M. Butterfly

M. Butterfly Act 2, Scene 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
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, and tells him she is not worthy of marriage. She insists she cannot ask Gallimard to give up his flourishing career for her sake. Gallimard swears his career is not so important as he made it seem, and that he doesn’t care whether a scandal erupts into all the newspapers, but Song refuses to accept his proposal and leaves the stage. Gallimard tells the audience he and Song continued to argue all night, but that her refusal was final. He says she disappeared to the countryside, and returned several months later with a child.
Song uses flattery to misdirect Gallimard. She cannot allow herself to become the center of a scandal, because too much attention will surely bring her deception to light — she is, after all, famous in Beijing as a male opera singer who plays female roles. By framing her refusal to marry as concern for Gallimard’s career, Song keeps him and his needs at the center of their shared world; a tactic that is above suspicion since she has emphasized him and minimized herself through their entire relationship.
Themes
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
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. Song quotes lines from Madame Butterfly: “What baby, I wonder, was ever born in Japan … With azure eyes … And such lips! … And such a head of golden curls.” Gallimard observes that the boy’s eyes are more brown than blue, and that his supposedly “golden” curls are “slightly patchy.” Still, the couple seems happy.
As she did the first time they had sex, Song uses Puccini’s words to enrapture Gallimard, trapping him in fantasy so he cannot see the gaps and flaws that would surely give Song away. Gallimard can see that his son is not the blue-eyed Western baby Song describes, but her fantasy is so complete as to prevent him from really registering that dissatisfying reality.
Themes
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Memory, Imagination, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Song tells Gallimard she has named the baby Peepee. Gallimard urges her to consider a different name, and offers Michael, Stephen, and Adolph as alternatives. Song tells Gallimard that, while Peepee might make their son vulnerable to teasing in the West, it doesn’t matter because he will never live in the West. She promises the child will never burden Gallimard in his home country — the two of them will stay in China, always.
Gallimard wants the baby to be his child: he wants to have a say in the boy’s name, to educate him Western schools, and generally to feel some ownership over the child’s life and upbringing. That Song denies him this ownership is a surprising twist, since she has already claimed that the baby is intended to create a lifelong tie between her and Gallimard. She denies him this control over the baby by giving it a non-Western name that will make it hard for the baby to thrive outside China. Yet note that the Western connotation of “Peepee” also subtly hints at the secret behind Gallimard and Song’s relationship: that Song is a man.
Themes
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon
Gallimard tells the audience that Song’s stubbornness — her insistence on staying in China, on the fringes of his life where she would never cause a scandal or create a burden —made him love and desire her more than ever. He tells them her aloofness was brilliant manipulation; she seems to have known exactly how to hold onto his affections. However, he admits, he was so in love with her by this point that she could have done anything, and he would have continued to adore her.
The relationship between Song and Gallimard has been a long series of power plays. In their earliest meetings, she seemed especially elusive and prideful so that her submission would seem even more meaningful; once Gallimard became overly infatuated with his own power, Song needed to assert herself more forcefully. This was both a way of ensuring the success of her mission, and a way to make Gallimard feel safe — in his heart, he is still a coward, and does not have the strength to stand up for the woman he loves in difficult, public ways.
Themes
Orientalism, Imperialism, and Cultural Conflict Theme Icon
Femininity and Male Ego Theme Icon
Love and Cruelty Theme Icon
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