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Unmasking the Colonial Politics of Violence: David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2005, 18(1), pp.23-46
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Kang, Hyeong-min 1

1건국대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper analyzes how M. Butterfly unmasks the Western colonial/imperial politics of violence in the process of colonization on the Other. While focusing on the West's colonial/imperial collusion of their policies on the Indochina in particular and on Asia in general, David Henry Hwang, in M. Butterfly, explores how much the West's colonial/imperial policies have exasperated not only the conflicts in Indochina but also the relations between the East and the West. Set the Vietnam War as the thematic pivot of the play, David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly studies the processes of degradation/inferiorization of Others with which the Western colonialism/imperialism has justified its violent dominations over Others. For this purpose, following the context of Edward Said's insight in Orientalism, M. Butterfly shows that imperialism is closely related with racism and sexism in order to inferiorize its Others thus to justify its domination over Others. In particular, M. Butterfly not only shows that the Western male chauvinism is encouraged and bolstered by its colonialism/imperialism to inferiorize its Others, but also argues that the Western male chauvinism becomes the main source of precipitating the destruction of the Western colonialism/imperialism by underestimating the will of the Other to resist. Therefore, at the end of the play, although the main hero, the Western male chauvinist, commits suicide, it does not mean that he has given up his distorted perspective on Asia and Asians; Rather, he is executed by the Western male chauvinist tradition in order to keep their perspectives intact. M. Butterfly implies that it is not possible for the reader/audience to predict any real changes or revisions in the West’s perspectives and politics on the East. Rather, the play strongly suggests that the West’s imperialist perspectives on the East will go on for a long while.

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