Butterfly, the Bride
Essays on Law, Narrative, and the Family
Publication Year: 1999
Published by: University of Michigan Press
Series: Law, Meaning, and Violence
This book consists of a set of discussions that look at law, and particularly family law, in light of works commonly classified as narrative or literature. The objective is to enrich our understanding of marriage and the family, and the role of law in dealing with and shaping these institutions and our ideas of these institutions. The narratives discussed here are of different kinds, some biographical, some fictional. ...
Chapter 1. The Bride
It is possible that the story of Cho-Cho-San and Pinkerton is true, in the sense that it is based on real events that happened a hundred years ago to real people. It may be as suggested, that Long's sister, the wife of a missionary, heard this true story in Japan and told her brother.1 Or it may be true at one level removed, based not on a tragic anecdote but on an earlier, possibly autobiographical, work, Pierre Loti's Madame Chrysanthemum. ...
Chapter 2. The Couple
... The legal issues involved, including the conflict of laws,2 are of considerable complexity. Butterfly marries Pinkerton in a country where a husband who abandoned his wife was taken to have divorced her under traditional customary law. The wife had no corresponding right to divorce her husband) ...
Chapter 3. Contracts
The wealthy Prince Yamadori appears in the three versions of the Madame Butterfly story as the Japanese suitor who, through a marriage broker, wants to marry Cho-Cho-San after Pinkerton has returned to the United States. In the short story by John Luther Long, Yamadori is of an "august family" and a man "bred to the Law." In the play by David Belasco, Yamadori is a "citizen of New York," temporarily in his native country. ...
Chapter 4. The Family
The family was so important in Japan that marriages were understood as a contract between families rather than between individuals. The House "consisted of all living lineal ascendants and descendants in a particular family, with the oldest male member commonly in the position of Head of the House."1 Postmortem divorce derives from this idea, since "marriage is a relationship ...
Chapter 5. Children
"She named the baby, when it came, Trouble, meaning Joy."1 The double naming of the child suggests perhaps the ambivalence of the parent. In the Butterfly story we have no sense of the consciousness of the child. ...
Chapter 6. Law
The story of Madame Butterfly has as an important part of its background the marriage and divorce law of Japan, under which Yamadori, the princely suitor, has already divorced a varying number of women. "Yamadori who was bred to the law, tells me that our law prevails in such matters, the marriage having taken place here," John Luther Long writes.1 ...
Chapter 7. Breaking the Butterfly
Mme. Ohyama admires the libretto to Puccini's opera because it is parallel to a true story. So, too, we are told that the Long account is "possibly based on a real event."1 Without reaching the question, "What allows us to decide that a particular version of reality is true?" we might ask the apparently simpler question, "Exactly what is Butterfly's story?" ...
Outlining various possible relationships between law and literature, we make a mistake if we treat the two prime categories as clear and only the connectives as problematic. When we speak of law as literature, law in literature, literature as a subject of law and legal regulation, and so on, we should remember that these formulations assume a certainty in the basic terms that is far from obvious. ...