Good Earth O-Lan Essay, Research Paper
Throughout The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, O-lan showed herself as a very humble woman. O-lan was a slave in the House of Hwang before her marriage was arranged by the Old Mistress of the House of Hwang. O-lan was faithful throughout the book to Wang Lung through harvest, famine, and even when Wang Lung brought home another woman. O-lan was a hard worker and worked even when no one told her to. She had wisdom that only a slave and a hardworking woman could acquire. Pearl S. Buck reveals many things that all show O-lan to be the humble woman she was.
O-lan’s physical appearance showed her as a very modest woman. When Wang Lung sees her, he stares at O-lan seeing that, “plain though her face was and rough the skin upon her hands the flesh of her big body was soft and untouched . . . her body was beautiful, spare, and big boned yet rounded and soft” (26). From her physical qualities, it is clear that O-lan isn’t a spoiled woman who sits around all day, but a hard worker. She is described as an ugly, flat-footed, stolid-faced woman. Many times, Wang Lung secretly wishes that O-lan didn’t have such big feet. During the time of this book, women’s feet were bound so they would be smaller. O-lan had big feet because they were never bound. This was another aspect of Chinese life that seemed designed to make women suffer was the practice of altering the feet of girls so they could barely walk. The Chinese custom of foot binding was meant to please men esthetically and to enhance a man’s status by showing he was wealthy enough for his wife or concubine not to work.
O-lan said many significant things that showed her to be the modest woman she was. She was a very quiet woman. Though she spoke very few words, they meant so much. In the first part of the book, when the Ancient One asked O-lan if she was ready to head into the world with this stranger, answering in her “not loud, not soft, plain, and not ill-tempered” voice, she says, “ready” (17). Many times, O-lan is fearful of speaking. When it is the first time taking hot water to the old man, she tells Wang Lung fearfully, “‘I took no tea to the Old One-I did as you said-but to you I . . .’” (27). O-lan listens well to Wang Lung, but fears that she is not doing her jobs correctly. O-lan’s timidity when she first gets married is only natural for her situation. At the beginning of the novel, she rarely speaks up. A little after the marriage, O-lan gets used to having a husband and begins to act more boldly and also becomes smarter. When O-lan is about to give birth to their first child, Wang Lung tells O-lan that they should get some woman from the House of Hwang to help her give birth, but she says, “‘None in that house!’. . . ‘When I return to that house it will be with my child in my arms’” (33). She is miserable growing up in the House of Hwang because she has to work hard as a slave and she doesn’t like the people there. She is proud that she is away from the House of Hwang and that she has a husband. When the drought hits their farmland, O-lan and Wang Lung are talking about moving to the South and selling their furniture. O-lan tells Wang Lung, “‘The land we will not sell’” (87) because the land is precious and will always be worth something. O-lan is beginning to speak her own opinion and she knows how important the land is to her family. The land is the basis of Wang Lung’s life and without it he and his family would starve. O-lan becomes braver as she gets used to being around a man and she stops being scared and quiet. As years go by and time progresses, she begins to speak more of her mind. An example of this is when Cuckoo, Lotus’ servant comes to Wang Lung’s house, he notices that O-lan despises Cuckoo. When asked about it, she replies, “I bore her haughty looks all during my youth in the great house and her running into the kitchen a score of times a day and crying out ‘now tea for the lord’ – ‘now food for the lord’ – and it was always this is too hot and that is too cold, and that is badly cooked, and I was too ugly and too slow and too this and too that.”(204). O-lan also said to Cuckoo, “Well, and if I am ugly, still I have borne a son; although I am but a slave there is a son in my house. . . . Beauty will not bear a man sons!” (268). It is right that O-lan is revealing how she feels because, after all, she is a part of the success that their family is enjoying. Though she did say some signifigant things in the story, O-lan had one major fault, which was her silence and reluctance to stand up for herself.
O-lan did many significant things that showed her to be the modest woman she was. One thing that is constant throughout The Good Earth is that O-lan is a very good worker and she has many talents, just as the Old Lady in the Great House of Hwang has said. . O-lan goes out into the fields and works day after day, even when she is pregnant, when she could be in the house doing housework. She works hard so many times, but it seems as if no one notices. O-lan has many different talents. One such example is before their marriage, Wang Lung invites some of his friends over for dinner, which is cooked by O-lan. they sit and eat in silence, except for when one of the comments on the food and how scrumptious it is. Wang lung hides his happiness that O-lan has made a delicious dinner from meat, sugar, vinegar, wine, and soy sauce. Her skill as a cook is apparent early. After their first son is born, Wang lung went again into the town and he bought pork fat and white sugar and the woman rendered the fat smooth and white and she took rice flour, which they had ground from their own rice between their millstones to which they could yoke the ox when they needed to do so, and she took the fat and the sugar and she mixed and kneaded rich New Year’s cakes, called moon cakes, cakes, such as were eaten in the House of Hwang (47). This also pleases Wang Lung because he knows, “there was no other woman in the village able to do what his had done, to make cakes such as only the rich ate at the feast” (47). During the New Year, instead of going to a friend’s house, Wang Lung stays at home with O-lan and both do chores around the house. While Wang Lung “took his rakes of split bamboo and examined them, and where the string was broken he wove in new string” (44), O-lan examines the jars and, If an earthen jar leaked, she did not, as other women did, cast it aside and talk of a new one. Instead she mixed earth and clay and welded the crack and heated it slowly and it was as good as new (44). O-lan is very conservative which saves the family a lot of money, a very valuable quality. During a drought Wang Lung makes a decision to move south where food is available. When they arrive, Wang Lung purchases six mats, and O-lan, Pulled the mats thus and thus, and shaped a rounded roof reaching to the ground and high enough for a man to sit under and not strike the top, and upon the edges of the mats that were upon the ground she placed bricks that were lying about and she sent the boys to picking up more bricks (97). Again, O-lan saves the family money and manpower by effectively making the shelter herself. O-lan is a quiet heroine in this book. At times just so that others around her will be happy, she bottles up her emotions, but when she does speak, it is useful information. On one occasion O-lan was fortunate enough to find some jewels in the wall at the palace and steel a bag of them. She was helpful enough to sell them to help her family. She kept two pearls for herself and kept them in a sacred way until Wang Lung asked for them. O-lan gave them to him being obedient as she was. This was one thing she really didn’t want to do but she did it anyway because she was just that kind of woman. She has many talents such as fixing earthen pots and making a roof out of six mats. It is because of this that O-lan helps her family become successful.
Pearl S. Buck reveals many significant things about O-lan that showed her to be the modest woman she was. O-lan is faithful throughout the book to Wang Lung through harvest, famine, and even when Wang Lung brings home another woman. O-lan is a hard worker and works even when no one tells her to. She has wisdom that only a slave and a hardworking woman could acquire. Even with all her greatness, she has a fault. O-lan’s fault is that she is too silent and never stands up for herself, even when her husband becomes rich and she is the first wife. She has all the control in the house, yet doesn’t use it. O-lan is a very proud woman. Through the times of famine, Wang Lung does everything except sell the land, which is most precious to him. O-lan may have not agreed to it, but when Wang Lung’s uncle wants the couple to sell the land, she stands up for him and boldly says that the land is not for sale. Also, when Wang Lung brings his concubine, Lotus to the house, O-lan acts if Lotus isn’t there and is still by Wang Lung’s side, working hard even though there are servants working. O-lan is strong during those times of difficulty, still doing her duty and working hard to the day she collapses. O-lan is also very wise, but in her own way. Her wisdom isn’t intellectual, but through her years of childhood and working in the House of Hwang she gains great wisdom. During her time of her childbirth, O-lan silently has her baby, without a cry or a woman to help her give birth. She knows exactly what to do because she has seen many births during her years at the House of Hwang. Pearl S. Buck reveals a very important thing. O-lan is a woman. She is a simple woman. The primary role of women, Rich or poor, if she is a wife, her principal function is to bear sons. When O-lan is dying, The doctor tells Wang Lung it would cost five hundred pieces of silver to heal her. “Now when O-lan heard the words, ‘five hundred pieces of silver’ she came suddenly out of her languor and she said weakly, ‘No, and my life is not worth so much. A good piece of land can be bought for so much’” (256). This shows that O-lan would rather her husband continue with his success than save her own life. The integrity of this woman was one that could be found only in extreme cases. She cared for other instead of herself. That’s just what kind of person O-lan was. When O-lan reveals her emotions, Wang Lung has a greater respect for others. O-lan certainly was a “woman not commonly found” (36).
Other characters in the novel said things about O-lan that showed her to be the modest woman she was. When Wang Lung was talking to his father, he said a lot shouldn’t be expected of O-lan’s appearance. He said, “We are farmers. Moreover, who has heard of a pretty slave who was a virgin in a wealthy house? All the young lords have had their fill of her.” (18)
O-lan was obviously a very bold and important woman in this novel yet never knew it. She would do what she was raised to do and try her best to make her husband happy. Through all her marriage, she helped Wang Lung to be one of the wealthiest men in his city. While O-lan endured many difficulties, she continued with her duties as wife through thick and thin. Whether it was her begging on the streets for food and money, or putting up with Lotus, her husband’s concubine, O-lan remained a strong woman with good qualities until the day she died. While she usually had little to say, O-lan’s impact on the Lung family is one that wont be forgotton. She accomplished all of her goals in life and fulfilled her marital duty in making Wang Lung very happy. Even after all this, O-lan still was a very modest woman.