The scenario in the play M. Butterfly, where a real gentleman believes that his male lover is actually a beautiful lady, is guided by the imagination that western man believes about the oriental that is not true. In this case, Gallimard falls in love with a ‘woman’ who according to his imagination she has all the traits according to his expectations. The love affair eventually makes him a victim of humiliation by Eastern Asian ladies.
The play brings out Hwang’s interest in ethic issues and the difficult a Chinese immigrant faces in adapting a normal life in a different culture. This play clearly describes the struggle Chinese individual’s encounter while working on railroads in nineteenth century. It is important that Chinese people should learn to integrate their traditions and values with the American societies as portrayed in the play. M. Butterfly fits best in the context of the nineteenth century as it clearly focuses on very essential themes in society such as ethnic identity, issues of gender, adaptation into American society, and the ability for one individual to clearly know another.
In M. Butterfly, Rene Gallimard falls in love with Son Liling. A Chinese opera he believes to be a lady which is not the case as he gets to know the bitter truth later in the play. Unknown to Gallimard, Liling is communist operator who has all a long using him to obtain critical information concerning the Vietnam War. At long last, Gallimard eventually loses his job in Vietnam and is sent back to France. Liling does not give up in his mission to obtain more information from Gallimard and hence follows him in France where he is eventually publicly revealed to be a male. Gallimard stays in affair with Liling for twenty years only to discover that he is a man. This turnaround of events twists the dynamics between Gallimard and Liling. As such Gallimard becomes submissive, and Liling becomes the main character in the play. Liling presents the valuable information he has gained concerning Gallimard which leads to his imprisonment and eventually charged with treason (Caveney, 43). Unable to face the fact that his ‘perfect lady’ he has been dating for twenty years is actually a man, Gallimard retreats deep within himself and his memories.
One of the major central themes of the play is gender relations as reflected in the Hwang’s drama. Rene Gallimard, a real diplomatic civil servant of French embassy in china, falls in love with a very beautiful Chinese opera lady, song Liling, who is actually a lady prejudicing to be a woman. They meet when she is performing a play in china. Traditionally, females in Beijing opera are not allowed to perform in stage and all their roles are performed by male characters. Gallimard is aware of this and he ends being tricked into a love affair with Liling. He goes to an extent of referring to her as a butterfly a character she for ages denounced. In stage Liling displays his masculine nature which vividly depicts that he is actually a man and Gallimard driven by ‘perfect love’ is blindly ends up in affair with a Liling. He eventually ends up being convicted, humiliated and imprisoned. This affair not only sends him to prison but also causes separation with his dear wife. In this view, Hwang’s brings out the importance of true knowledge of your love partner as far as gender issues are concerned so as to avoid negatives consequences later on life. The play also reveals the consequences of men who prefer subservient and obedient ladies as their lovers. At the end, these stereotypical expectations and fantasy renders men into manipulation and betrayal (Maria, 12).
Another important theme of M. Butterfly rotates between love, the power of attraction between two individuals and eventual plunge into betrayal. The perfection of love between Gallimard and Liling entirely depends on Gallimard’s imagination assuming there is no attraction or any prior experience of such love affair. This simply that Gallimard will continue to live his dream of love as long as “Butterfly” is kept in his mind and Liling sustains the fantasy. However, Liling betrays Gallimard by revealing that he is a man and sending him to jail hence destroying his illusion. The spying is central part of betrayal in this play. It can also be argued that perfection of the butterfly could have lived on were it not for the arrest of Gallimard. The betrayal is even made worse by Liling trying to convince Gallimard that their love relationship can continue this time as between two men and not as Gallimard and his Butterfly. However, failure of Gallimard to live up to his imaginary Butterfly makes him to settle on committing suicide. This is after Gallimard failure to agree with Liling suggestion that they can still keep their relationship as men.
If it were not for high imaginations and expectations for the typecast of the untrue oriental woman, Gallimard would not have even thought that his lover was actually a lady. Gallimard’s blind guidance by totally wrong stereotype makes him to completely disagree with the obvious truth that his lover, Liling, is actually a real man.