Comparing the Quest in M. Butterfly and American Beauty

Powerful Essays
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.