Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress


Dai Sijie

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress takes place during China's "Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside" movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, which sought to "re-educate" young intellectuals by removing them from their urban homes and sending them to rural areas to work and learn from the peasants. The narrator states that Chairman Mao Zedong's reasons for sending Chinese youth to the countryside were somewhat unclear, as individuals like Luo

read analysis of Education, Re-Education, and the Cultural Revolution

Coming of Age

At its most basic level, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress tells the coming of age stories of Luo, the Little Seamstress, and the narrator. While the three engage in the perfectly normal process of testing boundaries and questioning the truth of what they've been taught by parents and the government, the particularly oppressive nature of the Cultural Revolution makes this process significantly more dangerous and high-stakes for them.

Because Luo and…

read analysis of Coming of Age

Storytelling, Censorship, and Power

The Cultural Revolution sought to eliminate any kind of art, music, or literature that didn't fully support the political aims of the government. The narrator says that both western and classic Chinese literature are banned, and some works of music have been altered to pay homage to Mao. With this backdrop, the novel explores how storytelling and censorship work together and in opposition to each other, particularly showing how storytelling can give individuals power, and…

read analysis of Storytelling, Censorship, and Power
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Friendship and Loyalty

The narrator is clear that he and Luo are best friends and always have been. They grew up in apartments next door to each other, watched their parents publically humiliated at political rallies, and are sent together to Phoenix mountain for re-education. However, what the narrator says about the strength and depth of his friendship with Luo is complicated by the questionable ways that Luo treats the narrator. As the narrator navigates the trials…

read analysis of Friendship and Loyalty