missabnormal: (Memoirs)
[personal profile] missabnormal
Cho-Cho-San has Pinkerton's child.

In the previous chapter, Cho-Cho-San was disowned by her family and comforted by her new husband before they consummate their marriage. Now, we open up the chapter with the news that Pinkerton has left Japan and in his absence, Cho-Cho-San gave birth to his son, whom she named "Trouble". According to the story, "[every] Japanese baby begins with a temporary name; it may be anything, almost, for the little time". Cho-Cho-San believes that Pinkerton would like the child's name, but the actual name for the child "was for [Pinkerton] to choose when he returned".

I looked up baby naming customs in Japan to see what the traditions were. Sure enough, there is a naming ceremony called "oshichiya", which takes place around a week after the baby is born. The baby wears white, and the child's name will be displayed in kanji on Japanese paper. The point of this is to welcome the newborn baby into the world, and to allow the mother to rest. However, I couldn't find anything that said about temporary names.

Again, this is a key point in the opera, and the child is most often called 'Dolore', meaning 'sorrow' in Italian. Also, at the start of Act II, three years have passed, Cho-Cho-San is eighteen, and is on the cusp of poverty.

So Pinkerton had apparently told Cho-Cho-San that he'd return "when the robins nested again", which we all know probably means "never". But spring comes, the robins build their nests, and Pinkerton is still not in Japan. However, Cho-Cho-San continues to wait faithfully for his return. It's also noted that "Madame Butterfly and her baby were reclining on the immaculate mats in attitudes of artistic abandon, instead of keeping an august state, as all other Japanese mothers and babes were at this moment doing". Apparently, American women "assume more fearless attitudes in the security of their boudoirs than elsewhere. Japanese women, never".

This is quite significant, since it shows how Cho-Cho-San has willingly given up her culture, believing that she is American now after marrying Pinkerton. In the opera, this is highlighted at the opening of Act II, when Cio-Cio-San's maid Suzuki is praying to two deities for them to not let Cio-Cio-San cry. However, Cio-Cio-San responds with this:

'Pigri ed obesi,
son gli dei giapponesi!
L'americano Iddio,
son persuasa,
ben più presto risponde
a chi l'implori.'

This translates to:

Fat and lazy
are the gods of Japan.
The American God,
I'm sure,
is much quicker in answering
those who pray to him.

Observe how she is so quick to denigrate her own culture in her desperation to fit in with the dominant motherland, or America. This is a characteristic of the colonized mindset, where becoming worthy of the colonizers is everything to some of these people.

Back to the short story, Pinkerton had called Cho-Cho-San "an American refinement of a Japanese product, an American improvement of a Japanese invention, and so on". Again, notice the superiority of America in contrast to the subservience of Japan in that statement. But Cho-Cho-San takes his words very seriously and follows them to heart.

Right now, Cho-Cho-San and Suzuki are discussing about Pinkerton's possible return. Here, Cho-Cho-San is implied to be speaking Japanese, as the English phrases are not broken. She calls the baby a miracle and says that "[the] Sun-Goddess sent him straight from the Bridge of Heaven!". She then asks "did any one ever hear of a Japanese baby with purple eyes?".

Cho-Cho-San shows her baby to Suzuki. Illustration by C. Yarnall Abbott.

The opera makes changes to this part by having Pinkerton's baby be a reveal when the consul goes to visit Cio-Cio-San. Around this part of the opera is when the ever famous soprano aria, 'Un bel dì vedremo' (One fine day we'll see) is sung by Cio-Cio-San, as she sings about how Pinkerton will return to her one day. This aria is one of the most popular pieces for the lyric soprano, and is a part of the various opera pieces heard in mainstream media. Here are a few videos of this aria.

Ying Huang

Hiromi Omura

Maria Callas

Mirella Freni

Leontyne Price

Anyways, Cho-Cho-San switches back to English as she decides that "no one shall speak anything but United States' languages in this house". She believes that by doing this, Pinkerton will be pleased and will take her and the baby to America with him. Again, here she is, diligently following American customs and giving up Japanese customs and traditions in order to be seen as American and as worthy of her colonizers' attentions. 

Also, this is an example of an old trope known as Asian Babymama. According to TV Tropes, it's when the white hero or villain discovers that he has a previously-unknown child with an 'exotic former lover'. Typical characteristics of an Asian Babymama are:

1)She's a peripheral or retconned love interest
2)She's presented as an exotic Dragon Lady
3)She gives birth to a Eurasian child and keeps it secret from the father
4)She often has some sort of strange and twisted motive behind the conception of her child

Oftentimes, the Asian mother's relationship with the father of her child is rarely shown on screen, as she is simply a footnote in his past. This trope can be seen in works such as the James Bond novel You Only Live Twice with Kissy Suzuki and Kim from Miss Saigon. It was also a common thing when American soldiers were stationed in countries such as Cambodia, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, the Philippines, and Japan. So yeah, naturally, it's not a very acceptable trope these days.

And with that, we finish Chapter 4.

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