Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Part 2, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator explains that Yong Jing consists of little more than a main street with a hospital, town 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, the headman got to be master of the alarm clock. In August, the narrator and Luo are sent to see a film with the Little Seamstress. Yong Jing is showing The Little Flower Seller again, and the Little Seamstress is transfixed by the film. Luo and the narrator are transfixed watching her watch the film. Halfway through, she whispers in the narrator's ear that she prefers hearing the narrator tell the story of the flower seller to watching it on film.
The headman evidently doesn't just love storytelling; he loves power, and specifically the power he gains from the alarm clock. He's willing to take power where he can get it, not necessarily just from "good" sources. Watching the film, it remains obvious that both the narrator and Luo are very much in love with the Little Seamstress. The Little Seamstress's comment likely seems to the narrator to be an affirmation of their friendship, which continues to situate him as a sidekick and an observer.
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
The Little Seamstress, Luo, and the narrator stay in Yong Jing's cheap hotel that night. The night watchman tells them that there's a woman staying in the hotel who's heading up to Phoenix mountain the following day to collect her re-educated son. Luo, the Little Seamstress, and the narrator stay up half the night wondering who on the mountain gets to go home. They figure it can't be Four-Eyes, with his three in a thousand chances.
The boys' curiosity suggests that there's some degree of competition and jealousy involved with getting to leave the mountain, which indicates that though the teenagers are supposed to be learning to be a part of a collectivist society, they remain very individualist in this situation.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The next day, the Little Seamstress and Luo visit the cemetery at the bottom of the mountain while the narrator sits by the path to cook sweet potatoes and wait. After a while he looks up and sees the woman from the hotel being carried up the mountain in a chair tied to a man's back. The man decides to rest close to the narrator and puts the woman's chair down. The woman is knitting and pays no notice to the narrator or her bearer.
Notice here that the narrator doesn't even attempt to be anything but an outside observer to Luo and the Little Seamstress's relationship. He voluntarily hangs behind. The knitting woman is an oddity on the mountain; her knitting and the fact that she ignores those around her mark her as being from the city.
Themes
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The narrator addresses the woman in the local dialect. She barely acknowledges the narrator until he switches to a Chengdu accent. She gets out of her chair and sits next to the narrator, still knitting. The two make small talk and the narrator learns that this is Four-Eyes' mother, the poetess. She explains that he's gotten a job at a literary journal thanks to his "splendid peasant songs." The narrator suggests that Four-Eyes was able to successfully collect the songs thanks to his collection of books. The poetess agrees before quickly becoming suspicious and turning to leave.
Four-Eyes' rewrites were successful, which shows that the government is more interested in hearing what they believe is good and correct than knowing what's actually going on. The poetess suggests that she holds the peasants who live with her son in contempt by refusing to truly acknowledge the narrator until he speaks like a person from the city. This becomes more evidence that she doesn't believe in the Revolution either.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
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The poetess asks the narrator his name, and the narrator tells her he's Luo. At this, the poetess seems interested again and asks about Luo's father. When the narrator says that the dentist is currently in jail, the poetess conspiratorially whispers to him that ignorance is fashionable right now and doctors will soon be revered again. She tells "Luo" to not lose hope and shares that while she knits, she's composing poems in her head.
The poetess's view is one that comes with age; it shows the belief that regimes like Mao's come and go and follow a cycle. She also demonstrates the belief that artists and writers will soon be valued again, as she's not given up her craft just because her poems are now illegal.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
The poetess tells the narrator that Four-Eyes is very fond of Luo and doesn't like the narrator much. The narrator is thrilled he decided to pretend to be Luo and asks the poetess why Four-Eyes doesn't like the narrator. She explains that the narrator is "sly" and thinks Four-Eyes has a secret suitcase, and Four-Eyes once beat the narrator. The narrator is indignant that Four-Eyes spun their fight in this way, but he only tells the poetess that the narrator will be disappointed that the suitcase will be gone. The poetess wishes "Luo" luck and resumes her ascent.
Four-Eyes isn't above altering anything, story or song, to make it self-serving. This drives home again how selfish he is, as it's even more obvious that he's only looking to improve his own situation by impressing those in power, at the expense of his "friends." This also shows how duplicitous Four-Eyes is, as this is obviously the first the narrator has heard that Four-Eyes doesn't like him.
Themes
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The narrator makes his way to the graveyard to tell Luo and the Little Seamstress about meeting the poetess. They laugh when the narrator tells them he pretended to be Luo. The narrator thinks again that the Little Seamstress is breathtakingly beautiful and thinks he wants to marry her, even if she is Luo's girlfriend. When she finishes laughing, the Little Seamstress suggests stealing Four-Eyes' books.
The Little Seamstress suggests that the narrator and Luo should behave exactly as Four-Eyes did and betray the trust he put in them. Coming from her, this creates the possibility that she herself won't always be loyal and truthful like Luo and the narrator are.
Themes
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon