The Changes Western Literature and a Girl Can Bring The Chinese Culture Revolution in the mid-asses sent millions of city teens, especially the children of the intellectuals, down to rural area for “re- education” to teach them the value of being a peasant. In the novel Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Dad Jessie describes the life and changes the Cultural Revolution brought to the narrator and Lou, who were sent down to the country because of their background.
However, instead of being “re- educated” by the hard labor on the farms, the narrator is educated and changed by the Western literature and the Little Seamstress. Western Literature that was discovered at Four-Eyes’ house is a major factor in changing the narrator. At the beginning of the novel, the narrator and Lou discover that Four-Eyes has been hiding western literatures in his secret suitcase. After trying all sorts of ways from helping him out with the labor work to getting folk songs for him, the narrator and Lou finally get a book by Balzac, a French author, from Four-Eyes.
The first time the narrator reads the kook, he describes himself as: “a boy of nineteen, still slumbering in the limo of adolescence, having heard nothing but revolutionary blather about patriotism, communism, ideology and propaganda all his life, falling headlong into a story of awakening desire, passion, impulsive action, love” (57). The narrator grows up under the concept and philosophy of communism, the western literatures that describe desire, passion, and love overwhelm him with the kind of knowledge that he has never touched on before.
The knowing of such feelings’ existence puts the narrator in absolute awe. These re the exact things that communism directly rejects, therefore hidden from the narrator. Once this is presented in front of the narrator, it transforms his view to the society and changes the way he look at things in life. Later into the story, the narrator and Lou get their hands on even more western literatures, including the novel Jean-Christopher by Romaine Rolland.
After reading the novel, the narrator understood something he never has before: “Without him [Romaine Rolland] I would never have understood the splendor of taking free and independent action as an individual” (1 ID). From Jean-Christopher, the narrator realizes the magnificence and excitement of taking “free and independent action as an individual”. This is a very western concept as the communism absolutely despises the philosophy of free and independent. However, the narrator quickly adopts this brand new idea, and finds this way of life is more exciting than the way that communism prefers, the one he is being re-educated for.
This idea immediately Starts to influence the narrator’s thinking, as he volunteers to go to Young Jinn to find a possible abortion plan upon finding out about the Little Seamstress’ pregnancy by himself without any help from his friends. In the novel, the narrator romantically describes his journey to Honeying: “There was nowhere for them to go, for there was no conceivable place where a Romeo and his pregnant Juliet might elude the long arm of the law, nor indeed where they might live the life of Robinson Crusoe attended by a secret agent turned Man Friday’ (160).
This romantic style of writing provides evidence to the reader that the narrator is deeply affected by his exposure to the readings. At the beginning of the novel, the orator only use sentences and phrases that are short and concise, which symbolizes his unimaginative personality. Here however, learning from the western authors the narrator allows his imagination to take over, and pictures himself and the Little Seamstress in a part of the western literatures that he reads before.
In this part of the novel, the narrator is able to use his reading experience, to mentally escape the current mess he is in, which is something that he is unable to do at the beginning of the novel. Western literature transforms the narrator from an uncreative, dependent and dull kid into a mantic, independent young man that is filled with passion, love and desire. Another important factor that changes the narrator in the book is the One and only Little Seamstress.
At the beginning of the book, the narrator agrees with his friend Lou, when Lou is commenting about Little Seamstress: ‘”she’s not civilized, at least not enough for me” (27). This is right after they first met the Little Seamstress, who reveals that she grows up in the mountain, consequently she is barely literate. Although the narrator and Lou were astonished by her beauty, coming from a big city like Changed, they harshly include that the fact Little Seamstress is nearly illiterate extremely unattractive, and undeserving for them.
However, instead of pulling the narrators leg the Little Seamstress actually helps him to gain confidence as a story teller: “About halfway into the film, she turned to me and whispered in my ear. Her words pierced my heart. ‘It’s so much better when it’s you telling the story. ‘” (82). This simple little sentence the Little Seamstress says to the narrator boosts his confidence level exponentially. The change the narrator experience here is tremendous, as he changes from a self-insecure young an, who has stage fright every single time he gets in front of a crowd, to a confident and courageous storyteller.
Near the end of the novel, the Little Seamstress starts to get a lot more “civilized”, which softens the narrator’s heart and starts to like her more: “It was not long before I took it upon myself, to relieve the Little Seamstress of her laundering duties, and whenever she was up to her eyes in work I would brave the cold of approaching winter and go down to the stream to wash clothes” (151 The action of washing cloth for the Little Seamstress is a huge change from snickering at her for being undereducated.
After Lou leaves the mountain to tend her mom on the sickbed, the narrator gets even more time to be around the Little Seamstress along. With these time, the Little Seamstress proves to the narrator that although she is from the mountain, and do not have the kind of education the narrator did in city, she is not one bit inferior to the narrator or Lou. This works extremely well on the narrator, as his maturity vastly increases, and realizing his responsibility of helping and protecting the females in the society. With the help of the Little Seamstress, the narrator is transformed onto a caring and responsible person.
Instead of the labor in the “re- education”, the real lessons the narrator receives in the mountain are from the western literature and Little Seamstress.