Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator tells the reader that Four-Eyes, a friend from the city, has a suitcase that he keeps hidden. He says that Four-Eyes' odds of getting off the mountain are also three in a thousand, as his parents were writers. On the mountain, the narrator, Luo, and Four-Eyes often cook and drink together, and the narrator says their close friendship during their re-education made the fact that Four-Eyes never mentioned the suitcase surprising. Four-Eyes lives in perpetual fear of the peasants and takes every precaution to act like he's not part of the bourgeois class.
It's reasonable to assume that like Luo and the narrator, Four-Eyes isn't a true convert to the goals of the Revolution. He does, however, show that he's willing to take on whatever role it takes to appease the peasants (and the government) so he doesn't suffer because of his intellectual status. This shows that even though he's "friends" with the narrator and Luo, he's not a particularly loyal friend.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The morning after the sorceress's vigil at his bedside, Luo feels well enough to go home. He and the narrator pass the village where Four-Eyes is staying, and they see him tilling a flooded paddy field with a water buffalo. The water buffalo has an extremely long and twitching tail, which hits Four-Eyes in the face and knocks his glasses into the mud. The narrator runs into the field to help look for the glasses and he manages to rescue them from the buffalo's attempts to trample them. When Four-Eyes can see again, he notices how sick Luo looks and suggests that Luo and the narrator go to his house to rest.
The narrator's descriptions of the travel time between the villages gives the sense again that just the simple act of existing on the mountain is hard work. Four-Eyes' struggle with the buffalo marks him as a city boy—despite his attempts to impress the peasants of his village, this isn't his finest moment. The narrator shows that he's loyal to Four-Eyes, regardless of how duplicitous Four-Eyes might turn out to be.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The narrator explains that Four-Eyes leaves his house unlocked to demonstrate to the peasants that he trusts them. The narrator and Luo sit on the porch. When the air begins to get cold, the narrator finds a sweater for Luo and goes to look for another one. The narrator digs through a packing crate full of clothes and finds a small suitcase that's extremely heavy, given its size.
Four-Eyes is trying very hard to act as though his re-education is succeeding in front of the peasants, but the suitcase shatters this illusion. He's also trying to look like a good friend to Luo and the narrator, but the discovery that he's hiding something builds tension as to what it is and why he's hiding it.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
When Four-Eyes returns that evening, he evades the narrator's questions about the suitcase. Luo finally says that he thinks the suitcase contains forbidden books. Four-Eyes looks panicked for a moment before he deems Luo delirious with fever. The narrator says that not long after this, Four-Eyes bought a lock and started locking his door.
Though the three boys continue to see each other as friends, Four-Eyes clearly fears that the narrator or Luo will report his suitcase. He doesn't trust his friends to remain loyal to him, which casts a sense of uncertainty on their friendship.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
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Several weeks later, Luo's malaria improves. He unwraps the bandage on his wrist to reveal a large blister that heals when his fevers stop. Luo and the narrator celebrate at Four-Eyes' house and spend the night. The narrator checks under the bed for the suitcase, but it's not there anymore.
The final recovery is proof that, though the Little Seamstress isn't educated in a book-learning sense, she does possess skills and knowledge (though Luo will go on to ignore these facts). Four-Eyes becomes more and more distrustful and secretive.
Themes
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
Luo and the narrator often discuss which books might be in the suitcase. The narrator says the book titles are like Tibetan incense in that they only need to speak the titles to conjure the beauty of the books. One day, Luo asks the narrator what he knows about western literature. The narrator knows very little. Luo says that one of his aunts read to him from Don Quixote when he was a child, but her books were burned at the start of the revolution. The narrator explains to the reader that by the time he and Luo learned to read, there was nothing left to read. Further, the "western literature" sections of bookstores contained only the complete works of Enver Hoxha, an Albanian Communist leader.
Luo and the narrator's thought exercise shows several things. First, it shows how repressed Chinese society is. The fact that the boys can come up with all these titles, however, shows that the censorship and repression haven't fully achieved their goals, as these works are still known. Further, the boys want to read these books; the desire is still there. This puts the goals of the Revolution at odds with the goals of those it hopes to revolutionize.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
The narrator and Luo decide that since Four-Eyes' parents are writers, they probably want Four-Eyes to be a writer too and therefore they want him to have access to books. They wonder how Four-Eyes' parents managed to hide the books and then get them up the mountain.
Four-Eyes' parents evidently don't support the Revolution if they're hiding books and then providing them to their son. Four-Eyes’ unwillingness to share with his friends is, ironically, an individualistic move and therefore directly opposed to Communist ideals.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty 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 glasses have finally broken. The narrator explains that Four-Eyes certainly isn't going to let being close to blind stop him from working, as any defect could convince the peasants in charge of his future that he's not properly re-educated.
The narrator suggests that Four-Eyes' situation is particularly tenuous because of his vision problems. Four-Eyes must act as though he's loyal to the village and the purpose of the Revolution, as he's at even more of a disadvantage than Luo and the narrator are.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
In Four-Eyes' village, the headman hasn't given anyone the day off. The village is busy ferrying rice to the district storage station. When Luo and the narrator find Four-Eyes, he's filling his hod (a type of basket) with rice, a dazed look on his face. He tells Luo and the narrator that his mother is going to send him a new pair, but Luo quickly suggests that Four-Eyes allow him and the narrator to help carry the rice in exchange for one of the books.
Luo operates on the hope that Four-Eyes will take him at his word and behave loyally. The fact that Luo is more than willing to work on a day off in exchange for a book is indicative of the power and the draw of literature when it's forbidden. Notice, too, that the narrator doesn't speak; as the sidekick, he lets Luo handle the negotiations.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
Four-Eyes insists that he doesn't have books, picks up the hod, and starts up the slippery path. Luo and the narrator watch as he totters, falls, and spills the rice. They walk to Four-Eyes and gather the rice off the ground. Luo, the narrator, and Four-Eyes take turns carrying the rice to the district storage station, and when they return to Four-Eyes' house, he gives them a thin book by a writer named Balzac.
Here, a very Communist way of doing things (working together for a common goal) results in a decidedly anti-Communist end (western literature). Finally Four-Eyes acknowledges he indeed has these forbidden books, and he takes a leap of faith trusting his friends to not rat him out.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon