Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

The Village Headman Character Analysis

The headman is the most powerful person in the village where Luo and the narrator undergo their re-education. He has three blood spots in one eye and horrible teeth. He's a generally unpleasant person and loves power. As such, he's especially taken with Luo's alarm clock, since it allows him power over the villagers' schedules. He loves oral storytelling most of all, and is willing to break with communist ideals to allow Luo and the narrator to see films in Yong Jing and then perform "oral cinema shows" for the village.

The Village Headman Quotes in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

The Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress quotes below are all either spoken by The Village Headman or refer to The Village Headman. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Anchor Books edition of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress published in 2002.
Part 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

The peasants' faces, so grim a moment before, softened under the influence of Mozart's limpid music like parched earth under a shower, and then, in the dancing light of the oil lamp, they blurred into one.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Luo, The Village Headman
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 1, Chapter 2 Quotes

The sheer audacity of our trick did a lot to temper our resentment against the former opium growers who, now that they had been converted into "poor peasants" by the communist regime, were in charge of our re-education.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Luo, The Village Headman
Related Symbols: Luo's Alarm Clock
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
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The only thing Luo was really good at was telling stories. A pleasing talent to be sure, but a marginal one, with little future in it. Modern man has moved beyond the age of the Thousand-and-One-Nights, and modern societies everywhere, whether socialist or capitalist, have done away with the old storytellers—more's the pity.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Luo, The Village Headman
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 3, Chapter 1 Quotes

In the ensuing political vacuum our village lapsed into quiet anarchy, and Luo and I stopped going to work in the fields without the villagers—themselves unwilling converts from opium farmers to guardians of our souls—raising the slightest objection.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Luo, The Village Headman
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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The Village Headman Character Timeline in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

The timeline below shows where the character The Village Headman appears in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The village headman sits in the center of the house on stilts, inspecting the narrator's violin. The entire... (full context)
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
The headman passes the violin back to the narrator as Luo explains that the narrator is going... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
...first clock the village has ever seen, and it entrances the village. Every morning, the headman comes to the house on stilts to watch the clock, and at 9am he whistles... (full context)
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
...at storytelling, which the narrator says is charming but underappreciated by everyone but the village headman. The narrator explains that due to the remoteness of the mountain, nobody in the village... (full context)
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
The headman sits and times the "oral cinema show" with Luo's clock. Luo brilliantly recounts the film,... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
...The Little Flower Seller. It's a drama from North Korea, and Luo made even the headman cry when he told the story in his own village. Though Luo declared he was... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 1
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
In early spring, the mountain gets several inches of snow and the village headman gives everyone the day off. Luo and the narrator head off to see Four-Eyes, whose... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
...hall, and a few other public buildings. The narrator says that he believes the village headman sent him and Luo to Yong Jing to watch films because when they were gone,... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 1
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Four-Eyes leaves the mountain and says nothing about his stolen books, and the village headman leaves for a month-long Communist Party conference. The narrator and Luo spend the month reading,... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 2
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The village headman returns from the Party meeting angry and in a great deal of pain because he's... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
...tailor finally allows the narrator to stop close to dawn, and the tailor pays the headman so that he, the narrator, and Luo can get some sleep. (full context)
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
On the third night, the village headman interrupts the narrator's storytelling. Though the tailor offers pleasantries to the headman, the headman ignores... (full context)
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
Luo offers to go with the narrator and the headman, but the narrator refuses. The narrator trembles as he approaches the headman, but the headman... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 3
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The narrator describes the headman's terrible dental situation. The bad tooth is all the way at the back of the... (full context)
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
Luo asks the headman to rinse his mouth and then suggests that in order for the dental work to... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 5
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
...the village, he found a telegram saying that his mother is in the hospital. The headman is allowing Luo to take a month to sit with his mother. Luo remarks on... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 9
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
...on his violin, and he remarks that not even a surprise appearance by the village headman would've stopped the book burning frenzy. (full context)