Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Part 3, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning, the narrator and the Little Seamstress are in her kitchen cooking. She tells the narrator that she has a problem. The narrator asks if it's with the gang or with Luo, and she finally says that she's been throwing up and has missed two periods. The Little Seamstress starts to cry, which startles the narrator. Soon, he also starts to cry, though he tries to hide it from the Little Seamstress. He feels as though he's responsible for her pregnancy, and thinks he'd marry her himself if the law allowed it. He tries to get a glimpse of her stomach and is afraid.
The narrator's reaction to the news shows that even if he saw masturbating as a betrayal, it was very inconsequential: he shows no indication that he'll abandon her or his promise to Luo. He does, however, go immediately to romanticizing her pregnancy, which again shows the effects of literature on his thought process. He mentally betrays Luo by admitting to himself he'd marry the Little Seamstress.
Themes
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Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
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The narrator explains to the reader that he forgot to ask the Little Seamstress if she wanted to be a teenage mother, although it wasn't even a valid question given that no medical professional would care for her: it's illegal to help an unmarried woman in labor. Further, she can't just marry Luo, as individuals must be 25 to get married. The narrator says that there's no way to help a "Romeo and his pregnant Juliet," as the Chinese dictatorship extends over the entire country.
Even in the face of these impossible circumstances, the narrator continues to romanticize the Little Seamstress's predicament and put it in literary terms. Despite his inappropriately romantic thinking, this does bring him back to his loyal nature as he runs through all the possibilities of what to do.
Themes
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Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
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The Little Seamstress and the narrator discuss how to procure an abortion that saves her and Luo from political punishment, particularly since the law prohibits abortion. The narrator dissuades the Little Seamstress from attempting to induce a miscarriage herself with herbs or bodily harm and finally agrees to travel to Yong Jing to find help at the hospital.
Stopping the Little Seamstress from trying to induce a miscarriage is a way for the narrator to perform his loyalty; he physically keeps her from the very real possibility that she'd hurt herself.
Themes
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Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The narrator describes the hospital, which consists of two buildings. He sneaks into the building that houses the gynecology department and takes a seat in a hallway with a number of pregnant women. He tries to sneak a glance at the gynecologist when the consulting room door opens to admit a new patient. The patients shoot the narrator disapproving glances, and he realizes that they believe he has no business in the gynecology department.
Going on his own to gather information about getting an abortion will bring the narrator into adulthood, as this is his most overt display of taking individual action against the world à la Jean-Christophe. The narrator's youth and lack of foresight is obvious here; he never considered how silly he'd look in a gynecology department.
Themes
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One of the patients rudely asks the narrator why he's there, and he feigns deafness. Another woman points to the narrator's still swollen ear, and the women argue amongst themselves about where the narrator needs to go. The gynecologist's door opens and the narrator gets another glimpse of the man, who looks about 40. He seems very tired and he is smoking.
Here, the narrator tries to create a different narrative about himself in the minds of the waiting women. He's acting, just as the Little Seamstress acted in the pool. This becomes a way for the narrator to experiment with his personal philosophy and begin to mature.
Themes
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The narrator leaves the hospital and walks up and down the main street of Yong Jing. He thinks that perhaps if the gynecologist has met the narrator’s father, who is a doctor, it could help his cause. The narrator thinks that if his father were in the gynecologist's shoes, he'd disown the narrator without even allowing him to explain that he's not the father of the child. The narrator remarks that the "bourgeois intellectuals" were just as morally strict as the communist regime.
The narrator realizes here that even within China, some of the guiding ideas are universal among both the Communists and the persecuted intellectuals. This continues to develop the idea of universality, but brings it out of a strictly literary and artistic realm. This in turn develops the narrator's growing personal philosophy, giving him the insight to develop a more adult worldview.
Themes
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The narrator finds a meal at a restaurant, hoping to get the opportunity to speak to someone about how to find someone willing to perform an abortion. This yields no results. He tries to speak with the night watchman at the hospital, but the watchman refuses to speak about abortions for fear of imprisonment.
The watchman's fear mirrors the narrator's fear when he stole Four-Eyes' suitcase. It gives the sense that the government is always watching and listening; keeping silent is the only way to stay safe.
Themes
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Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
On the third day, the narrator decides to try to speak to the old preacher, who isn't allowed to practice his Christian faith and must sweep Yong Jing's streets as punishment. The narrator realizes that he hasn't seen the preacher and asks a street vendor about him. The vendor says the man has cancer and is at the hospital.
The preacher's fate of sweeping streets shows the results of China's Communist policies, and sets an example for others that punishment awaits those who insist on deviation from the prescribed path.
Themes
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The narrator races to the hospital, where he's shocked to find the patients busy cooking their own lunches. He finally finds the preacher, surrounded by his two sons, who are trying desperately to get a tape recorder to work, and his wife, who's busy trying to make soup. The sons finally get the recorder to work. They beg the preacher to say something, even though the preacher seems to be in a great deal of pain. The preacher whispers something and then falls into a coma. The sons rewind the tape recorder and declare that the preacher's final words were a Latin prayer.
The narrator is shocked because even the district hospital cannot hide how provincial and rural it is. The preacher's final words show him fulfilling the narrator's concept of a life well lived: his final words prove that he lives his individual truth, and takes action against the government with his final conscious breath. The preacher remains loyal to his faith to the end.
Themes
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The narrator catches sight of the gynecologist outside the door and gets up to chase after him. A patient points the narrator to the emergency ward, where the gynecologist is attending to a man who lost all his fingers in a factory accident. The narrator enters the room and lights a cigarette for the gynecologist, who is methodically wrapping gauze around the man's hand. The narrator offers the patient a cigarette and helps the gynecologist wrap the man's hand. The man passes out from the anesthetic.
This shows again how provincial the hospital is; the gynecologist is curious but not particularly concerned about the random teenager helping him. The narrator shows the gynecologist that he's loyal by lighting a cigarette for him and helping, in hopes that this will help convince the gynecologist to return the favor.
Themes
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The gynecologist asks the narrator who he is. The narrator tells the gynecologist who his father is and says that his sister is having problems with her periods. The gynecologist coldly says that the narrator's father has no daughters, and tells the narrator to leave. As the narrator reaches the door, he turns around and offers the gynecologist a novel by Balzac if he can perform the abortion for the Little Seamstress. The gynecologist doubts that the narrator has a book by Balzac.
The narrator's story proves ineffective; it doesn't allow him to gain any power over the gynecologist. When he offers the novel though, he puts novels through a test. If the gynecologist accepts, the novels will have power to create actual change in the world with their buying power. Not incidentally, the novel will have this power because it's censored and therefore rare.
Themes
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The narrator removes his sheepskin coat and offers it to the gynecologist. The gynecologist lights cigarettes for both of them as he reads, and explains to the narrator that the translator, Fu Lei, has also been labeled a class enemy. The narrator starts to cry, and explains to the reader that he was crying for Fu Lei, not for the Little Seamstress's predicament.
When he starts to cry, the narrator is overwhelmed by the injustices wrought on the intellectual community by the government. This thought isn't necessarily a loyal thought to the Little Seamstress; this moment is one in which the narrator truly seems disloyal.
Themes
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The next Thursday, the narrator and the Little Seamstress return to Yong Jing, the Little Seamstress disguised as a 30-year-old woman. The narrator waits in the hallway for three hours until he's called to a recovery ward. The abortion was a success, and the gynecologist tells the narrator that the fetus was female. The narrator gives the gynecologist both Ursule Mirouët and his beloved Jean-Christophe. The Little Seamstress is groggy, but doesn't want to rest before heading home.
By giving the gynecologist his beloved Jean-Christophe, the narrator demonstrates for the reader how emotionally tied up in the Little Seamstress and Luo's drama he is. Even though he's aware he's only a sidekick, he feels invested enough to give away his most prized possession. This is only significant for the narrator though; he doesn't demand any recognition for his sacrifice.
Themes
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The Little Seamstress insists on purchasing a kilo of tangerines to place on the preacher's grave to thank him for being the reason the narrator went back to the hospital and ended up meeting the gynecologist. The Little Seamstress and the narrator vow that someday they'll return to the preacher's grave and erect a carved portrait of the preacher as Jesus, but holding a broom. The Little Seamstress wants to give money to the Buddhist temple as well, but the building is locked and looks empty, and she has no more money.
The narrator and the Little Seamstress vow to remain loyal to the preacher. Their desire to erect the statue of Jesus mimics the poetess's belief that the ideals of the Revolution will pass. In this way, the narrator and the Little Seamstress show some maturity and adult insight by understanding that the future might be different from the present.
Themes
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