Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

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

Summary
Analysis
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, and the village falls into "quiet anarchy." As the villagers were unhappy to switch from cultivating opium to being peasant farmers in the first place, they don't care that the boys stop going to work.
The "quiet anarchy" suggests that the headman is the only person in the village who truly believes in the Revolution, and even that is thrown into question given the headman's love of power. The villagers seem as though they're undergoing their own form of re-education, as they're forced to change from opium farmers to peasants.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Luo devours every novel by Balzac, while the narrator is very taken with Romain Rolland's novel Jean-Christophe. The novel shows the narrator the value of individual action and standing up to the whole world. The narrator is so passionate about the ideas he encounters in Jean-Christophe that, for the first time ever, he wants to own something that's his own, not shared with Luo. The narrator writes a note in the book as though Luo were gifting it to him for his birthday, and Luo signs it. The narrator then writes in three of Balzac's novels, dedicating them to Luo.
The idea of individual action and taking on the world alone is an idea that, importantly, goes directly against the Communist project of creating a collectivist society. The narrator, then, is learning the exact opposite of what he's supposed to be learning during his re-education. This also becomes an indicator that the narrator is growing up, as he finally begins to ask for his independence from Luo.
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
Several weeks later, the mountain experiences a terrible storm. The morning after the storm, Luo loads a hod with vegetables and a Balzac novel and sets off to read to the Little Seamstress. Upon his return that night, he tells the narrator that the storm caused a landslide, and part of the path is now very narrow and dangerous. The narrator explains that Luo is terrified of heights and he relates a childhood experience in which Luo was too scared to climb a water tower.
The fact that Luo is willing to face his fears to see the Little Seamstress shows how much he cares, both about her and his project of civilizing her. The narrator also suggests that when it comes to heights, he's actually capable of taking charge of his own desires and achieving those desires independently of Luo.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The next day, the narrator decides to go with Luo to see the Little Seamstress. When the boys reach the dangerous part of the path, even the narrator is nervous about it: the narrow ridge has drops of unknown depths on either side. The narrator notices a raven with a red beak sitting at the end of the narrow part, and he offers to take Luo's hod. As he lifts the hod, the wind blows and the narrator begins to feel dizzy. He starts to walk the ridge like a tightrope walker, but he stops halfway when the dizziness gets worse. The narrator wonders what Jean-Christophe would think of turning back and decides that he wouldn't mind, since the narrator hasn't yet had the opportunity to have sex, fall in love, or take individual action against the world.
Jean-Christophe has evidently had the effect of providing the narrator with an individual worldview. This again shows that the narrator is maturing and developing, as the worldview isn't just one that champions individualism; it's also something the narrator found on his own. The narrator's discomfort with the ridge indicates that the ridge is probably more dangerous than originally thought, which creates the sense that Luo is risking a lot to visit the Little Seamstress. He, too, is maturing and developing.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
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The narrator turns around and crawls to Luo, then points to the red-beaked raven and asks if it's there every day when Luo crosses this ridge. Luo says it's always there in the morning, but not in the evening. The narrator tells Luo to go on alone and watches him hesitantly cross the ridge. He feels unsure of how Luo's "adventure" reading Balzac to the Little Seamstress will turn out.
Watching Luo tackle the dangerous ridge leads the narrator to wonder what other changes Luo's project of civilizing the Little Seamstress might bring. The narrator isn't ready yet to tackle his fears like Luo is, hence deciding to stay behind.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The next night, the narrator wakes from a nightmare in which he watched Luo and a nondescript girl walk along a ridge that dropped off sharply on either side. The girl turned into the Little Seamstress and pranced along the path, while Luo struggled to follow her. The narrator looked away to see if a red-beaked raven was there, but when he looked back he saw that the Little Seamstress was gone. The narrator and Luo slid down the nearly vertical mountainside to find the Little Seamstress's body, broken and bleeding. Luo took her in his arms and also started bleeding. When the narrator tells Luo about the nightmare, Luo isn't worried and he refuses to tell the Little Seamstress not to take the narrow path to come visit them. Luo does agree to not share the narrator's dream with her.
Luo doesn't show a ton of regard for his friends' dreams and fears; though he agrees not to share the narrator's dream with the Little Seamstress, that seems to be mostly because he doesn't think that the dream means anything. The dream, however, does foreshadow the Little Seamstress's eventual departure from the mountain. In particular, the narrator seems subconsciously aware that both he and Luo are at the mercy of the Little Seamstress's whims and desires, even though Luo remains confident in his own superiority.
Themes
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon