They say forbidden fruits are the sweetest, and fantasies of them are the strongest. Or rather, trying to love what one knows s/he can never have. Most times it is like chasing the wind. When people dream of things that do not belong to them, somehow desire starts to grow, and forbidden vivid fantasies unfold. This is the case of Madame Butterfly and M. Butterfly; plays written by David Henry Hwang. They both have been through fantasies in their blank minds but have to awake to the sad reality when the characters in their fantasies die. Somehow their fantasies die when reality sets in. To this regard, the paper is an analysis of both plays and tries to explain the repercussions associated with living in a fantasy world.
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For Madame Butterfly, Ciao Ciao-su was born to a family of severe poverty. The father had died, and the mother was living in poverty too. Madame Butterfly had been a geisha before she got married to Pinkerton and endured the customers teasing and ridicules. All these misfortunes made her long for a better life. Luck fell on her side when soldier Pinkerton picked her as his wife for temporary satisfaction.
A wealthy Western man could give her everything she ever wanted, especially when she was in such a difficult situation. A life saver indeed he was to her. All she was to do was to hold it tight. She was so happy; at least she could live her dream until her husband leaves. In my opinion though, I cannot say she was in love rather, she was chasing the life she had never had, kind of running away from all her problems. The solution, she thought, would be got from marrying a wealthy man. When Pinkerton bought her for 100 yen, she thought it was the start of a happy life and her fantasies would come true. However, as it appears later this was contrary to what she has received.
In M. Butterfly’s fantasy, there is Gallimard, a former French diplomat who has been imprisoned for treason. His crime was passing classified documents to the Chinese, through his lover, Song. Gallimard is an unimpressive man, who by his own admission is not "witty or clever" (Groos 23). Groos further explores that the play portrays him as "having an independent wife and a normal job" (24). They have been married for eight years, and their marriage life has gotten flat. He wants some excitement, something different; his life is so prosaic that he has fantasies to make it joyful. He needs a meek woman and a good job to achieve his careerism.
Accidentally, he meets the woman-Song, whose successes complete his fantasy. Song tries to convince him to face his fears; speaks to him in the hardest of ways and makes him suffer. I, therefore, tend to believe that the reason Song does this is to try to put him through his shoes, make him experience what she had been through as a woman. That is, trying to please him and giving up everything he has ever had and being completely a "Butterfly" (Brustein 28).
Gillard has been living in his fantasy for 20 years, but Song has not. He had been acting as Butterfly for those 20 years, pretending to be someone he was not, and now he was fed up and was opting for revenge. She said, "the cruel man" (DiGaetani 142) in the beginning, and now she wants to be the cruel one. M Butterfly might hate the Western man's fantasy about Asian woman because it shows the weakness of oriental; in consequence she starts against Gallimard to oppose all these thoughts.
Madame Butterfly and M Butterfly have contrasting fantasies. Gallimard does not know oriental culture or women. He falls for whoever accords with his thoughts. Ciocio-san does not know any western culture either, and she will do everything she can to keep her dream life. DiGaetani also cites Song says "we have always held a certain fascination for you Caucasian men, have we not?" (DiGaetani 143). She is, therefore, trying to lead him to the way western think and give him a clue to having the fantasy. On page 32 of the poem, he is playing Madame Butterfly by working hard and ignoring Song whom he wants to see whether she is his butterfly or not. Song knows how to act well, and the letter he writes to Gallimard makes him feel even more confident and gives him the courage to really have a butterfly. If the truth came out then it would be a relief for Song. At least for everything he did to her in the 20 years they stayed together. However, death is a cruel end for Gallimard in the fantasy he commits suicide while Song watches smoking a cigarette.
The character of Sharpless in Madame Butterfly’s fantasy shows that not all western men are as bad as Pinkerton. He disagrees with Pinkerton's behaviours and feels sorry for her. The main argument is seen in Ciocio-san and Pinkerton relationship. She is totally lost in her western dream and would do anything to keep her perfect life whereas for Pinkerton who sees her as a butterfly that he can catch and nail.
Both characters in the play try to catch their dreams and live within them. However, they pay with their lives. The end of the two plays give the impression that fantasy is beautiful when only lived in the dream world. Fantasies are blind, and in this case, they both wish and long for something that the other does not have. So the two plays lead to a miserable ending.
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