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The Subversion of the Oriental Stereotype in M. Butterfly

Author(s): Songfeng Wen

Journal: English Language and Literature Studies
ISSN 1925-4768

Volume: 3;
Issue: 2;
Date: 2013;
Original page

This paper is to examine the Oriental stereotype propagated by Giacomo Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and how it is subverted in David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly. Puccini portrays a docile, self-sacrificial Oriental woman who is totally submissive to and finally dies for her unworthy White lover. The opera’s popularity has perpetuated the stereotype of an ideal Oriental woman. In Hwang’s M. Butterfly, the stereotype of the ideal Oriental woman is subverted as the gender roles and the power structure of the Oriental woman and the Occidental man have been reversed. The White man, Gallimard, rather than a powerful sexual predator, is manipulated by his Oriental lover, a man masquerading woman, and finally dies for his Oriental lover. By analyzing the stereotype in Madame Butterfly and its subversion in M. Butterfly, it is hoped to reveal the insidiousness of stereotyping in understanding different cultures and peoples and it is also called for to rid people of stereotyping in cross-cultural communications.
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