Balzac and the little Chinese seamstress Summary


Balzac and the little Chinese seamstress

Dai Sijie is one of the monumental writers of his time. One of his greatest works is his book on the Balzac and the Chinese Seamstress. The book has in place several themes that aid the writer to bring out his message. One of the themes that Sijie uses is the display of body language and imagery which is a pivotal form of communication in literature. The use of the characters such as the narrator, Luo, and the seamstress’s daughter elaborates on the use of the body parts to reflect on various cultural aspects of the society (Sijie and Rilke, p. 231).

The focus of this paper is to provide an analysis of Dai Sijie’s Balzac and the little Chinese seamstress. The paper places its emphasis on the use of body imagery in and its role it plays in the Chinese culture. The author talks about the significance of body parts and the interpretation of these specific parts in the lifestyle of society. The paper uses the use of body parts such as the feet, teeth, hands, and hair making imagery one of the themes of the book. The use of body imagery brings forth some effects which as a result generate an expected response from society. This is done by the provision of eight examples that bring out the theme of the author in relation to the culture of the community.

Summary of the novel

The book is reflective of the countries cultural revolution from the traditional way of life to that of the present day. Culture is the way of life of any community making it part and parcel of the lifestyles of society. The book is centered on two boys who migrate from the city to the rural part of the country. This exposes them to a part of life that they are not accustomed to making them question the validity of the culture and its implications on the society as a whole.

The come across a rural girl whose lifestyle is representative of the cultural values of the community. The brothers spend the most part of their new life trying to change the cultural norms of the girl. The boys meet a number of challenges along the way making their quest harder than they had anticipated. They later end up leaning a lot from the girl as opposed to reeducating her on the modern way of life (Sijie and Rilke, p. 339).

Examples of the use of body imagery in the novel

The body plays a significant role in the study of literature. Some cultures choose to express themselves through body features. This is due to the emphasis that the body language relays to the receiver of the message. Body imagery is thus a pivotal element is the portrayal of the character traits of the society as a whole. One of the essential factors that the authors deliver is the use of the picture in the cover of the book.

This immediately turns the attention of the reader to the question the display of the feet and the true meaning it has on society. The picture displays the shoes of women. The country is going through a revolution at the time. One of the areas of change is the treatment of women. Women in the traditional age are inclined to shape their feet to fit the small shoes. This is a sign of beauty in the traditional age but acts as a form of repression on the women in the community.

One of the body parts that are discussed in the book is the waist of the young girl. The waist is seen as a feature of beauty in that it defines the entire feminine structure. The author uses Lou’s infatuation with his love interest to show the impact of her physical beauty on his intellect. He falls in love with her figure making it the center of his attraction and one of the reasons for his stay in the community. The effect of the female body on society is showcased when the narrator and Luo watch beautiful women take a bath in the river. One of the men falls inside a ditch in that he is mesmerized by the female form.

The author uses the hands of both Luo and his girlfriend to display the significance of feelings. Society has various ways of expressing themselves making communication diverse in nature. Touch is one of the forms of imagery that is used to bring out emotions between two people. The actions thus display the romance between people in society making one of the preferred forms of communication between loved ones.

The author uses imagery to bring out some of the intended themes in the book. The seamstress is exposed to a number of revolutionary ideas. Her introduction to the books increases her knowledge and intellect in all things educational. Her body begins to change due to the change in her intellect. The author thus uses the growth of her knowledge to emphasize the developments of her body parts.

The seamstress also seeks to define her chest by making a traditional brassier for her breast. The breast is an essential body feature to all members of the community. Though it may seem personal, women use their breast to nurse their newborn children. The concentration of this part of the body by the seamstress is a reflection of society’s reliance on women for the creation of the next generation. Making a brazier to suit the breast symbolizes the protection of the rights of women to enhance the sustainability of the community as a whole.

The author uses the eyes to create different scenarios in the novel. Eyes are essential for the face to face communication between two people.  The author writes on the eye contact that the narrator and Lou make with the daughter of the seamstress. As stated earlier during their reeducation, they fall in love with the young girl. One of the signifying factors is the use of eye contact between the three characters. The look into a person’s eyes displays their inner emotions according to the Chinese culture. The eye is, therefore, an essential body part when showing affection between different people in society.

Another place that the author uses the eyes of a person is through the character known as four eyes. Four eyes earn his name through the use of spectacles for the most part of his day to day activities. The name is symbolic to people who embrace education due to the extensive reading that comes with the trade. Society has high regard for people who ware spectacles by associating them with the learned community. Four eyes thus acquired a new status as a genius due to the lack of the proper function of his eyes.

Body language, in general, is used by the author to symbolize a number of factors. The book is credited for his display of the sexual nature of the community through their body language. The body of the female is more appreciated compared to that of the male. Most of the romantic scenes are geared towards embracing different body parts of the female. Body language involves the movement of the body so as to pass on a particular message. The body of the seamstress’s daughter changes the priority of the two boys who decide to pursue their romantic feelings. The body is mostly used to attract the attention of the opposite sex. Society focuses on raising beautiful children so as to increase their marketability when seeking marriage (Sijie and Rilke, p. 151).


In conclusion, the Balzac and the little Chinese seamstress is written to display the revolutionary Chinese culture at a certain time. The author uses the example of two young men to elaborate on the need for change in society. One of the ways he does this is through the use of body parts and body imagery. Body parts are essential for body language due to nonverbal communication it involves. The use of various body parts imagery is used to display the present culture of society. The analysis of the use of these elements provides a better understanding of the life and culture of the Chinese people during a revolutionary time in their history.


Works Cited

Dai, Sijie, and Ina Rilke. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. London: Chatto & Windus, 2001. Print.

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