Prostitution Eroticism Transvestism In Novels English Literature Essay

M. Butterfly, Miss Saigon and Memoirs of a Geisha all appeared during the twentieth century and all dealt with the function of Asiatic adult females. Miss Saigon is a west-end musical based on the opera Madame Butterfly, which was besides the inspiration for David Hwang ‘s insurgent drama M. Butterfly. Memoirs of a Geisha is a novel from the late nineties that focuses on an ancient Nipponese tradition.

All three have received popular and critical planetary acclamation although they deal with cultural and gender stereotypes really otherwise. Miss Saigon took a record interrupting $ 24 million in progress ticket gross revenues before its Broadway gap in 1991. M. Butterfly remains Hwang ‘s most popular and successful work and Memoirs of a Geisha was a best-seller upon its release and was adapted into a popular movie in 2005.

Representations of gender

A common subject for much of the duologue between work forces and adult females throughout the 19th and 20th centuries gained public acknowledgment in Mary Wollstonecraft ‘s ( 2004 ) 18th century text A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. That subject is the dialogue by adult females for more presence in the public universe. Each text takes a different position of the function of Asiatic adult females, delegating them different degrees of power and personal liberty as they follow the original discourse.

Saigon appears to be the most traditional of the three texts in the manner it treats the function of Asiatic females. As Kim ‘s rubric suggests, she embodies her fatherland as the ideal representative of eastern muliebrity. She is pure, loving and willing to give herself for the good of her kid – a stereotype of a female. Chris, her American love involvement is non every bit cruel as his earlier opposite number from Madame Butterfly, seting the incrimination for the calamity at the door of political relations instead than gender.

M. Butterfly is wholly insurgent. Although it is influenced by the same original opera as Saigon, the extent to which functions are reversed between the ‘female ‘ Song and the male Gallimard makes bunk of the stereotyping that Saigon supports. It flips our outlooks about the function of Asiatic adult females, presenting the impression of gender as a societal concept instead than an unconditioned quality ( Butler, 2004 ) .

In Geisha, as with Saigon, the female lead is hapless, beautiful and vulnerable. Despite the similarities, Sayuri ‘s life seems to repeat modern western impressions of authorization and equality. The universe she must negociate remains steeped in patriarchal Nipponese traditions but she is still able to do picks about her fate.

Although her behaviors frequently follows stereotyped forms, we are ever cognizant that this is portion of a program and she does non ever believe what she says or does. Beneath the surface, a whole other universe resides that has nil to make with her visual aspect or function as a Geisha. She balances traditional Nipponese aesthetic values ( Macfarlane, 2007 ) with the personal liberty that was supported by the US in Japan as portion of the station Hiroshima peace pact ( Evans, 1997 ) .

Prostitution, erotism and the struggle between

Each female lead has features in common. They are all immature, hapless and beautiful. Because of these qualities they end up entertaining work forces for a life. Song is an opera vocalist ; Kim works in a saloon and becomes a cocotte and Sayuri chooses to work as a Geisha. The work forces who pursue these adult females are attracted by their visual aspect of artlessness and beauty.

In Saigon the promise of matrimony and a unafraid hereafter is offered to court Kim and take her virginity, but when Kim offers herself to Chris it is for love, non money. She gives control of her life to Chris, foremost by give uping her virginity and so by taking her life when she discovers that he can no longer be with her.

In Geisha, Sayuri offers her virginity for sale to the highest bidder to unclutter a fiscal debt and achieve some independency. Selling her organic structure is non obligatory for endurance but it is a monetary value she must pay to recover some control over her life.

Throughout Geisha, Sayuri repeatedly uses harlotry to authorise herself and accomplish fiscal security. She even uses harlotry to engineer her ain forsaking to be free to populate with the adult male she loves.

From the male position, love and harlotry are the perfect solutions to the job of wanting artlessness. Fantasying about a adult female who is pure becomes debatable when you want to carry through the sexual phantasy. How to carry a virtuous adult female to allow you kip with her?

By seting the Asiatic adult females into a life of poorness the author creates the perfect via media – a virtuous adult female who is forced to give up her virginity in return for fiscal addition or security. Although Kim falls in love with her first ‘customer ‘ she would non hold met him if she had non been forced into a vulnerable place. Her deficiency of fiscal and moral support cast her adrift at the clemency of whoever she comes across at ‘Dreamland ‘ . In Geisha, Sayuri makes a pick to go a Geisha – but merely because she sees it as a manner to better her life and accomplish some degree of independency. Becoming a Geisha is her alternate to a life of servitude or an unknown destiny.

Song besides appears vulnerable but she chooses a signifier of harlotry to lead on and pull strings her lover. This behavior removes power from the ‘masculine ‘ , male civil retainer and topographic points it in the custodies of his seductress, the cocotte.


David Hwang ‘s M. Butterfly replaces the female character of Butterfly with a male masquerading as a adult female. Hwang, inspired by a true narrative every bit good as Puccini ‘s opera, retells the narrative in a manner that highlights the exposure and naivete of the West, imputing power to the ‘feminine ‘ and the E which had antecedently been denied.

By replacing the word ‘Madame ‘ with ‘M ‘ , Hwang sets an equivocal tone right from the start. If we are familiar with the opera Madame Butterfly, it is natural to presume the ‘Butterfly ‘ is a adult female. It is this prepossession – this error – that forms the footing of the secret plan.

Unlike Saigon and Madame Butterfly before it, in M. Butterfly it is the male lead, non the female who takes his ain life. The perfect adult female has become the semblance and Gallimard, who has given up everything to be with her, becomes the victim. He realises his treachery and dons a wig, do up and a kimono, castrating himself before perpetrating self-destruction.

By utilizing a male character to ordain a female function Hwang confounds the stereotype originally portrayed in Madame Butterfly and perpetuated in Miss Saigon. Song is a adult male who looks like a adult female, but Gallimard is a adult male who acts like a adult female – falling blindly and wholly in love with Song.

He besides subverts the traditional position of eastern and western civilization because Song, the powerful, manipulative character is from Beijing. Consequently it is the E that holds power over the West, represented by France and Gallimard ‘s credulousness and naivete.

Cultural difference

Saigon and M. Butterfly represent opposing positions on the power battle between E and West. In the first, western civilization and civilization is held up as an ideal that the E is seeking, running from its ain heritage and rejecting the rise of communism. In the 2nd, eastern misrepresentations take advantage of western artlessness in a drama of subtle, barbarous domination. Hwang ‘s construct of his ain individuality, as an Asian-American informs his deconstructionist attack to cultural stereotypes.

Merely in Geisha does the power battle remain within a individual state and civilization. Torn between Nobu and Iwamura, Sayuri seems to confront two different aspects of Nipponese civilization. One is older, traditional and restrictive. The other is modern, caring and kindhearted. Whether this is meant to be an accurate representation of modern Nipponese values is ill-defined nevertheless, as the novel has attracted negative unfavorable judgment from the really adult female whose interviews it was purportedly based upon.


Despite their attempts towards genuineness the writing of course presents jobs and we must accept that each production is told through a westerner ‘s eyes. Saigon is based on an Italian opera and written by a Tunisian life in Paris and a Frenchman. Geisha is based on a western writer ‘s reading of interviews with a echt Geisha and M. Butterfly is written from an Asian-American position.

Between them, the musical, the drama and the fresh seek to stand for different positions on the function of Asiatic adult females and the cogency of our ain traditional concepts. Take together, the texts provide an overview of the stereotyped Asian female, taking us to reason that, whilst the thought of a stereotype is utile in literary treatments it is impossible to verify or confirm. Sayuri ‘s behavior conforms to traditional values while her ideas and desires lead her off from our outlooks. Kim ‘s complete self-abasement high spots the defect of the feminine ‘ideal ‘ . Song ‘s misrepresentation shows us that we can non ever rely on our prepossessions. One message is clear ; to follow a naif or nescient attack is merely non an option.

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