Madame Butterfly is a short story that exemplifies an eastern culture’s conscious and subconscious attempt at socially adaptation to a westernized world.In Nagasaki, Japan, before the First World War, Lieutenant Pinkerton of the United States Navy marries Cho-Cho-San or Madame Butterfly, a young geisha. For Pinkerton, it is just a casual affair. He feels, despite being warned by the American Consul, that she will treat the relationship with similar levity. Ultimately, for Cho-Cho-San, this marriage means denouncing her own family and religion.
At first Cho-Cho-San’s family sees the coming together of a successful American and a young Japanese woman as being a very good situation. Unfortunately, Pinkerton, who seems to represent the western culture on the whole, attempts and succeeds at westernizing or Americanizing Cho-Cho-San who represents eastern culture and Japan. Ergo she drops many of her Japanese values which results in her family denouncing her. The only item her family allows her to keep is Cho-Cho-San’s father’s sword he used when he fought for the emperor. This same sword was used by her father to kill himself, which is considered honorable in Japanese culture. Looking at this and other novels we have read, the theme of westernized social change is reoccurring. We also see that cultural change is inevitable, but if native cultures are pushed or forced to change too rapidly they become bitter and more reluctant to accept a particular way of life.
Eventually Pinkerton is sent back to the United States and promises his recently Americanized geisha that he will return for her in a short period of time. When his ship has sailed, Cho-Cho-San is extremely confident that he will return and scornfully refuses to consider marriage to a wealthy Japanese man named Yamadori who is linked to the empirical family, insisting that according to American law she is still married, and that her son is an American. By doing this she shows her family, who would be proud of her marriage to Yamadori, that she has completely cut ties with Japanese culture and beliefs and has been integrated with an American dogma.
Madame Butterfly is incredibly optimistic about her husband coming.