This is a 1988 play composed and written by David H. Hwang. It is based on a relationship between, Peking opera singer named Shi Pei Pu and a French diplomat. The first act talks about how Rene Gallimard and Song Liling got into a relationship. Rene is a French Diplomat and Song is an opera singer. A song is about a man who masquerades the role of a woman.
This is because the Chinese government has banned all women from performing on stage and their roles were taken over by men. Act two addresses the steps taken towards the realization of Song’s main gender identity, as well as, the consequences of the revelation. Act 3 is the last act, and it summarizes and concludes what happens to the two partners after the revelation.
Gender Identity in the Play by David Hwang
Just like any other play, Hwang has used a lot of metatheatre in the play in order to display or fulfill his thematic messages and information to the readers and viewers. Metatheatre involves the use of comedy or tragedy in a play. To begin with, the appearance of comrade Chin in the cell and finds the two, Gallimard and Song enjoying their time in the cells, Gallimard does not want to see him.
He wants him out as he interrupts their stay and conversation at the cell. The same part is also a comedy when Gallimard shows a sign of comfort and considers himself not an ordinary prisoner. He is a celebrity, yet he does not have the freedom to move about. “Now you will see why my story is amusing to so many people” (Hwang 5).
Another aspect of comedy is depicted when Chin questions Song about her dressing. Gallimard is hiding in the whole session and appears only after a confirmation by Song that Chin has gone. This shows his fear or shame of being associated with Song.
Analysis of the excerpt in the first scene provides an example of variation and distinctiveness in cultural practices and beliefs in Chinese and French societies. The idea of Rene claiming that people will see his story as amusing shows his belief to be a celebrity; not just an ordinary prisoner. “Now you will see why my story is amusing to so many people” (Hwang 5).
This is partially true as many people talk about him in different parts of the world. “…from Amsterdam to New York” (Hwang 6). Since a European, he considers himself more important than other prisoners who are Asians. This is a typical portrayal of stereotypes based on racial backgrounds. He sees Easterners from a negative perspective.
The fourth scene takes place at Gallimard and Butterfly’s flat in Beijing, and it acts as the epitome of racism and stereotypes as the major themes in the book. The drama between Chin and Song is mainly focused on displaying cultural identity and forbiddance of certain practices in some societies. Chin says to Song, “Is that how come you dress like that?” (Hwang 6).
Relevance to the LGBT Community
Putting of dress by men among the Chinese people is not allowed culturally. It symbolizes homosexuality, which is a serious societal crime in Chinese society. Miss Chin is concerned about the erosion of the Chinese culture by other practices from the west. To her, she believes that it is Gallimard that has come up with a bad influence on the existing Chinese cultural beliefs.
That is why she goes ahead to warn Song about the issue of homosexuality and its absence in China. Another aspect of stereotype is in the arrogance of Chinese people as claimed by Gene. He naturally doesn’t have a good attitude towards the Chinese people. He and his partner, Song sees Chinese culture as antiquity and outdated practice.