Symbolism In M. Butterfly

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“M. Butterfly” was a play written by David Henry Hwang in 1988. Besides based on the true story of the scandalous affair between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and the Chinese spy Shi Pei Pu, “M. Butterfly” is also inspired by the Italian play writer Giacomo Puccini’s famous opera, “Madama Butterfly”. Although critics usually refer the work as a demonstration of dangers inherent in living a life satisfied with shallow stereotypes and misconceptions, the work can be understand in a deeper level with its historical context. As stated by Hwang, “the action of the play takes place in a Paris prison in the present, and, in recall, during the decade 1960-70 in Beijing, and from 1966 to the present in Paris.”(6) In world history, the 1960s was the time where the Second World War (1937-1945) has ended. The Asians were more united after the war, thus nationalism rose among the Asians. They were hoping for democracy of their own homelands. Meanwhile, the western powers were exhausted from war and they retreated from Asia, thus the Asian countries were able to carry out political reforms after escaping from colonization of the West. Under these contexts, Hwang’s M. Butterfly could be seen as a work discussing the power struggle between the Orient and the Occident by making a metaphor out of the gender stereotypes. To start with, the two main characters, French diplomat Rene Gallimard and the Chinese spy Song Lilan, represented the perception of the West that how the East is a

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