Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress


  • The Little Seamstress, the daughter of a famous local tailor, the Little Seamstress is a rare beauty. She has has no formal education and cannot read, so Luo and the narrator read to her. She is pregnant by Luo, and subsequently gets an abortion. As the novel progresses, the Little Seamstress learns about the outside world by reading the foreign books with Luo's help. She eventually leaves the mountain and everything that she has known, to start a new life in the city.
  • The Village Headman, the leader of the village to which the narrator and Luo are sent for re-education, is a 50-year old "ex-opium farmer turned Communist cadre."[12] One day, he blackmails Luo to fix his teeth in return for not sending the narrator to jail.
  • Four-Eyes, the son of a writer and a poet, must wear thick glasses to compensate for his nearsightedness. He possesses a suitcase full of forbidden "reactionary" Western novels that the Narrator and Luo covet, and eventually steal. He is referred to as a character who is accustomed to humiliation. He ends up leaving the mountain when his mother convinces the government to end his re-education early and gets Four-Eyes a job at a newspaper.
  • The Miller is an old man who lives alone and is a repository of local folk songs. The Miller narrates one part of the novel and provides songs to the boys, who then relate them to Four-Eyes. He is one of the characters who chooses not to be involved with the revolution.
  • The Tailor, the father of the Little Seamstress and the only tailor on the mountain, is a rich and popular man. He is old but energetic and widely travelled. At one point in the story, the narrator recounts The Count of Monte Cristo to him while he spends the night with the narrator and Luo. Through this experience, he gains a slight air of sophistication, and the story begins to influence the clothes that he makes.
  • The Gynaecologist, a man around forty, with "grizzled lanky hair [and] sharp features,"[13] performs the Little Seamstress' illegal abortion in return for a book by Balzac.

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