"Balzac And The Little Chinese Seamstress" By Dai Sijie: In What Ways Is This Novel An Argument For The Importance Of Storytelling?

1536 words - 7 pages

Breathe Literature, Exhale Reality"...an art...recreating literature-taking the printed words in a book and giving them life", Ellin Greene defined storytelling. It is used to pass the time, tell of past or current events, and is the way that we communicate with each other. In Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, storytelling takes place when life is tough and living is hopeless. Storytelling allows Luo and the narrator to live like people in the stories. Even the tailor is influenced by the storytelling: He changes the style of clothing in the village so that it escapes the borders of Mao’s permitted clothing. And, the Little Seamstress learns the true meaning of beauty and is ...view middle of the document...

” (BLCS p.19)The narrator and Luo got time off of their hard laboring work and went back to civilization for a while. Soon the two become quite proficient at dissolving the farmers into tears over North Korean melodramas like "The Little Flower Girl". Every time a new film was released, they would be able to escape hard labor. Luo and the narrator were able to avoid hard labor by storytelling and allowing them to relax for a short while.The tailor discovers his own means of escaping Mao’s clutch by storytelling. On his annual tour of the villages before New Year’s, the tailor makes the surprising decision of staying with Luo and the narrator. The two teenagers are perplexed that the tailor would want to stay in their hut on stilts built over a pigsty. As an answer, the tailor says, “The pair of you are excellent storytellers, so my daughter says. Which is why I insisted on staying in your house.” (BLCS p.123) The old man heard rumors of the wonderful storytellers and desired to experience the magic himself. The narrator uses nine whole nights to tell the tale of The Count of Monte Cristo to the tailor and Luo. The tailor picks up fashion details from the French novel and uses them in designs for the clothes he makes for the villagers.“Dumas would have been most surprised to see the mountain men sporting sailor tops with square collars that flapped in the breeze. You could almost smell the briny Mediterranean air. The blue sailor trousers mentioned by Dumas and copied by his disciple the old tailor conquered the girl’s hearts with their fluttering bell-bottoms and whiff of the Côte d’Azur.”(BLCSp.127).The tailor inspired fashion swept through the villages while Mao jackets were left untouched. The novel written by Alexander Dumas allowed the tailor to escape his reality physically by creating new styles of clothing.Storytelling also includes telling the story in the form of written word; it helps the narrator survive through the hardships mentally. After maintaining a slim volume entitled Ursule Mirouët written by Balzac, the narrator becomes so fascinated by the book that he did nothing but read for an entire day. The narrator states, “By the end of the day I was feeling quite at home in Nemours, imagining myself posted by the smoking hearth of her parlor in the company of doctors and curates.” (BLCS p.57) Reading the book allows him to escape his hardships mentally by imagining he takes part in the story. Also after stealing a suitcase with a stash of forbidden books from their friend Four-Eyes, the narrator becomes obsessed by one of the books written by Jean-Christophe. As he put it, “To me it was the ultimate book: once you read it, neither your own life nor the world you lived in would ever look the same.” (BLCS p.111) The narrator took Jean-Christophe’s words to heart and becomes confident he will live through this re-education. This emphasizes the power of...

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