Expo/ Breeze/ Period 3
November 26, 2013
The True Cost of Knowledge
Recently Mrs. Breeze’s Expo class read Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie. This book is set during the Cultural Revolution in China, a time when universities or places of knowledge were getting shut down and “reactionary intellectuals” were sent to the countryside. Two urban boys are sent to the remote countryside known as “Phoenix in the Sky,” and after one starts reading a forbidden Balzac novel, a whole new world of knowledge awaits them. The boys use this newfound knowledge to try to transform an uncivilized girl they both love, the little seamstress. I believe that knowledge comes at a price, especially in the day and age the book is set in, because it is so rare to some in the countryside and throughout China.
The little seamstress is more knowledgeable in some areas rather than others and she takes advantage of the two boys’ urban knowledge towards the end of the novel and therefore she does not believe that knowledge comes at a price. The little seamstress posses skills that she has acquired from living in the mountains, which the two boys do not have because they lived in the city. For example, when Luo and the narrator are put to work, Luo catches malaria and becomes very ill. The little seamstress whips up an herbal poultice that she believes will cure his sickness and she also invites four elderly sorcerers to frighten away the evil spirits that caused Luo his illness. The narrator or Luo would have never known of an herbal cure that would ease his pain and they probably would have asked for medicine, since that is the way to cure sickness normally. Towards the end of the novel, the little seamstress has a problem with pregnancy and needs an abortion so she does not get on the wrong side of the law. Although they are illegal in China, she knows of a hospital in the city that might preform one and she asks the narrator to go find a...
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