The symbol of Luo's Alarm Clock in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Luo's Alarm Clock Symbol Analysis

Luo's Alarm Clock Symbol Icon

Luo's alarm clock, which features a tiny rooster that crows when the alarm sounds, is a forbidden object. The alarm clock represents the bourgeois norms, such as timing the workday with a clock rather than with sunrise and sunset, that the Cultural Revolution was intended to quash. However, Luo’s clock is small enough to escape being confiscated by the headman upon Luo's arrival in the village, and when the headman discovers its existence he finds it fascinating rather than repellent. The headman's unexpected fascination with the clock shows the ways in which the Cultural Revolution is failing in its ideals; instead of curing Luo and the narrator of their bourgeois upbringings, the re-education campaign brings intellectual and urban ideas to the countryside. Furthermore, the clock becomes a symbol of power—it gives the headman a reason to yell and display his leadership to the village, and Luo and the narrator use it to secretly give themselves power over their lives by changing the time on the clock to move the workday forward or back. Thus, this forbidden symbol of bourgeois life is a source of power for all who encounter it, which shows the disproportionate influence of ideas and objects that are intended to be suppressed.

Luo's Alarm Clock Quotes in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

The Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress quotes below all refer to the symbol of Luo's Alarm Clock. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Anchor Books edition of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress published in 2002.
Part 1, Chapter 2 Quotes

The sheer audacity of our trick did a lot to temper our resentment against the former opium growers who, now that they had been converted into "poor peasants" by the communist regime, were in charge of our re-education.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Luo, The Village Headman
Related Symbols: Luo's Alarm Clock
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
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Luo's Alarm Clock Symbol Timeline in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

The timeline below shows where the symbol Luo's Alarm Clock appears in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 2
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
...unfurnished public building. The house soon becomes famous in the village because of Luo's alarm clock, which features a rooster that crows when the alarm goes off. It is the first... (full context)
Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
...and animal feces to the fields in "back buckets." One morning, Luo sneakily turned the clock back an hour. He and the narrator delighted in this, as it helped temper their... (full context)
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
The headman sits and times the "oral cinema show" with Luo's clock. Luo brilliantly recounts the film, asking the villagers questions to keep them interested. His performance... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6
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
...films because when they were gone, the headman got to be master of the alarm clock. In August, the narrator and Luo are sent to see a film with the Little... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 7
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Storytelling, Censorship, and Power Theme Icon
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
...narrator masturbates (which he terms a "betrayal") as the oil lamps die and the alarm clock shows midnight. (full context)