M Butterfly Essays

M Butterfly Essays-64
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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For both Churchill and Hwang, categories of gender, race and nation can be mutually deconstructed in the same way that they are mutually constructed because their foundation in discourse is fundamentally unstable.

Thus, when fluid sexuality – in the form of female sexuality and homosexuality – is used in these plays to undermine gender binaries, constructions of race and nation also start to come undone by implication.

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).

However, he moves away saying “Don’t touch me.” (35) This suggests that the role of white English patriarch – Edward’s social destiny – is not one he is altogether comfortable with.

Of course, this is further illustrated in the fact that he is played by a female actress.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.This occurs in much the same way as masculinity exerts power over femininity.Whereas according to Gates, race refers to the identity which is discursively produced through the body’s genealogy and/or biological features, such as skin colour and facial characteristics.The purpose of this fragmentation is to prevent an internal coalition against the white, British, patriarchal power structure embodied in Clive.(Howe-Kritzer 118) Of course, it was Joshua who informed Clive that he had seen Betty and Harry Bagley kissing.This, perhaps, is what is on Betty’s mind when she sees Joshua after her confrontation with Clive, and orders him to fetch her some blue thread from her sewing box.His response however, takes the form of a misogynistic slur on female sexuality: “You’ve got legs under that skirt,” he tells Betty, “And more than legs.” (35) It seems that the power struggle between black masculinity and white femininity is at an impasse until Edward intervenes on behalf of his mother: A delighted Betty declares Edward “wonderful” and goes to embrace him.I will argue here that in these plays, gender, race and nation are mutually constructed in discourse so that they may also be mutually deconstructed; this occurs through the subversive fluid sexuality at the heart of identity which undermines gendered categories of identity and, by implication, those of race and nation.Act One of attempts to put forward a notion of self which is defined in opposition to the colonial/racial Other and the feminine Other through discourse.

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