed his life, and that she is the reason for his promotion. He begins to kiss her, and she urges him to be gentle, confessing that she has never been intimate with a man. She asks him to let her wear her clothes while they make love, telling him she is “a modest Chinese girl.” Gallimard is sympathetic. Song promises she will do all she can to please him, and tells him Chinese mothers teach their daughters how to satisfy a man. She asks him to turn off the lights and the two go to bed, quoting Puccini’s opera to one another.
Song’s modesty, inexperience, and humble, earnest desire to please her man represent the pinnacle of womanhood. Both totally chaste and perfectly knowledgeable about sex, the modest and submissive result of conservative culture who is as readily available to her lover as a progressive Western woman, Song unites masculine ideals that seem totally contradictory, and emerges as a perfect fantasy girl.
Themes
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Memory, Imagination, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon