Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Part 3, Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Part 3, Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator says he would've had a grand time during Luo's month-long absence if Luo hadn't asked the narrator to guard the Little Seamstress. Luo explains that a number of young men on the mountain admire her, and will surely flock to her side in his absence. He tasks the narrator with spending as much time with the Little Seamstress as possible. The narrator is flattered that Luo would trust him with this task and never think that he'd steal the Little Seamstress for himself.
The narrator begins to flirt with the idea that taking the Little Seamstress for himself is fully possible and something he might even want to do. However, the narrator's loyal nature causes him to agree to Luo's request. With this, the narrator continues his habit of pushing his own desires away in favor of carrying out the wants and desires of others.
Themes
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The narrator envisions himself as the leader of an army that's escorting a young wife across a desert to her beloved. He imagines the end of the journey when the lady runs into her husband's arms and the narrator faints from exhaustion. The narrator refers to himself as "the secret agent" and describes his daily walk to the Little Seamstress's house. He mentions that the ravens still observe the narrow part of the path. The narrator carries a hod that holds a novel, hidden among vegetables.
These imaginings show how much the narrator's exposure to literature has transformed his thought process, as this style of narration is a major break from the style of the rest of the novel. Like the Little Seamstress in the pool, the narrator experiments with being other people (the secret agent) while still being himself, which shows how he's coming into himself and growing up.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The narrator says that the Little Seamstress isn't aware she's being watched; she just thinks of the narrator as a "substitute reader." The narrator says that she seems to enjoy his style of reading to her, as he reads a few pages and then asks her what she thinks will happen next. Then, he tells her what the book says will happen, and embellishes when he feels the novel gets boring.
Part of the narrator's coming of age happens as he continues experimenting with taking ownership and control of the stories he tells, both his own story (the novel as a whole) and Balzac's novels. At this point, he still remains loyal to Luo and the promise he made.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The tailor becomes used to the narrator's presence and also seems to enjoy the storytelling. Between chapters, the narrator offers to do chores like fetching water and cooking. The narrator says that thanks to the "respect for womanhood" he'd learned from Balzac, he even starts doing the Little Seamstress's laundry. He says that this "softened his temperament" and allowed him to intimately view the female realm.
This shows another effect of the narrator's exposure to literature: learning about women. Unlike Luo, however, the narrator is stuck simply learning how women live and what chores they do, rather than learning about women sexually. This habit does act as a stand-in for the sexual activity the narrator desires, though.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
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One afternoon, the narrator applies crushed balsam flowers to the Little Seamstress's fingernails. She asks him where he learned this "girlish stuff," and he explains that he learned this trick of staining nails red from his mother. The narrator wants to ask the Little Seamstress if he can kiss her nails the next day, but he remembers his promise to Luo.
The narrator can no longer pretend his feelings for the Little Seamstress don't exist, but he maintains his loyalty to Luo. He does ignore them though, and he keeps subsuming his own desires in favor of maintaining his loyalty to others.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
When the narrator leaves the Little Seamstress's house that night, 15 young men jealously follow him along the path and taunt him. The village cripple blocks the narrator's way and asks if he enjoys washing the Little Seamstress's underwear. Embarrassed, the narrator watches the cripple remove his pants and underwear and wave the dirty underwear at him. The narrator is so angry and embarrassed he's close to tears. He tries to swing the hod at the cripple's head, but he misses and the contents spill. The book and vegetables scatter.
The young men of the village obviously don't see the value in performing women's work for them. This demonstrates the youths' own lack of education (they haven't been learning from Balzac). It also exposes the narrator's attempts to impress the Little Seamstress as being somewhat ridiculous. The narrator will do anything besides actually taking control and telling the Seamstress how he feels.
Themes
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
The young men squat down around the book and look at Balzac's portrait. They ask the cripple if the portrait is of Karl Marx, Stalin, or Lenin, and the narrator suddenly shouts, "Don't touch," lunges for the book, and runs off with it. The youths throw stones at the narrator and one hits his ear hard enough to damage his hearing and draw blood. Eventually the young men give up, and the "secret agent" decides that he can't accomplish his mission.
The youths expose the extent of their education, which is entirely Communist. At least for them, the government's censorship has been successful, as they can only name these few Communist leaders and writers. The narrator keeps up his imaginings of himself as the secret agent, which makes the situation easier to handle by putting it in fictional terms.
Themes
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
In the house that night, the narrator can't escape the sense and smell of the damp or the pain in his ear. He tries to read, but can't concentrate because of the pain. The narrator stays up all night, imagining that the gang of young men are attacking him again. He pictures himself tied to a tree as the gang tortures him. The cripple slices off the narrator's ear, and the gang flees when the Little Seamstress bursts in.
The narrator is physically stifled by his own habit of ignoring his desires and being unwilling to take action. In his imagination, the Little Seamstress shows that she's loyal to the narrator by saving him. This suggests that what the narrator truly desires is loyalty from others.
Themes
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The narrator imagines that the Little Seamstress unties him and allows him to lick her fingers, the nails red from the balsam juice. The balsam juice turns to lava that rolls down the narrator's chin, down his front, and finally enters his body through his navel. The narrator masturbates (which he terms a "betrayal") as the oil lamps die and the alarm clock shows midnight.
The narrator's use of "betrayal" is questionable, as he hasn't yet actually given up on protecting the Little Seamstress from other suitors, or confessed his feelings for her himself. It's purely emotional, and shows that the narrator values loyalty of thoughts as much as actual acts of loyalty.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon