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Comparing the Quest in M. Butterfly and American Beauty

The Quest in M. Butterfly and American Beauty

Happiness is defined as enjoying, showing, or characterized by pleasure; joyous; contented. Based on this definition we all search for happiness our entire lives. Two very different stories address this idea of the quest for happiness. M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang is the story of a man named Gallimard who is longing for his love “Butterfly” to return to him. John Deeney describes it as him, clinging to his idea of a “Perfect Woman” to the end by costuming himself into the victimized Butterfly though his final suicide. Although Gallimard’s infatuation with Song sometimes makes him cut a rather ridiculous figure, his dead seriousness at the end evokes a certain amount of pathos and even admiration as he dies for his ultimate ideal of perfect womanhood.

On the other hand, there is Sam Mendes’ American Beauty. This story approaches the idea of happiness in a different way; it presents an entire family and their pursuit of sweet bliss. The quests of Carolyn, Jane, and Lester Burnham, as well as their next-door neighbor, Frank Fits, are on display. Paul Arthur describes American Beauty as “An authentic Life Lesson, a spiritual world view grounded in the discovery of beauty.” In both M. Butterfly and American Beauty, the characters are presented as unhappy and searching for happiness. Of the characters, however, only Jane Burnham, Frank Fitts, and Lester Burnham find their new happiness.

Song in M. Butterfly lives life as a false image to make herself happy. Song is an actor who plays the part of a lady in an opera. He allows a man, Gallimard, to fall in love with his character. He then uses this love affair to help his government receive classified information. When a…

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… be a relationship, a sexual preference, or simply a life style, the lack there of is always apparent. In M. Butterfly and American Beauty each character is on a pursuit to find his or her own happiness. In the end, only Jane Burnham, Frank Fits, and Lester Burnham find the happiness they are looking for. They display that more than anything; happiness is the most important thing in life. Without happiness, money, personal success and status do not mean anything.

Works Cited

American Beauty. Dir. Sam Mendes. Dream Works, 1999

Arthur, Paul. “American Beauty.” Cineaste 2000 Vol 25 Issue 2: 51.

Deeney, John. “Of Monkeys and butterflies: Transformation in M. H. Kingston’s

Tripmaster Monkey and D. H. Hwangs’ M. Butterfly.” Melus Winter 93/94; 21.

Meyer, Michael. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2000.

Comparing the Narrative Voice in The Storm and Hands

The Narrative Voice in The Storm and Hands

The application of narrative voice as a devise by which the author influences or manipulates the reader’s response is an ancient method of inducement that is still employed today. Kate Chopin tactfully utilizes narrative voice in the short story, The Storm, to create an empathic reader’s response for a socially unacceptable behavior. Sherwood Anderson, the author of Hands, appropriates a similar technique to manipulate the reader’s response to accept or sympathize with a serious controversial issue that long has plagued humankind from early Biblical times until this present generation. Narrative voice is still employed today and has not lost its persuasive, influential, and manipulative effect over the centuries.

Kate Chopin cleverly employs an omniscient narrative approach in relating The Storm, so the facts presented impact and shape the reader’s response to the couples’ adulterous affair. The narrator focuses on the romantic relationship that existed between Alcee and Calixta before her five-year marriage to her husband. The narrator recalls that “in Assumption Alcee had kissed Calixta and kissed her until his senses would well nigh fail, and to save her he would resort to a desperate flight” (Chopin 363). The narrator consciously constructs in the mind of the reader the idea that Alcee and Calixta were not immoral fornicators during their youthful romantic connection, but on the contrary, their moral value and practice more than parallel that of society’s and had been far above reproach. The narrator further validates that “Calixta was an immaculate dove in those days, and she was still inviolate; a passionate creature whose very defenselessness had made her defense, …

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…pathy for Mr. Bibblebaum’s atypical tendency by focusing on his hands, his nervous emotional state, and the abuse he receives from society.

Both authors successfully employ narrative voice in generating empathy and some possible modification in the reader’s response for two issues that cut across popular opinion and moral value. The tactics utilized by both narrators will continue to influence and manipulate reader’s response for centuries to come and has the potential to break down well constructed social barriers.

Work cited

Anderson, Sherwood. “Hands.” Literature Across Culture. Eds. Sheena Gillepsi, Terzinha Fonseca, Carol A Sanger 3rd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2001: 885-889.

Chopin, Kate. “The Storm.” Literature Across Cultures. Eds. Sheena Gillepie, Terzinha Fonseca, Carol A. Sanger 3rd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2001: 885-889.

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