Racism, Sexism, And Sexuality Shown Through M. Butterfly By David Henry Hwang

2311 words - 9 pages

Who is stronger? The East or the West? Do the Oriental people truly succumb to the threats of the western white man? Based on the views of the non-oriental people, the Oriental people secretly want to get dominated by a stronger force, comparing them to a woman, or just simply calling their race feminine. The show M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang is able to express different issues regarding the theory of Orientalism by hiding it amongst several conversations between characters. The play can be seen as highly political because of topics it chooses to discuss despite the fact that the lead character is a diplomat. Though somewhat unrelated; M. Butterfly can even have a certain Brecht-esque quality to it. Because it contains several moments that can make the audience member question what is going on and the story itself, Brecht would be happy. The show can confuse the audience and make them think. Gallimard and Song also talk to the audience directly at certain points which in a way can distance them from the story because it can make it known that they are, indeed watching a play. M. Butterfly holds many political and Brechtian qualities that prove many issues that go on today. Seeing these representations of foreign races views on one another can hopefully help to get the countries to realize their harsh judgments.
One particular topic mentioned was that of Orientalism. The theory pertains to foreign views on one another. An example would be what Gallimard says to Toulon in M. Butterfly: “The Orientals simply want to be associated with whoever shows the most strength and power” (36). The East is seen as the weaker race by the West and is often referred to as feminine. Because they are seen as weaker, they would obviously want to work with a group of people that shows the most strength to satisfy their own well-being. One of the stereotypes referenced before was the Oriental people’s obsession with the concept of honor. “Death with honor/ Is better than life/ Life with dishonor” (17). Gallimard is translating for Song in this passage. Song being Oriental, this line would be expected and wouldn’t cause much of a point, but when Gallimard states it again in the end of the play on page 68 and it causes much more feeling out of the audience. Why is that? Gallimard is French and not Chinese. Those kinds of words aren’t stereotypical of a French man, which is normally not known as the concerns of a Caucasian male, but rather an Oriental male. The aspects of Orientalism are not solely focused on the West’s views of the East, but can also be the other way around. “Her mouth says no, but her eyes say yes. The West thinks of itself as masculine—big guns, big industry, big money—so the East is feminine—weak, delicate, poor, but good at art, and full of inscrutable wisdom—the feminine mystique. Her mouth says no, but her eyes say yes. The West believes the East, deep down, wants to be dominated—because a woman can’t think for herself” (62). That quote was...

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