The novel “Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress” by Dai Sijie is a moving testament to the universal importance of storytelling and literature. It encompasses the transformative power of storytelling as one of its major themes. The Narrator early on delineates Luo’s capacity for relaying stories as a “marginal” (p.18) talent; he is convinced that it is not a way of becoming “one of the three in a thousand” who are at some point allowed to return home. In his opinion (p.18)”modern societies…have done away with the old storytellers” (p.18). This point of view is drastically refuted over the course of the novel.
Regardless of ethnicities, ideologies, or other self imposed human concepts, there remains an innate longing for stories. The best examples are to be found among the youngest of us, which are yet untainted by the mores of their respective societies. To them a night time story is something utterly essential. Motives behind this yearning for tales span across cultures and history, as they are rooted deep inside the human nature. Since the dawn of history, humans have relied on stories in one form or another, religion being one example, to explain to them the mysterious cosmos. Nowadays science is arguably displacing stories from that position and yet they remain indispensable. They convey moral messages, values and ideals in an intelligible way which can metamorphose people.
Having had the ‘Count of Monte Cristo’ relayed to him, the Tailor gains a slight air of sophistication and it begins to influence the clothes he makes, “sailor tops with square collars” (p.127).
“…with these books I shall transform the Little Chinese Seamstress. She’ll never be a simple mountain girl again” (p.100).By the end of her “Balzacian re-education” (p.180) she surpasses the boys and astonishes them by turning her back on them in search of a more civilized lifestyle; “She said that she learned one thing from Balzac: that a woman’s beauty is a treasure beyond price”...