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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Transcript of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Novel by Dai Sijie
Presentation by Gisele Betances and Elizabeth Wilson
What is the story about?
This story is mainly about the freedom of ideas and speech that were lacking in this time period. This story also represents how information and ideas can change the way people see things and this is emulated through the seamstress’s intellectual and sexual awakening that happen throughout the novel.
Major Plot Points
Elements of Fiction
Narrator and Point of View
The narrator is an unnamed 17 year-old boy who takes a prominent place in the story and the story is told from the first person perspective.
The story is set in China in a small village near Tibet called “Phoenix of the Sky” during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
There are three main characters in the story; the narrator, Luo, and the seamstress. The narrator is an intellectual 17 year-old who falls in love with the seamstress along with his childhood friend, Luo. Luo is a young man around the narrator’s age who traveled to the countryside for re-education. Luo is an outgoing and theatrical young man. The seamstress is the beautiful daughter of the tailor from the neighboring village. She can read and write accompanied by her rather bold personality.
How does the protagonist change?
I think that the biggest conflict in the story would be the two main characters’ longing for outside literature even though reading banned materials and retelling their stories could have been considered as a crime by “spreading counter-revolutionary ideas”. This is solved (for the most part) by the boys when they meet Four-Eyes. Four-Eyes has been hiding French, Russian, and English novels that were forbidden by Chinese law. Four-Eyes lends them a French novel. The boys later go back and steal more of Four-Eyes’s books.
There are many elements that create tension within the story such as the romantic tension between the two teenage boys and the little seamstress, the village headman who threatens to turn the boys into the government, and the pregnancy that results from Luo and the little seamstress’s relationship.
How is the setting important to the story?
The setting is important to the story because the main characters are young teenagers that have been sent to be re-educated. If the setting were changed I suppose the same events could occur (if the setting had similar conditions) but then there would be dilemmas with how the culture of the country would affect the plot line.
The protagonist changes as he become more confident in the story lines through his growing love of the Seamstress and his constant defiance of the Chinese Government.
The plot is structured chronologically with the occasional flashback.
The style is very descriptive and uses a lot of imagery. The vocabulary is rather formal, but not very difficult. The writing is quite easy to understand.
The conflicts through the story are the same. The minor would between Four Eyes, the oppression of the Chinese Government as well as the eventual conflict between the Seamstress and Luo when the Seamstress flees to the city.
The story does have archetypes specifically the hero’s journey. The narrator and Luo go through an adventure, and go through Campbell’s Hero archetype.
Balzac is used as a metaphor quite frequently especially in reference to beauty. This is shown in the moment when the Seamstress quotes Balzac in reference to her beauty when she says “treasure beyond price”
The universal themes is the conflicts of love and the dangers of oppressions. The book preaches the difficulty of love as shown the love of the narrator, Luo and Seamstress and the problems of an oppressive government as shown through the censorship and the love of books found in Balzac.