Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Analysis

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Revolution, change, and even violence do not occur on their own. They need a spark; some kind of ignition switch that lights the action ablaze. This spark is an idea. An idea can transform a person or an entire civilization alike if understood well enough by the carrier. This is seen in both of the main characters, Dai and Luo. It is also reflected by the premise; a China undergoing a cultural revolution beginning with the thought that communism was much more valuable to the people than the nationalist regime. However, in the novel, this concept is as prominent as it can possibly be in the little seamstress. Although she is not necessarily the main character, her actions and transformation reflect the power of ideas more than any other character in the book, hence giving it the name Balzac and the Little Seamstress. Through her actions, she tells the reader that it was thought that provokes such drastic change. The government was not foolish enough to ignore this, after all “an idea that is not dangerous is not worthy of being called an idea at all.” - Oscar Wilde. (Incidentally, it is not unlikely that Wilde was one of the many authors that Dai and Luo read about.) Domestic, and even foreign ideas of change had started revolution in China before, which is why the Chinese officials thought it would be logical to keep them as underground as possible. In spite of this, many intellectuals and children of intellectuals sought and prized any kind of books that would present new ideas. In order to understand why this literature was so greatly valued by the characters, one must first understand their situation. They were not allowed read such things. In fact, even owning any book that had not been approved by the government could result in arrest, interrogation, and even torture. “The way you keep your suitcase locked up and hidden away is enough to betray your secret: you’ve got a stash of forbidden books.” (Sijie, 49) Although making these books illegal was an...
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