M. Butterfly


David Henry Hwang

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Rene Gallimard

A former French diplomat who relates the story of his passionate, disastrous affair with Song Liling from his cell in a Paris prison, where he is serving a long sentence for treason. Gallimard falls in… read analysis of Rene Gallimard

Song Liling

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… read analysis of Song Liling


A friend from Gallimard’s youth. Marc is unapologetically lascivious and encourages Gallimard to take sexual advantage of the women around him without regard for their feelings or even their consent. Marc represents unfettered masculine… read analysis of Marc

Manuel Toulon

The French ambassador to China, and Gallimard’s superior at the embassy in Beijing. Toulon promotes Gallimard to vice-consul and charges him with collecting information to aid the American war in Vietnam. He shares Gallimard’s… read analysis of Manuel Toulon

Comrade Chin

A member of the Red Guards, a paramilitary arm of the Communist Party in China. Song communicates with Comrade Chin often, to pass on the classified information he gathers from Gallimard. Chin is severe and… read analysis of Comrade Chin
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Minor Characters
A young, sexually liberated Danish woman with whom Gallimard as an affair. Renee’s boldness presents a stark contrast to Song’s modesty, which Gallimard finds both exciting and obnoxious.
Gallimard’s wife, who is older than Gallimard. The pair married as a matter of convenience; Helga’s father had diplomatic connections that helped Gallimard ascend in his career.
The schoolgirl with whom Gallimard shares his first, disappointing sexual experience when he is a young man.
Song Peepee
Song and Gallimard’s son.
Song’s servant.
Vice-Consul LeBon
Once Gallimard’s superior at the French embassy, to whose position Gallimard is promoted.