M. Butterfly


David Henry Hwang

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M. Butterfly: Act 1, Scene 2 Summary & Analysis

Three well-dressed people, 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 seems unfazed by their jokes, and remarks that they are “determined to say my name.”
The partygoers represent the most elite members of Western society, and their mockery makes it clear that Gallimard is now a laughingstock and a pariah among these people. His isolation in prison mirrors his status as a social outsider.
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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 she was very modest!” The trio all laugh at Gallimard’s expense. One of the men suggests Gallimard may have “misidentified the equipment.” The woman laughs that his error is a compelling case for sex education in French schools.
The partygoers’ comments reveal that Gallimard has been involved with a woman who turned out to be anatomically male; the “equipment” to which one of the men refers is the male genitalia. It seems that this relationship is part of the reason Gallimard has been imprisoned, and that he has made public statements which insist his lover is a woman.
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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 recommends a toast in Gallimard’s honor. He says, “Vive la différence!” The three laugh as they toast, and the lights go down on them.
“Vive la difference” is a French expression often used to remark on the differences between men and women. The man mocks Gallimard one last time with this toast, suggesting that Gallimard is stupid for mistaking something most people believe to be obvious and innate: who is a man and who is a woman.
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