In Dai Sijie's novel "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress," the narrator's commentary on education underscores its transformative potential. The story is set during China's Cultural Revolution, a time of ideological repression and limited access to information. The two main characters, Luo and the narrator, are sent to a remote mountain village for reeducation. Their lives take an unexpected turn when they discover a hidden stash of forbidden Western literature.
The narrator's comment on education becomes evident as the characters read and discuss the books they find. For example, after reading Honoré de Balzac's "Ursule Mirouët," the narrator reflects on the impact of education: "I was experiencing the same happiness I felt reading Balzac as I had felt before reading French." This suggests that reading Balzac and other enlightening books elevates their understanding and enriches their lives in a way that Chinese literature couldn't during that time.
Furthermore, the narrator remarks on how education broadens their perspective and allows them to transcend their immediate circumstances. When Luo is captivated by the storytelling prowess of the Little Seamstress, he acknowledges, "thanks to Balzac, I saw in her eyes a distant gleam, a sly smile which I had never noticed before." This observation reveals that education has sharpened Luo's perception and enabled him to appreciate the complexity of the Little Seamstress's character.
The significance of education is emphasized through the characters' efforts to share their newfound knowledge. The narrator teaches the Little Seamstress to read, and she becomes captivated by the stories they share. This journey underscores how education fosters personal growth and deepens connections between individuals, transcending societal constraints.
In conclusion, the narrator in "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress" emphasizes the transformative impact of education. Through their engagement with forbidden Western literature, the characters experience enlightenment, personal growth, and a broader understanding of the world. This commentary on education underscores its power to elevate individuals beyond their immediate circumstances and ideological limitations, serving as a beacon of hope and intellectual liberation during a repressive era.
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