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Understanding David Henry Hwang, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 574

Essay

It is apparent that Gallimard reflects anxiety about his own Western defined masculinity by repressing the reality that he is experiencing. At the end of the story, the reader becomes somewhat surprised when they learn of Gallimard’s fate because for the first time, we see that after careful consideration of his experience, he does not regret his relationship. However, throughout the story, we are led to believe to some extent that Gallimard does not truly understand the gender of his partner. As the story progresses, we understand that it is more challenging for Gallimard to not come to this realization, even though he does not want to accept that he is in a same sex relationship.

In this instance, Gallimard shows his anxiety simply by denying that he is involved in a relationship that is considered to be outside of the confines of normal Western masculinity. However, he fights society’s opinion at the end by committing suicide dressed as a geisha. He feels that by doing so, he is able to not only escape his own feelings, but he has somehow become what he has rejected for a long period of time. Although Gallimard is committing suicide due to the lack of acceptance that Western society has towards his previous sexual encounter, he feels that he is being freed from the reigns that his culture has imposed on him. Even though the reader is expected to be sad that Gallimard has ended his own life, this event is considered to be a happy ending. Furthermore, the story draws an important parallel to Madame Butterfly, showing that individuals have the ability to escape the expectations of society.

When Gallimard interacts with his wife, we learn that the two are unable to have a child. While Gallimard initially believes it is the fault of his wife, he becomes dismayed when she asks him to have some tests done. An inability to have a child is a sign of a lack of typical masculinity. In a historical context, it was typically thought that there was something wrong with the wife if the couple was unable to have a child. Now, however, it is clear that it is Gallimard who is unable to have a child and this makes him feel like less of a man.

Furthermore, when Gallimard meets song, he compliments her rendition of Butterfly. Song then responds, “I will never do Butterfly again, Monsieur Gallimard”. To him, this appears to be a slap in the face because a woman is contradicting her role in society and not merely submitting as he is used to. This challenges his masculinity for one of the first times in a more direct manner, which he is not accustomed to. Because Gallimard is questioning himself and his role in society, Song is able to use him to gain information about the French government. While it seems that Gallimard is in control the whole time, he finds at the end of the story that he has been confused in many different ways and ultimately blinded by the intentions of Song. This is in part because his masculinity has been challenged so he is trying to learn how to adapt to this new perception of the world around him. Ultimately, he finds that he is not able to truly cope and takes his own life as a consequence.

Works Cited

Boles, William. Understanding David Henry Hwang. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2013.

Hwang DH. M. Butterfly. 1988.

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