Japanese maiden Cho-Cho-San is courted by the dashing American officer Lieutenant Pinkerton and, in a traditional Oriental ceremony, marries him. Never taking his Eastern wedding vows seriously, Pinkerton leaves Japan and his "Madame Butterfly" after a few weeks to rejoin his ship, telling his bride he will return in the spring. The faithful, trusting Cho-Cho-San waits for Pinkerton in her mountain cabin with their newly born child, but the spring passes with no sign of the lieutenant. Shunned by her proud Samurai family, Cho-Cho-San persists in her lonely vigil, rejecting even the proposals of Yamadori, a wealthy Americanized Japanese. Finally Pinkerton returns, but accompanying him is Adelaide, his new American wife. When Adelaide learns the truth about Cho-Cho-San and her baby, she insists on bringing up the child herself, an offer Cho-Cho-San feels compelled to accept. Before handing over the child, Cho-Cho-San commits suicide, dying happily in the lieutenant's arms, at last reunited with her beloved.