The Good Earth Essay, Research Paper
1. The Good Earth
2. Pearl S. Buck 1931
Wang Lung: Wang Lung is a farmer who is at first very humble and content in his home then later becomes a proud, wealthy man who is always troubled in his home. In the beginning of the story he seems happy living as a farmer though at times he feels as though he is nothing to the merchants in the town. Wang Lung shows himself to be obedient to his father and shows that he follows the traditions that his father has instilled in him. When his wealth begins to grow, however, he then becomes boisterous and proud in his heart which makes it difficult to realize that he is indeed ashamed of treating O-Lan as though she were nothing and had done nothing to help him.
O-Lan: She is the wife of Wang Lung. She has a square figure and a dull face with “dumb” eyes. The Old Mistress says that she is not beautiful and that is the reason why her sons have not touched her. She has been a slave of the House of Hwang since childhood and she rarely ever speaks nor does she smile. When she learns that she is going to die, her heart opens itself to Wang Lung for the very first time. Thought she seemed to Wang as an indesirable woman, she proved to be a wise and beautiful woman inside.
Wang Lung’s Father: Though his body is matured and he is is indeed thought to almost be finished with his life, in him is seen a child. He laughs as though he were a child and when he hears or smells food he follows O-lan eagerly about the kitchen. he also does not do much for himself except lean against the wall of the house in the sunlight.
Lotus: She is a beautiful woman from the tea shop who comes to live in the house of Wang Lung. She has a slender body with tiny feet and pointed fingers that are soft and delicate. She seems to be spoiled by the hands of Wang Lung and cannot do the things that O-lan did for herself. She acts as though she is better thatn Wang Lung since he is a farmer. When he began tending the fields again and he smelled of garlic, she sent him away as though she had power over him.
Cuckoo: She is definitely greedy for money. She, as O-lan was, was a slave in the House of Hwang. There she was a slave to the Old Lord for many years. She was still there when the house was robbed and she stayed with her master until his death. Later she worked in the tea house selling the bodies of women to men. She shows her greed most when she speaks of a man who gave her a piece of silver everytime he saw her. She loved to hold it in her hands, especially from Wang Lung since there was plenty of silver in the house.
Nung En: The elder son of Wang. He looks much like his mother in his square build and was tall for his years. When he begins his journey to “manhood,” he seems restless and idle. He shows this by refusing to go to school and taking trips, with his cousin, to the Houe of Hwang to see a whore. It was least expcted that he shall become the one that disobeys his father for many though highly of him. In the end, he shows himself to be a true scholar and obedient to his fathers wishes, except for when him and his younder brother decide to sel the land.
Nung Wen: The younger son of Wang Lung. This son seemed more likely to cause more trouble for Wang Lung, since as a child he enjoyed and relished the fact that he had stole meat from a butcher in the South. Yet, he showed himslef to be obedient to his father as he grew older. He also shows that he has grown to be responsible, successful, and wise when he starts his own grain market.
Wang Lung’s Uncle and his uncle’s son: these two both have an attribute of not showing gratitude toward Wang. The both show this in Wang’s house and cause nothing but trouble and idle about the land and their apartment. The son is a wild tiger and shows it when he harrasses his younger female cousin and says that he is only playing with her. He father is very forceful, and he has the power to be since he is the leader of the bandits known as the Redbeards. These two have taken advantage of Wang Lung’s fortune and prosperity; they show absolutely no compassion or gratitude towards Wang at all.
Pear Blossom: YOung and beautiful, she is a slave at the house of Wang Lung. She was bought in a year of famine and since she is very delicate, did not do very many tasks except for assisting Cuckoo in her duties with Lotus. She is loyal to her mistress and begs for her forgiveness when Lotus is told of Wang’s dsire for her.
Ching: Ching was Wang’s farmer and neighbor. He was also one of Wang’s closest friends. Wang treated Ching as an equal, since they were both close friends and Ching was one of Wang’s most trusted laborers. When Ching dies, Wang cries at the loss. He cared for Ching deeply, and shows this by deciding to be buried as close as he can to Ching.
House of Wang Lung: Here is where Wang Lung and his father lived. It gives the reader a sense simplicity as well as hardships since the house was small and quaint, but Wang had to work all day and every day just to be able to feed himslef and his father.
South: Wang Lung and his family must retreat to the south since therehad been a great drought and famine in the north. Here in the South, Wang’s family is forced to beg for money so they can survive. The reader gets a sense of fright, since the family is forced to survive in an unknown land where everything is new to them. There is also a sense of not belonging, since all of the southerners see Wang and his family as outsiders and dirty farmers.
House of Hwang: This is where Wang Lung finally feels as though he has achieved greatness. The reader feels a sense of greatness as well as honor, since this was once the house of the most prosperous and most honored family in northern China. Here Wang Lung realizes just how wealthy he has become, and how much he has accomplished. In this house, he has a sense of triumph, for now it is known as HIS great house, not the House of Hwang.
6. Plot Summary
In the beginning, Wang Lung is a farmer who is constantly working in the fields to help feed him and his father. He eventually has the want for a wife, so he goes to the House of Hwang to recieve a slave as his bride. He is content with her and takes her home.
This wife of his bears him his first son. She stays in the room by herself, and Wang Lung waits until he is needed. She calls him in, and he rejoices at the birth of his first son. Eventually, she has another son and also a daughter. This daughter is interpreted as a bad omen.
A drought comes upon the land and Wang Lung and his family is forced to move temporarily to the South. Here his family is forced to survive by begging for money. Later during their stay, a mob storms a rich man’s house and that is when Wang steals money from the rich man to get back home.
When he returns home, he realizes that there is nothing left. He uses the money that he stole from the rich man to replace those items that were stolen by the Redbeards. He also buys items to help him once again work his fields. He eventually becomes rich and prosperous; his sons have become scholars and have married well. His love for his harlot Lotus has faded, and he finds new love in Lotus’ slave, Pear Blossom. She stays with him until his death, and Wang’s sons are prosperous as well, but they plan to sell the land on which they were born.
7. Major Theme
The major theme of this story was basically “you get out of it what you put into it,” meaning whatever Wang Lung put into his land (hard work, his life) he recieved good results and was able to become wealthy and make a name for himself among the merchants in the village. Wang Lung worked very hard on his fields; he spent his whole life working on it, trying to make his crops boom with bountiful harvests. Wang Lung cared for he land as if it were his own children, if not more. If he had not put all of his hard work, blood, and sweat into his fields, he would never have become wealthy and prosperous.
Red: in this story, red symbolized good luck as well as good fortune. When O-lan gave birth to Wang’s first son, he bought eggs and dyed them red to show that he has had good fortune since he had a son.
Satin: satin was a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Mostly wealthy families only wore satin. When Wang became rich, he began to wear satin and silk to show that he was now wealthy. It made Wang feel a though he was no longer a common farmer.
Lotus: Lotus was also a symbol of wealth, since only wealthy men could afford to have a harlot. When Wang became rich, he began to tire of O-lan, so he went and bought Lotus to satisfy his needs.
The Land: the land was a symbol of Wang and his family’s roots. It means a lot to him, since he has worked on it his whole life. He tells his sons that they must not sell the land; if they do, they will be selling their roots. He also tells them that they came from that land, and that is where they will go.
Hair Braid: Wang’s hair braid symbolized his position in the society, a farmer. When he cut it off, it meant that he was no longer a commoner ; he was now one of the elite classes.
House of Hwang: this house symbolized greatness, wealth, and prosperity, since a once honored and wealthy family had lived here. When Wang bought the house, he felt that wealth, honor, and prosperity. He felt that he had finally achieved power.
Opium: opium was a symbol of false happiness for Wang’s uncle and wife, but it was a symbol of peace for Wang, since his uncle and aunt were so drugged and “happy” that they did not bother him with their problems.
Water on the Land: ” The Water rose and lay like a great sea, lovely and idle, mirroring cloud and moon and willows and bamboos whose trunks stood submerged.” This gives the reader the sight that Wang Lung saw when the waters graciously flooded his lands: beautiful and breathtaking.
Locusts: During the time that the locusts invaded Wang’s lands, they were descridbed as ” a dark cloud of destruction.” The reader can see that the locusts bring harm with them, since they had eaten most of the crops.
House of Hwang: ” the long verandas supported by the delicate, red-varnished pillars.” This gives the reader a sense of greatnes, with its detailed carvings in pillars and intricate designs . The house was once a great house, and when Wang sat in the great chair, he felt that power and greatness.
10. Title Significance
The significance of the title to the work is that no matter how many problems Wang Lung ran into with his land, it was always there. When he left for the South, he knew that the land would always be there, and when he returned home, it would be waiting. The earth, or land, he lived on gave birth to him, his father, and his family. The land was their roots, and it meant a lot to him. ANother significance is that the land brought Wang and his family wealth beyond any they had seen before. The crops grew each year bringing them a bountiful harvest, therefore being a “Good Earth.”
11. Authors Techniques
Simile- “She is like a flower on a quince tree” This decribed Lotus’ beauty, and how much Wang thought of her physical attributes.
“like a child fixed upon eating.” This described Wang’s father, since all he did was ask for food and never did any work around the house.
Metaphor- When Wang’s father gave him words of wisdom. ” why are you wasteful? Drinking tea is eating silver”
Historical Allusion- Since buck lived in China when they began to drive out the Americans, she interpreted it into her story.
Personification- “the sun mounting the horizon clouds” describes how the sun rose in the day and seemed to rest upon the clouds.
Repetition- Wang Lung kept referring back to his land, and how much he loved it. Buck probably used this technique to show that Wang Lung care for the land as if it were his own child.