Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Part 3, Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Part 3, Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Addressing the reader, the narrator says that that's the story. Three months after the Little Seamstress's abortion and Luo's return, Luo and the narrator sit outside their house with the books spread in front of them. Luo, drunk and laughing, lights matches, and the narrator describes the characters catching fire. The narrator plays a sad song on his violin, and he remarks that not even a surprise appearance by the village headman would've stopped the book burning frenzy.
Something awful happened to drive Luo and the narrator to burn their beloved books. Notice how this passage is framed as both a public execution of the novels' characters, as well as an emotional funeral. This suggests that the boys have learned what they can from the novels and the characters.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The narrator says that the Little Seamstress had left suddenly and dramatically earlier that day. He explains that he and Luo had spent a lot of time looking back for signs that she was going to leave, and when they thought about it, there were several clothing-related clues. Two months earlier, she'd made herself a bra. Luo explained at the time that the Seamstress's "latest obsession" was to be like a city girl. The boys believed this was just vanity.
Though the narrator has developed the idea that the desire for clothing, like literature, is universal, here he suggests that specific clothing isn't necessarily universal. These particular garments point to the Little Seamstress's desire to take on the role of a city girl. The first step is clothing.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The narrator continues that the other two signs were the Mao-style jacket that the Little Seamstress had made for him to visit the miller the first time, which she'd altered into a smart-looking woman's jacket. She'd also asked the tailor to buy her a pair of white tennis shoes, which were completely impractical given the muddy ground on the mountain.
The Little Seamstress's clothing and footwear choices point again to her desire to not live on the mountain forever. The fact that Luo didn't see this to begin with shows that he only thought of the satisfaction he'd gain from "civilizing" the Little Seamstress; he never thought of what it would do to her.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
On the western new year, which was a national holiday, the narrator and Luo had gone to see the Little Seamstress. When they entered her house, they were shocked to see that she'd cut her ponytail into a stylish bob. She was busy finishing her jacket and when she put it on, Luo and the narrator thought she looked "unfamiliarly stylish and sensual," and the narrator remarks that the mountain girl was gone. Luo was thrilled with her transformation and whispered to the narrator that reading to the Little Seamstress definitely paid off.
Like the shoes, a bob is an impractical haircut compared to a ponytail. The Little Seamstress's acceptance of these impractical markers shows that she's preparing to leave her life of practical skills and knowledge for one that's based on more intellectual or intangible things. Luo still believes that he's the reason for the Little Seamstress's transformation.
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
Get the entire Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress LitChart as a printable PDF.
Balzac and the little chinese seamstress.pdf.medium
The narrator says that the true result of the Little Seamstress's transformation hadn't occurred to Luo and himself at that point. He questions if they overestimated the power of love, or if they hadn't truly understood the novels they'd read to her. In February, Luo and the narrator are at work in a field when they hear shouts. When they run back to the village, the tailor greets them, looking rumpled and distraught.
Luo and the narrator ignore the possibility that the Little Seamstress is internalizing and making her own decisions about the novels and what they mean to her life. That the narrator and Luo seem to have thought the Little Seamstress would stay on the mountain shows their selfishness and indicates a ridiculous belief that she'd be happy forever allowing Luo to read to her.
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 tailor says that the Little Seamstress left the mountain that morning—she'd gotten the documents to do so behind the tailor's back and told him that she intended to change her life and move to the city. She hadn't told Luo or the narrator, and the tailor tells the boys that he told his daughter to not come back.
Unlike the narrator, who used the idea of individual action against the world to help others, the Little Seamstress uses that idea to help only herself. She's asserted her desire for ultimate independence, signaling her passage to adulthood.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
Luo begins a headlong sprint down the mountainside after the Little Seamstress, and the narrator follows. As he runs he thinks about his nightmares where the Little Seamstress falls down the cliffs. He hears the red-beaked ravens and wonders why he's chasing after Luo. He can't decide if it's friendship, love for the Little Seamstress, or his desire to see the end of the drama.
The narrator acknowledges here that he's merely a casual observer to the relationship between Luo and the Little Seamstress. By dwelling on his nightmares, the narrator reinforces that the dreams themselves foreshadowed the Little Seamstress's break from himself and Luo.
Themes
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
After two hours, the narrator sees the Little Seamstress sitting by the graveyard where the narrator had met the poetess months earlier. He stops his descent and watches Luo fall to the ground in front of the Little Seamstress. The narrator watches the two sit silently as smoke rises from Luo's mouth. The narrator gathers some kindling, starts a fire, and buries some sweet potatoes in the fire. He muses that he's angry with the Little Seamstress. He says that he is aware that he is nothing more than a spectator, but he feels betrayed that she didn't tell him she was leaving. He feels as though he'll only ever be a friend of a friend to her, and that his help in arranging the abortion meant nothing to her.
For the final time, the narrator leaves the talking, negotiation, and discussion up to Luo rather than asserting his own desires. His anger at the Little Seamstress indicates that all he truly wanted was loyalty and acknowledgment for the help he gave her. This shows that the narrator believes loyalty and friendship are truly transactional, as he implies that the Little Seamstress owes her life (in which she's not pregnant or in jail) to the fact that the narrator arranged her abortion.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
The narrator hears Luo and the Little Seamstress speaking softly. They sound agitated and the narrator hears Balzac's name, but can't hear much else. Suddenly, the Little Seamstress jumps up and resumes her march down the mountainside. The narrator yells for her to wait and to have a sweet potato. The Little Seamstress starts running and disappears. Luo comes and sits with the narrator and tells him that the Little Seamstress said that she learned from Balzac that "a woman's beauty is a treasure beyond price." Luo and the narrator burn the books hours later.
The Little Seamstress asserts her newfound independence and adulthood by abandoning her friends. The fact that she attributes her own coming of age to Balzac is a final testament to the transformative power of literature. While the boys only used literature to make their time on the mountain more pleasant, she actually took action and used literature to get off the mountain. Despite being a "simple mountain girl," she appears to be the only one who truly internalized the novels' sentiments.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon