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Yolanda Keren Rivera

Professor H Batty

English 102

17 October 2017

The Man Behind a Suit

In the play M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang, Rene Gallimard is a diplomat

from France who has been sent to Beijing. Settling into a new country, he meets Song

Liling a beautiful woman in traditional Chinese garb who is an opera singer. After

meeting her again at the Chinese Opera, Gallimard and Song become lovers but her

modesty will not allow him to see her completely naked nonetheless he respects her. But

Rene does not know Song is an operative and has been using him to collect valuable

information about the Vietnam War. His marriage collapses and his career are put on

hold for certain documents and are arrested for spying. At trial the truth is revealed that

Song Liling is a man, and Rene is left in disbelieve. Feeling betrayed by Song, Rene

chooses to believe his own fantasy and creates his own ideal version of himself, which

eventually leads him to commit suicide. The man behind a suit has an identity crisis

versus his public and private life relating to his title, gender/social norms and sexuality.

Rene Gallimard was a devoted diplomat; an official representing a country

abroad, a diplomat is someone who is appointed by a nation to protect that nation's

interests etc. An identity crisis is a necessary turning point, a crucial moment, when

development must move one way or another, marshaling resources of growth, recovery,

and further differentiation. (Erikson 1968, p. 16) Therefore Gallimard struggled and

changed for his title and personal life, which caused a peak with his identity crisis. His
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oldest best friend realized as well telling him Toulon. Humility wont be a part of your

job. Youre going to coordinate the revamped intelligence division. Want to know a

secret? A year ago you wouldve been out. But the past few months, I dont know how it

happened, youve become this new aggressive confident . . . thing. (Act 1, Scene12,

Line19) Renes title forces him to be more aggressive it speaks out, he had to become

someone else, a different man in a suit to live up to his social title for everyone to see.

His job of colonizing another country gives him a lot of power being a man, its a very

gender based title. Basically all major qualities is what makes who we are, including

biological facts, in the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences says Mixed

societal demands are particularly problematic for identity formation and its refinement at

a time when one is seeking continuity or looking to find a sense of ones uniqueness yet

still fit within ones societal parameters over time. In those instances in which one is part

of a minority (e.g., by race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation) This job of being a diplomat

enders his identity crisis because he must meet a certain standard for his title. Also in his

private life with Song Liling, there love causes him to change. Rene states in Act 1,

Scene 13 You have changed my life forever. My little Butterfly, there should be no

more secrets: I love you. (Line 30) Although he did not know about Songs betrayal, he

chooses to believe his emotions.

The gender norms impacted by society during this time, also lead to Rene

Gallimards identity crisis. Social roles form a basis of norms, dealing with the behavior

of both genders male and female. Gender not only refers to male and female but to

masculine and feminine, qualities and characteristics that socially belongs to a certain

sex. Balaev, Michelle in "Performing gender and fictions of the nation in David Hwang's
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M. Butterfly states that both (gendered) and (national) identity connect. The rhetoric of

gender converges with the rhetoric of nationalism at the site of the body so that individual

(gendered) identity cannot be separated from public (national) identity. The connections

between gender politics and nationalism suggest that both discourses rely upon

imaginative fictions to construct identity. (Balaev, Michelle 1) " His gender of being

male, makes him act more dominant he feels entitled because of his sex. For example

with Song Liling, says to his lover Gallimard. Are you my Butterfly? (Act 1, Scene13,

Line 28) In this line, Gallimard demands honesty from her. Another observation is how

Hwang chose the name Rene for this character, maybe a touch on his inner femininity.

Which adds on about his gender role, in "Gender roles and gender equality" by

Haihambo, Edu-Twelimona he states Socially constructed gender roles have gained

increasing recognition as important factors affecting the developmental, psychological,

and relational well-being of men and women. (Haihambo 2) Renes gender norms were

confused, he was not true to himself or the society thus making him greatly unstable.

Both mentally and physically which takes a toll on his public and private life, leading to

the identity crisis.

Rene Gallimard faces an identity crisis, the main reason being his sexuality. He

has always struggled with woman, Mark his friend insisted and told him that he needed to

be with all these women to make him a real man. Although Mark was in his pasted, his

influence was still very present. Rene Gallimard the diplomat loved Song Liling the spy,

but couldnt admit it to himself that he loved a man. In a journal by Bobker Danielle she

states, I have aimed to build on the existing critique of coming out discourse and

homosexual media visibility by showing that the public space beyond the homosexual
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closet--the metaphorical zone one comes out into--has linguistic and conceptual origins.

(Bobker 3) In a way he was stuck inside this closet that only he can get out of by coming

out. InGender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity by Butler Judith,

Some of the terror and anxiety that some people suffer in becoming gay, the fear of

los-ing ones place in gender or of not knowing who one will be if one sleeps with

someone of the ostensibly same gender. Rene has to face the truth that he has been

with a man for twenty years and cant run away from reality. Gallimard. Im a man who

loved a woman created by a man. Everything else --- simply falls short. (Act 3, Scene 2,

Line 72) Rene Gallimard dressed up as a gasha because he could not die with his true

sexuality on display, he must take on another role instead. At the end of the play Rene

Gallimard states My name is Rene Gallimard also known as Madame Butterfly. (Act 3,

Scene 3, Line 1) Had to take on the role of a woman, proving that his sexuality isnt what

he thinks it is, then shortly after he-she commits suicide.

The play M. Butterfly Rene Gallimard has an identity crisis due to his title,

gender norms and sexuality. The standards placed by society for each gender both male

and female has an affect for each individual not just during this time but also till this day.

Involving every aspect of a persons life again publically and privately, including each

personality meaning everyone is different and unique. But one main issue we face today

is how much pressure is put onto society, which leads most people to not being able to

stay true to them selves and depending on how big the problem may be, in some cases it

leads to suicide like it did with Rene Gallimard. In M Butterfly I learned overall to face

your own reality rather than ending your life to end the problems and by taking action to

die in your our fantasy rather than fighting and living for your true reality.
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Works Cited

Balaev, Michelle. "Performing gender and fictions of the nation in David Hwang's M.

Butterfly." Forum for World Literature Studies, vol. 6, no. 4, 2014, p. 608+. Academic


Bobker, Danielle. "Coming out: Closet rhetoric and media publics." History of the

Present, vol. 5, no. 1, 2015, p. 31+. Expanded Academic ASAP

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York:

Routledge, 1990. Calhoun, Craig. Nationalism. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1997.

"Identity Crisis." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, edited by William A.

Darity, Jr., 2nd ed., vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2008, pp. 556-557. Gale Virtual

Reference Library

Haihambo, Edu-Twelimona. "Gender roles and gender equality." Sister Namibia, vol. 25,

no. 3, 2013, p. 24. Global Issues in Context

Hwang, David Henry. M. Butterfly. New York: Penguin Books, 198