Little Chinese Seamstress

Muna Ali

Marxist One-Pager

Central Argument: In Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, the books mark an impact in each of the main characters, leaving them to expose their truths.

In the novel, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, it exhibits the influence of the Western books on the young minds of Luo, the Little Seamstress and the Narrator. Despite the fact that they were presented to similar thoughts from the legendary writings of notorious western authors - Balzac specifically - their interpretations had a definitive effect. Dai Sijie shows three responses toward the books. One being materialistic, a spiritual, and a combination of both.

Though Luo did read the books that he and the Narrator managed to get in their possession, he was notably fascinated with the work of Balzac, that Sijie describes to be a “French story of love and miracles” (Sijie 57). With this in his possession, Luo proceeded to use the book’s appeal and his storytelling skills to capture the heart of the Little Seamstress. Sijie demonstrates the reality of materialism and how it is one of the biggest use of manipulation to achieve what humans desire from someone or an object through Luo’s character. In this situation, Luo’s relationship with the books had more to do with his objective to exploit rather than to enhance his mind.

As for the Narrator, he achieved the level of one who understands the nature and purpose of reading books. The books gave him the certainty to be what he never figured he could, and do things he wouldn't have considered. The last author’s work, Jean-Christophe, proved to be the most significant to the Narrator. It appears the particular message of “one man standing up against the world” (119) resonates within his own existence. With his stay at Phoenix Mountain, the separation from his parents, the principles he had to follow, gave him a realization and the mentality to believe he had to fight. Essentially, Sijie shows how literature changes how we perceive things as and can be used as this form of breakthrough by reaching inside our own mind and coming to an understanding of one’s self on a spiritual level.

For The Little Chinese Seamstress, the books were initially just stories that Luo and the Narrator would read to her but later on, it offered her knowledge of her beauty, allowing her to move forward and establish a new life. By taking Balzac’s phrase to the heart “a woman’s beauty is a treasure beyond price” (184), she created use of this new aspect and differentiated herself from her past life she was condemned to live. Sijie uncovers how literature speaks to us in many ways and even helps us learn to adapt with different backgrounds and concepts, essentially giving us our full potential to understand what it means to be apart of society. For the Seamstress, literature offered her not just the modern uncommunistic life described to her by Luo, but also the understanding that she had to be a part of the world, for her new dreams to be accomplished.

The effect of the books sunk into the characters so effortlessly and in a profound manner, it eventually showed the specific need of each individual. Although the Narrator and Luo were sent to re-education as a means for Cultural Revolution, the Little Seamstress, on the other hand, was in a desperate need of it. The impact from the novels unveiled the result of their goals in terms of friendship, love and independence. Leaving us to reflect on Sijie’s message that literature connects to us differently in a way we individuals cannot simply associate.