David Hwang's “Madame Butterfly” is a loosely based true story of a French diplomat named Rene Gallimard who carries on a twenty year affair with a man whom he thought was a beautiful Chinese opera diva named Song Liling. Gallimard falls madly in love with this "woman" to the point where he leaves his wife. Unbeknownst to Gallimard, Song is not only a man but also a spy for the Chinese government and uses their relationship to obtain important information. After 20 years of deceit, the truth is finally revealed through a gripping and tense scene. Gallimard is unable to face the fact that his "perfect woman" is actually a man, so he retreats deep within himself and reflects his disillusioned memories. Most of the play is depicted as Galliard’s distorted recollection of the events surrounding their affair. In the third act, Gallimard commits suicide while Song smokes a cigarette and carelessly watches him.
There are several themes infused in Hwang's “Madame Butterfly.” Hwang explores western stereotypes, race, East-West tensions and issues of gender and sexual identity. Gallimard's Western superior attitude concerning Asian culture is the base of his relationship with Song. Many negative western images of the Chinese occur throughout the play. Gallimard claims that the Chinese are “arrogant” and that this is a common belief in the West. The Western culture also stereotypes the East as passive and weak. Gallimard feels as though these powerless traits are responsible for the Vietnam War. He expresses "The Orientals simply want to be associated with whoever shows the most strength and power." In the trial scene, Song explains, "The West has sort of an international rape mentality towards the East." There is constant debate between the East and West's way of thinking. Hwang however, shows that the strength and power of the West had little significance by showing Gallimard being dismissed from his diplomatic post. The racism,...