Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator says that the "princess of Phoenix mountain," the Little Seamstress, wears canvas shoes, has a long ponytail tied with a red ribbon, and has lovely sparkling eyes. Her father is the only tailor on the mountain. He travels from village to village with his old sewing machine and is treated like a king wherever he goes, while the Little Seamstress stays at home with a newer sewing machine.
Sewing and clothing construction are treated with a similar reverence to storytelling, as shown by the tailor's kingly status. By referring to the Little Seamstress as the princess of the mountain, the narrator introduces the fact that he and Luo won't be her only suitors.
Themes
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Luo and the narrator run into the tailor's procession one day as they scramble along a mountain path. The tailor rides in a chair on a bearer's back, while another man carries the sewing machine. As the boys pass the caravan, the tailor yells "wy-o-lin!" loudly at them and laughs. He explains that when he was a boy, his master had a violin on his wall to impress clients. As the procession moves on, the tailor shouts "wy-o-lin" several more times.
The tailor is teasing the narrator for his instrument, though at the same time, he suggests that musical instruments like violins are impressive and a status symbol. This continues to develop the differences between those undergoing re-education and the native mountain dwellers.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Several weeks later, the narrator and Luo travel to the tailor's village to visit the Little Seamstress and ask her to lengthen Luo's pants. Luo tells her about running into her father, and the Little Seamstress laughs and explains that the tailor is an overgrown child. She explains that her mother died young, and since then, her father has done whatever he wants.
The way the Little Seamstress speaks about the tailor makes it seem as though she thinks of herself as being more mature than he is. This foreshadows the Little Seamstress's coming of age later; just like her father willfully embraces youth, she sneakily and selfishly embraces adulthood.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The narrator explains that the Little Seamstress's beauty made him and Luo want to stay and watch her work. Noticing a catalog on the table, the narrator asks the Little Seamstress if she can read. She admits she can't read much, but says she loves talking to people who can. She gets up and begins heating water on the stove. Luo confirms that she's going to offer them boiling water and not tea, which is a local custom that means she likes her guests.
From this early stage, it's obvious that both the narrator and Luo are taken with the Little Seamstress. She too seems taken with both of them, and indicates that despite her rural mountain life, she admires education and the city. This again complicates the project of the Cultural Revolution as the narrator shows that the "peasants" aren't completely sold on being peasants.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
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Luo tells the Little Seamstress that the two of them have something in common, and he asks if she'd like to bet on it. She offers to lengthen Luo's pants for free if they indeed have something in common. Luo asks her to take off her shoe and sock. He puts his foot next to hers and remarks that they both have second toes longer than all the other toes. On the way back home, the narrator asks Luo if he's fallen in love with the Little Seamstress. He replies that she's not civilized enough.
Luo isn't just good at storytelling; he's good at relating to people and engaging with their curiosity. However, note how Luo differentiates himself from the Little Seamstress by stating a belief in his own superiority. This sets up Luo's later role as the Little Seamstress's teacher, while the narrator already begins to take an outsider's look at Luo and the Seamstress's relationship.
Themes
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