Cio-Cio's name, which means "butterfly," is an image used prominently throughout the opera. When displayed by collectors, butterflies have their wings pinned to a board. Pinning a captive butterfly kills it. So one of the things Cio-Cio begs Pinkerton to do is to not pin or pull off her wings by doing something that would destroy her. Throughout, images of butterflies, their beauty and delicacy, recur in the text.
When Butterfly believes that Pinkerton is returning to her, she orders Suzuki to pick flowers from the garden with her and bring them inside. In a joyful duet, they sing about bringing the beauty of nature and spring inside, and the flowers represent a hopefulness about the future, a sense of blooming and possibility. However, it is more complicated than this, as we know that Pinkerton has abandoned Butterfly for good.
At the end of the opera, Butterfly commits ritual suicide behind a screen, a horrifying image of self-immolation that is her only hope of finding honor for herself.
Before she commits suicide, Butterfly ties a blindfold around her young son's head to prevent him from seeing what she does to herself. He is an innocent bystander to a horrible event, and must remain naive to the ways that his father's actions have hurt his mother. The image of the child with the blindfold is one that signifies both innocence and maturity, in that he must remain innocent of what is happening to his mother, but also is being forced to grow up quickly and face tragedy at a young age.
Madame Butterfly Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Madame Butterfly is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.