Literary analysis of the novel Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
The novel, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, is a novel set during the Cultural Revolution in China. It is about the life of two teenage boys affected by the idea of communism in China. The Cultural Revolution is a movement led by Mao Zedong against the capitalist societies in the country. Mao led the Communist Party of China in the revolution that focused on enforcing communism in China. The revolution could achieve this objective by changing the traditional culture of China and enhancing the capitalist culture in the society. Analysis of the characters and the setting of the gives details of the effects of Cultural Revolution in China as well as the development of communism. Change in forms of administration from capitalist to communist forms affect different issues in society. The Cultural Revolution of China forces the two characters in the book to look for re-education. The novel uses some themes to show the effects of political systems and negative ideologies on the society. China suffered from the false ideologies of communalism brought about by the Cultural Revolution.
The first part of the novel is a narration by a character that the book has not mentioned. Luo and the Little Seamstress narrate the other part. This mix up of styles in writing helps in understanding characters and their actions. The author does not give real names to the characters, which gives a clearer understanding of the novel. An attempt by the reader reveals to study the characters reveal what the author intends to pass using them. The author gives a real name to one character only, Luo. Luo represents how disintegration of traditional culture affects the society. He takes away the virginity of Little Seamstress and impregnates her (Dai 176). The narrator shows the capabilities of human beings to survive using Luo. The narration by Luo indicates that he was open to other ideas from other people through his talent of storytelling. The background of the novel sheds some light on the history of China. China was so conservative at the time and not open to outside ideas, which contributed to political and economic redundancy. For instance, the government did not allow intellectuals and students to read western literature works out of fear that the scholars would use the knowledge they obtain to oppose the government.
Communism, re-education and the Mao regime
Communism is a social movement that aims at removing different classes in the society and creating one acceptable social class. The novel shows the effect of the Cultural Movement on the lives of many people. Mao led the revolution that affected different people including the military. It destabilized the laid down structures of the Chinese society at that time. Education and political sectors felt the effect of this revolution as the novel depicts. Communists regarded the political elites who were against their propositions as enemies of the state. It is for this reason that the communists sent the two characters to the village because their fathers were enemies of the state. The re-education centers served as centers of preventing the intellectuals from criticizing the Mao regime. Vices such as forced labor and cultural stereotypes characterized China’s life before and after the revolution.
The ruling class of China was corrupt and suffered from political illiteracy. For instance, they believed that the only way of having a communist society was to suppress the intellectuals who would oppose the movement. Personal interests took precedence over the interests of the majority. The novel shows that Mao’s goal in the revolution was to gain power and influence over the country. The government sent the young intellectuals to the remote villages to force them take the idea of communism. The remote villages did not have communication resources and other facilities, which forced the intellectuals to adopt communism (Dai 120). The two teenagers pass through a difficult life during the re-education sessions in the villages. They struggle they pass through in the village demonstrates the effects of education, love and friendship in solving various issues.
The government had recognized the effects and influence of education among the young people. It knew that the educated people would use their knowledge in opposing communism during the Mao regime. The issue of re-education explains the disintegration of the Chinese society during the period. In my opinion, the benefits of communism will become a reality if people apply knowledge and intellectual capabilities in different systems of the society. Lack of knowledge and information leads to failure of any system of government. Those behind the regime did not struggle to show its importance, but rather wanted to suppress the ideas of others including the intellectuals. This is the reason why the regime was not successful even after the death of its leader. Brooke’s describes the importance of a free mind and knowledge in all areas of governance.
Theme of love
The theme of love emerges as the novel develops. Luo falls in love with Little Seamstress and later impregnates her. Luo had tried to share with Seamstress what he discovered after reading books from outside China. Love and friendship unite Luo with the tailor’s daughter during the re-education session. They support each other in carrying out different tasks in the camp. Love lures Luo into taking care of Little Seamstress and protects her from the dangers present in the re-education camps (Dai 68). Friendship helps the characters in discovering hidden treasures of information in books. The two young teenage boys share what they discover with the beautiful daughter of a tailor. In his article, Brooke Allen argues that the discovery of love among the characters makes them realize the meaning of personal choice, which was against the communist ideas. Love motivates the characters to share what they have and to go through the difficulties in the re-education camps (Brooke 24).
Traditional forms of communism have not been successful in achieving their demands. This is because they base their actions on false ideologies and neglect the views of other people. The novel uses China to show how such false ideologies affect the society. Those behind communism ideas prevented criticism by subjecting the intellectuals to a difficult life in the villages. However, the characters discover milestones of knowledge from outside sources while they are in the re-education camps. The background of the novel gives details about the historical background of China. China suffered from the problem of lack of knowledge and conservative nature of people during this period. The people were not open to outside ideas and knowledge. Love, friendship, and knowledge are the best approaches to solving problems affecting societies. Different scholars have echoed the same views concerning communism in China. Allen’s article expresses the same concerns. Therefore, knowledge, power and friendship are responsible for the performance of any system of government.
Brooke, Allen. “A Suitcase Education.” New York Times Book Review, 9/16/2001, p 24. Print
Dai, Sijie. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. New York: Anchor Books, 2002. Print.