M. Butterfly


David Henry Hwang

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M. Butterfly: Act 2, Scene 4 Summary & Analysis

Song 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 when the Americans plan to start bombing Vietnam, and which cities they intend to target. Chin takes notes while Song recites a list of numbers: Americans will increase troops in Vietnam to 170,000 soldiers, with 120,000 militia and 11,000 American advisors.
Comrade Chin is a member of the Red Guard, a paramilitary wing of China’s Communist government. This scene reveals that Song has been passing the information she coaxes out of Gallimard onto the Chinese government, helping frustrate the American intervention in Vietnam.
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
Chin remarks on Song’s ability to keep so much information in her head. Song reminds Chin that she is an actor. Chin asks whether being an actor requires Song to wear women’s clothing. Song insists that her dress is simply a disguise to help her in her assignment. Chin asks whether Song has been gathering information in ways that violate “the Communist Party principles.” Song casually assures her she is doing no such thing. Chin reminds Song that there is no homosexuality in China, to which Song answers ironically, “Yes, I’ve heard.”
Song’s conversation with Chin, reveals her extensive betrayal of Gallimard: the fact that she is actually a man, and seduced him — by making him think he was seducing her — under false pretenses to gain access to government secrets. At the same time, however, it reveals her dissatisfaction with China and its Communist regime. Chin’s parting comment hints that Song is homosexual, and therefore criminal according to the government’s values — making Song a pariah in the rigid Maoist regime. Song is not as blindly supportive of the West as Gallimard believes, but neither is she an ardent Chinese patriot. Like Gallimard, Song too is an outsider, and it may be that Song is engaged in this seduction of Gallimard simply to survive in a culture that demonizes him.
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
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 own fashion.”
Gallimard is ashamed of the truth and afraid to face it even in narrative. He hides from Chin because he cannot bear to recall his own foolishness.
Memory, Imagination, and Self-Deception Theme Icon