Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Part 2, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Luo and the narrator return Ursule Mirouët to Four-Eyes with the hope that he'll lend them more books, but he refuses, especially once his new glasses arrive. The narrator and Luo regret ever returning the novel, and Luo laments that he never got the opportunity to read it out loud to the Little Seamstress. He maintains that doing so would've made her cultured and refined.
The narrator and Luo acted loyally by returning the book, while Four-Eyes demonstrates his intense selfishness. Luo evidently puts a lot of stock in the transformative power of literature, though in doing so he reveals how superior his own education makes him feel in comparison to the Little Seamstress.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The narrator says that one day Luo borrowed the narrator's sheepskin coat with the passage written on the inside and read it to the Little Seamstress. She reread the passage herself, sat still for a while, and finally put the coat on. Luo told the narrator that Balzac touched the Little Seamstress like he was a wizard.
Luo's superiority complex aside, the Little Seamstress's reaction does show that literature is transformative. Even a passage is enough to cause this awe in the Little Seamstress, and not coincidentally, this reaction likely reinforces Luo's sense of superiority.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
One Sunday in early summer, Luo and the narrator go to visit Four-Eyes and find him heating a cauldron of water in the yard. When the water boils, he strips his clothes and puts them in the boiling water. The narrator notices that Four-Eyes' skin is covered in angry, bleeding bumps. Four-Eyes shows his friends his underwear, dotted with lice eggs, and explains that he picked up the lice at the Thousand-Meter Cliff.
The boys' reactions suggest that lice like this is something they haven't encountered before; it's unique to the mountain (or rural life in general). This shows again that life on the mountain is full of these difficulties, and dealing with these events is all part of the boys' re-education.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
The narrator says that a friend of Four-Eyes' mother had promised to find a position for Four-Eyes at a revolutionary journal. However, to make it look like the friend isn't favoring Four-Eyes, he suggested that Four-Eyes collect from the peasants "sincere, authentic folk songs full of romantic realism" to publish in the journal. Four-Eyes spent a week looking for these songs without success when he finally heard about the old miller who lives on the Thousand-Meter Cliff. The miller knows all the songs of the region.
Pay special attention to the way the man at the journal describes the folk songs. He seems to believe that the folk songs will be fully supportive of the goals of the Revolution by championing the ideal of the romantic, noble peasant. The fact that Four-Eyes struggled to find songs in the first place suggests that the man's idea might be misguided and that the Revolution might not have its roots in the actual thoughts and values of peasants.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Get the entire Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress LitChart as a printable PDF.
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Four-Eyes tells the narrator and Luo that the old man is a drunk and he eats pebbles dipped in saltwater. Four-Eyes declined to join the miller in enjoying this dish, which offended the miller. He refused to sing any of his songs, and Four-Eyes stayed for several days. Luo asks if Four-Eyes would lend him another book by Balzac if he and the narrator are able to get the miller to sing folk songs.
Four-Eyes' selfishness means that his people skills are sorely lacking; he obviously struggles to connect with people because he's only looking out for himself. Again, Luo is the one arranging this trade-off; the narrator remains a sidekick to this whole thing.
Themes
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon