Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

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

Summary
Analysis
The village headman returns from the Party meeting angry and in a great deal of pain because he's had dental work done in Yong Jing and the dentist pulled a good tooth and left a bad tooth. The narrator and Luo return to work so they don't incur the headman's wrath. One night, the headman appears at their door with swollen cheeks, shows them a small lump of tin, and asks Luo if he'd fix his painful tooth. Luo tells the headman that it would take a modern drill to do it right.
The headman's fate recalls the poetess's belief that soon doctors will be revered again, as the headman's pain seems a direct result of removing good doctors from their posts. Despite his dislike of the headman, Luo's refusal to fill his tooth is a kind decision, and one that would save the headman from excruciating pain.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
Several days later, the tailor arrives in the village. Though everyone offers to house the tailor, he insists on staying with Luo and the narrator. The boys are perplexed, but they figure the tailor believes that Luo will become his son-in-law and wants to get to know him.
Luo and the narrator seem perfectly content with their assessment of the tailor's motives, which indicates that Luo believes that the Little Seamstress is indeed his future wife. He's beginning to gain control over his future.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The narrator and Luo's house is transformed into a tailor's workshop, and the boys get to see up close how much the village women and girls care about clothes. The narrator remarks that poverty and political regimes will never stop women from wanting to be well dressed. As night falls, men come to join the crowd of women at the house, and the gathering becomes boisterous. Finally, the tailor orders everyone out of the house.
Here, the narrator ascribes the same kind of universality to women's dress as he does to literature. Further, the Cultural Revolution can't touch and alter this desire, just as it can't truly eliminate citizens' desire for forbidden literature.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Luo, the tailor, and the narrator eat dinner and the narrator offers to play his violin before they go to bed. The tailor asks for a story instead, saying that the Little Seamstress has been telling him about Luo and the narrator's wonderful stories. Luo insists that the narrator tell the story, which the narrator thinks is because Luo doesn't want the tailor, as his future father-in-law, to think he's too forward.
Though the narrator is put in control of the evening's entertainment, it's Luo who puts him in power, so the narrator still isn’t exactly seizing control of his own life. The narrator believes that Luo is trying to shape his own future by not telling the story himself.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
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The narrator asks the tailor and Luo to wash their feet and get in bed before beginning. Rather than tell the story of a North Korean or Chinese film, the narrator decides to tell The Count of Monte Cristo. He deliberates over the first line, which provides the date and setting (1815, Marseilles). When the tailor asks why the story takes place so far away, the narrator suggests that if the tailor doesn't find the story interesting, they can all rest instead. A few minutes later, the tailor asks the main character's name, and the narrator begins the story.
The tailor's interest in the French tale again illustrates that literature can be enjoyed by anyone, and stories are universal. Notice how painstakingly the narrator chooses his words to begin the story. Though he didn't necessarily want this power in the first place, his power over the trajectory and style of the story allows him to come into himself and find a sense of maturity and purpose.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
The narrator talks for hours and begins to enjoy the process of storytelling. When the narrator gets tired and has to stop, Luo whispers that the narrator should've been a writer. The narrator falls asleep but is quickly woken by the tailor asking why he stopped. The narrator resumes the tale, but pauses every half hour or so to keep the tailor engaged. The tailor finally allows the narrator to stop close to dawn, and the tailor pays the headman so that he, the narrator, and Luo can get some sleep.
Luo has a point, and it ties together the novel as a whole, since the narrator is the one telling the reader the story: he did become a writer. Because of that, the narrator's recitation at this point in his life becomes the point at which the narrator began to truly come into his mature, adult self through storytelling.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
It takes the narrator nine nights to tell the entire story. The story begins to influence the clothes the tailor makes during the day, and the narrator explains that the five-pointed anchor motif was exceptionally popular on Phoenix mountain for years after this.
The popularity of the anchor is particularly satisfying, as it reinforces the universality of literature and motifs. The villagers likely aren't even aware of its origins, which only reinforces its universality.
Themes
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
On the third night, the village headman interrupts the narrator's storytelling. Though the tailor offers pleasantries to the headman, the headman ignores them and instructs the narrator to come with him to the Public Security Office. The narrator is terrified, especially when the headman accuses him of spreading "reactionary trash." Luo tries to explain that The Count of Monte Cristo isn't Chinese and is actually about a poor sailor and therefore a "revolutionary worker," but the headman won't hear of it. The narrator gets out of bed and dresses as though he'll be gone for a long time.
Luo has had enough education and re-education to be able to pinpoint and articulate the universal threads of a western story. The narrator's fear is a fear that he won't be able to actually complete his coming of age process, specifically because he received education from banned sources. The power of the government is evident here; the narrator doesn't believe he'll return.
Themes
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Luo offers to go with the narrator and the headman, but the narrator refuses. The narrator trembles as he approaches the headman, but the headman doesn't move. Finally, the headman looks at Luo and says that he still has the piece of tin. Luo is confused, but the headman says that if Luo can fix his bad tooth, he'll leave the narrator alone.
The headman's offer shows that he cares more about himself than he does about his role in stifling anti-Communist materials. This continues to break down the ideal that the peasants are all for Communism.
Themes
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon