M Butterfly Essays

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by David Henry Hwang are ultimately essentialist or anti-essentialist, accentuating or disavowing difference.

It argues that both plays are successfully anti-essentialist by examining the discursive relationship between categories of gendered, racial and national identity.

and Edward Said have also claimed are socially constructed.

Of course, the difference between de Beauvoir and Butler is that the latter benefits from the work done by Michel Foucault on discourse “as a series of discontinuous segments whose tactical function is neither uniform nor stable” (quoted in Wolfreys 67).

The second threat to Clive’s identity takes the form of the feminine Other, or female sexuality, and he challenges Betty about her attraction to visiting explorer Harry Bagley.

Clive’s depiction of female sexuality has strong resonances with his depiction of the colonial Other: “We must fight against it.Furthermore, the cross-casting of both Betty and Joshua shows how these characters are conflicted, not only in relation to other women and other Africans, but also within themselves.Above all, there is a tension between Joshua as the colonial Other and Betty as the feminine Other.But in the grand scheme of things, how he feels about the matter is inconsequential and thus, this little incident where he snubs his mother is glossed over.Instead, the scene closes with a song sung by all, whose repeated refrain underscores Edward’s duty to his family: “A boy’s best friend is his mother.” (35) Act One closes with the wedding scene which is supposed to contain the “deviant” sexualities of both Harry and Ellen, and sustain the future of the white patriarchal bloodline.As everyone makes their way outside, he draws his wife Betty back.In his depiction here of the colonial Other and the feminine Other, Clive constructs his identity as white colonial administrator and Thus, while the colonial Other is “wild,” “dangerous” and “implacable,” British identity is established in opposition as naturally having more humanity, rationality and civilization.This identity is constructed in opposition to Betty’s femininity, as well as Joshua’s colonized nationality and black African race.Similarly in , Gallimard’s masculinity is intrinsic to his French nationality and Caucasian race, defined in opposition to Song’s femininity, Chinese nationality and Asian race.The purpose of this chapter is to examine intersections of gendered, racial and national identity in Caryl Churchill’s It must be noted from the outset that concepts of race and nation are closely interwoven in these plays.However, according to Said, nation refers to the set of relations whereby one discursively produced historical and geographical entity exerts power over another.


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