Editorial Reviews. Review. “Bertozzi beautifully distills Buck's text into poignant snippets ciofreedopadkin.ga: The Good Earth eBook: Pearl S. Buck: site Store. The good earth. byBuck, Pearl S; Buck, Pearl S. (Pearl Sydenstricker), . Publication date Topics NA. Publisher[London]. Pearl S. Buck's timeless masterpiece, the Pulitzer Prize–winning story of a farmer's journey through China in the s. The Good Earth is Buck's classic story of.
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This ebook features an illustrated biography of Pearl S. Buck including rare The Good Earth is Buck's classic story of Wang Lung, a Chinese. In The Good Earth Pearl S. Buck paints an indelible portrait of China in the s , when the last emperor reigned and the vast political and. Read "The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck available from Rakuten Kobo. Sign up today and get $5 off your first download. Pearl S. Buck's timeless masterpiece.
O-lan is afraid, for she has done this on her own. But Wang is pleased- it is a sign that she likes him. In addition, she gathers, without being asked, fuel from the roadside and manure at the crossroads and comes to hoe beside Wang in the field. In due course she becomes pregnant. One of the reasons that having a son was so crucial for a Chinese family was that it promised one would eventually have the service of a daughterin-law.
By following O-lan through her duties you learn what the life of a peasant woman was like in traditional China, and you learn much about O-lan as well.
The way she goes about her work and does what needs to be done without being told indicates that she is happy in her new life. She takes pride in her new household and wants it to run smoothly. Wang Lung would like to know more of her past, but, according to Chinese custom, it would not be proper for a man to show much curiosity about his wife. You see a strong bond growing between Wang Lung and O-lan. The paragraph describing the two of them working in harmony along the furrows of growing wheat is worth reading with care.
It suggests the blend of pain and joy in their joint effort to make the earth productive and also the fatalism of their life close to the soil. Wang is deeply moved- astonishingly, he has helped to create life. Wang offers to have a woman come to help her from the village or perhaps from the Great House. For the first time O-lan is angry, and words pour from her. She will return to that house only with her son in her arms, the baby in a red coat and flowered trousers and herself in new shoes and a coat of black satin.
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She has even counted out what money she will need, just three pieces of silver. You may want to consider it a bad omen in light of future events. O-lan does not want a woman to help her. She works beside Wang in the field until her labor pains begin. He comes in from the field to find that she has put his hot supper on the table, but she endures the birth almost silently behind her closed door.
When he hears a baby cry he begs through the door to know if it is a male, and she answers faintly that it is. Only then is he able to sit down and eat his now cold supper. Tomorrow he will download red sugar to treat her to a celebratory drink.
He will also fashion red-colored eggs to let all the neighbors know that he has a son. Gifts of money are given in red envelopes, red garments are worn, and food or garnishes are red. This is probably the reason we associate the color with the Chinese. Her anger at his mention of someone from the Great House tells you something- she was treated badly there, surely, and she must hate or mistrust the other women slaves.
You are not told. You may well wonder how O-lan could be so sure that her baby would be a boy, when she dreamed of dressing him up to be presented at the Great House. Another fact of peasant life is revealed in this chapter, and it is a harsh fact indeed. For a time she helped at an institution that took in slave girls who had fled cruel owners.
Soon O-lan is working beside Wang again. The harvest is gathered, the threshing must be done, and then the fields need to be plowed and planted again for winter wheat. The baby sleeps on an old quilt on the ground, and when he wakes O-lan feeds him.
Because she has an abundance of milk, the well-fed baby is fat and good-natured. The harvest, too, is plentiful. The little house is crowded with jars of woven reeds brimming with wheat and rice.
Wang stores his surplus against winter and high prices.
From the rafters hang strings of garlic and onions, and a leg of pork and two chickens that O-lan has salted down for the winter. The winter rains come, and the winter wheat sprouts. With no farm work to do, the farmers visit one another, drinking tea and gossiping. Wang Lung does little of this, however. Instead, he enjoys quiet hours spent mending farm implements, with O-lan nearby repairing earthen jars and household tools and making clothes and cloth shoes for the family.
When Wang Lung sells his produce he has a good handful of silver pieces above what they need. O-lan digs a hole in the earthen wall of their bedroom, Wang thrusts in the silver, and she closes the hole with a clod of earth. Some disturbing comments are introduced into this scene of prosperity and contentment.
They will be envious or ask to borrow. He is also afraid to let his neighbors know that he has silver hidden away. Their house is ramshackle, their children are unruly, and the uncle sells his produce at the peak of harvest and at the lowest price for ready cash. You can expect to hear more of this shiftless uncle and his family.
Remember to think about how silver is used to symbolize wealth apart from the land. He hangs strips of red paper with good luck mottoes on the doors and a paper flower over the doorway. His old father cuts out new robes of red paper for the little earth gods. Houses are cleaned thoroughly and ritually rid of evil spirits, elaborate foods are prepared, and gifts are given. In addition, there are firecrackers to chase evil spirits and dances, and rice cakes or steamed bread is eaten.
On the second day Wang Lung, O-lan, and their baby boy, dressed in the new clothes O-lan has made for them, go to the House of Hwang. This time the gate- man treats Wang with respect and offers him tea while he escorts O-lan and the baby to the Old Mistress.
O-lan returns looking contented. To cap this back-stairs gossip, the Old Mistress herself has told O-lan that they will sell some of their good rice land.
Wang impulsively declares that he will download the land. O-lan protests that it is too far away. Why not download the land which his uncle has to sell? He has farmed it for twenty years and put nothing back into the land.
Even Wang Lung is not the same. He is no longer the timid peasant who came to the House of Hwang a year ago to claim his bride. With this act, Wang Lung will embark on a new course in life, stepping over a threshold that few peasants in any country, let alone China, can ever cross. From a poor subsistence farmer living on the edge of survival, he is about to become a comfortable landowner.
Without exchanging a word about it, he and O-lan are both aware that they are working together at this joint enterprise and that they are succeeding. Their contentment with each other shines through their quiet, almost wordless companionship. You may see a further, more subtle change: O-lan has now achieved equal status, at least privately, with her husband. She still observes the forms, still walks the proper six paces behind him.
But now he discusses with her the great new project of downloading land. She dares to offer an opposing opinion, and Wang Lung listens and answers her as he would answer an equal.
He hastily hides the baby in his coat and talks of their worthless, pockmarked female child. Taking the cue, O-lan agrees. Consider this reminder of evil spirits and the power of fortune to change things as you read the following chapters. As things change for Wang and O-lan, ask yourself whether it is really fortune fate or something else that destroys their happiness. Is it nature?
Human nature? The times? Could Wang Lung have done anything or not done anything to avoid the next series of events? It may not cheer him to remember that O-lan predicted this. He misses the comfort of having silver hidden in the wall. And he bought the land, not from the Old Lord, who was still sleeping although it was noon, but from the oily agent, thus missing all the glory of dealing with the head of the House of Hwang. To Wang Lung the difference between him and the Great House seems as high as the city wall and as wide as the moat.
Spring comes with rain and wind, and Wang and O-lan toil in the fields from dawn to dark. She is pregnant again and Wang is cross with her. The birth will come at harvest when he will need her help.
She says this birth will be nothingonly the first is hard. As she predicts, she gives birth in the morning and is back beside him by afternoon, gathering the sheaves. It is a boy. Again the harvest is good. All the village now knows that Wang Lung is prospering. Wang Lung is not always a gentle, considerate husband.
When he is overworked he can be rough. On this day he has not even stopped at midday to rest and eat because a thunderstorm threatens and the harvest must be cut and bound before the storm. He sees that O-lan is tired when she comes back to the field after giving birth.
But he thinks he has suffered as much this day with his toil as she has with her childbirth. Do you think O-lan carries her courage and independence too far? Would she get more kindness from Wang Lung if she showed a little weakness? You might think that she could just as well have stayed in the house and rested, instead of venturing out again to help him. Would you say that Pearl Buck is telling you something further about O-lan?
Might she want you to see that O-lan cares as much as Wang about their land, their harvest, and their prosperity, that she is willing, as he is, to work to exhaustion in their joint effort to rise from poverty?
He meets the eldest, a girl of fifteen, her hair uncombed, talking immodestly with men. But her husband has an evil destiny. For him nothing grows but weeds. Then the uncle himself comes to Wang to complain of his bad luck. He scolds Wang for criticizing him and threatens to spread it through the village that Wang has been disrespectful. Meanwhile O-lan has given birth again, to a daughter this time.
Back in his field, Wang sees a flight of crows, an evil omen. You may know people like them, who blame bad luck for all their troubles. You are forewarned that in time this uncle and his family will create even bigger problems for Wang. Meanwhile the omens multiply. NOTE: Consider the matter of the evil omens. Do you think Wang may have seen flights of crows on other occasions and never noticed them?
This time, however, he has already had the encounter with his uncle, which cost him money, and the birth of a daughter, which in Chinese eyes is a misfortune, so perhaps he is ready to see evil omens everywhere. Meanwhile O-lan becomes pregnant again so that her milk dries and she is unable to feed her baby girl. With the food stores gone, the ox must be killed to feed the family.
The first time, Wang gives him a handful of beans and corn. The second time, he does not dare to share what little is left to feed his own family. The uncle spreads word in the village that his nephew has food and refuses to share. They are about to take his furniture when O-lan intervenes. If he still had the silver or had bought food with it, the neighbors would have taken it all.
Here again the value of land is superior to mere money. NOTE: You have frequently read in the newspapers and seen on television accounts of drought and starvation in Africa and India. Today prosperous nations contribute to the relief of the starving.
When The Good Earth takes place, however, the outside world hardly heard of the periodic famines in China. In that vast country a drought might strike one region while others had plentiful rain and good harvests.
The lack of a strong central government and provincial selfishness provided at least part of the answer. Wang decides that his family will migrate south. O-lan says to wait only a day and she will have given birth.
Ching brings a handful of dried beans to help O-lan through her childbirth. Wang saves a few beans to feed his starving baby daughter. O-lan gives birth, alone as before, and the newborn, a girl, is dead. Wang takes the body out to bury, but he is too weak to dig a grave in the dry, hardened earth.
Would you have counseled her otherwise? Pearl Buck saw the effects of famine during her childhood in China. She must also have known of the practice of female infanticide among poor women. A baby girl was considered worthless, only another mouth to feed or at best a slave you could sell later on.
Infanticide, the killing of newborn babies, has been known in many parts of the world in both ancient and modern times.
In some cultures it was an accepted custom and not against the law. The Romans, as well as the Spartans of ancient Greece, put unwanted infants in the wilderness to die of exposure or be killed by wild animals. Wang sees his second son crawling, too weak to stand, and is tempted, but then bursts into tears of weakness and anger and refuses.
O-lan backs him up. They will not sell the land, but they will sell the furniture. She accepts the two pieces of silver the men pay her, scarcely the price of one bed. Now, she says, it is time to go. His three youngest children have disappeared; he does not say where. The implication is that the uncle and his wife, like others in the village, have taken to cannibalism. They take only the clothes they wear, except that O-lan gives each of her small sons a bowl and chopsticks, a promise of food to come.
Wang carries his frail little girl until he sees his father stumbling and about to fall. He then gives the child to O-lan and takes his father on his back.
They pass the Great House, its gates shut tight and a few famished people huddled there. Outside the town, Wang and his family join the flood of refugees. When the train comes the crowd pushes them along, clinging together, into the railroad car.
Wang pays the fare for the hundred mile trip south with his two pieces of silver, and downloads a little food with some of the change. A man in the train, who has been through this before, advises Wang to save a few coppers for mats to build a shelter.
There are public kitchens where the poor can download cooked rice, as much as one can eat for a penny. They must get the rest of their food by begging. Wang will not beg. Well, then he can wear himself out taxiing the rich in a two-wheeled, hand-pulled riksha. They reach the city, and all turns out as the man on the train said. O-lan, ever resourceful, remembers from her childhood how to make a hut against a wall where others have built theirs.
They eat their rice at the soup kitchen, then go back to their shelter and fall into exhausted sleep. The next morning Wang looks to O-lan to say what should be done.
Again, she remembers. She leads the little boys and the old man out to the street where they will hold out their bowls and call to passersby. When the little boys consider it a game, she spanks them soundly until, with tear-streaked faces, they are fit to beg. Wang Lung rents a riksha and learns that he must bargain with a customer for a fare.
The old man sits by the roadside, dozing and forgetting to beg. After the horror of the starving village, the change of scene is welcome. With Wang and his family you have your first glimpse of a teeming city. Here food is plentiful and people of means provide something for the poor. But some must do it out of a good heart?
To this Wang gets no answer. You might consider whether the family would have survived to this point without her firmness of will and her calm, practical approach to each situation, however strange or shocking. He sleeps with it clutched in his hand and pays for his rice himself the next day.
This first day in the city reveals the ironic fate of the working poor. He smells tempting cooking odors, hears music and the click of dice but never sees what is going on inside buildings. When a street orator calls for revolution against foreigners, Wang is frightened, thinking he and his family are those foreigners. Foreign traders had gradually acquired certain rights to do business in China and during the early nineteenth century had forced the Chinese imperial government to grant them more and more concessions by threat of force.
The Boxers, as they were called in English, gained popularity and strength by intriguing with the Empress Dowager against the Emperor and in outbreaks of violence against Europeans occurred. Pearl Buck herself experienced this threat as a little girl.
The rebellion was eventually crushed by the intervention of the Western powers and Japan. One day Wang Lung has a strange-looking passenger- is this male or female? She pays him double the fare and rebukes him for running himself to death.
He is amazed at the abundance and variety of food in the markets. The eldest son cunningly suggests that Wang supply his uncle and aunt with opium. Perhaps he can make them harmless, dreaming addicts. He also proposes that Wang leave them in the old farmhouse and move his own family to the Hwang mansion in the town, which is for rent.
The miserly second son is also married. Wang makes this money-minded son the steward of his now considerable estate. In due time Wang has seven grandchildren, with whom he spends his happiest hours. They stay for weeks, wrecking the fine furniture and gardens and menacing the females of the household, who must be kept in seclusion. He is troubled by his youngest son, who has no taste for farming but wants to become a soldier.
When he finds that his father, Wang, wants this girl for himself, the youth storms out of the house. Later Wang learns that this third son has become a highranking officer in the south. When he hears his two sons talking about selling the land, he cries out against such a plan.
This is his story, and it is told largely through his eyes. Some readers feel that he is not just a Chinese peasant but a universal one, an example of people who have tilled the earth throughout the ages. You may not agree with the description of Wang Lung as the universal farmer, if this seems to make him no more than a symbol.
To be sure, people have lived and toiled like Wang in many lands, whether in Asia or Africa, Europe of the Middle Ages or colonial America. Many, in fact, still do. But you can also say that Wang Lung is not just a representative peasant but an individual human being who is warm, believable, and sympathetic. As a human he also has his flaws. Some readers point out that Wang is quick to anger and often acts on impulse. He cares too much about public opinion and what people will think of him, so he often gives in to situations too easily.
Many times his wife O-lan provides him with strength and decisiveness. One example of his softness during a critical situation is his inability to kill the ox that has shared his hours of toil, even though his children are starving.
He can be as tender with people as he is with animals. He cannot bear to sell his daughter during the famine, although Chinese fathers have followed such a custom for centuries. He is reluctant to give the weeping slave girl, Pear Blossom, to his brutal soldier cousin who terrifies her. Wang himself realizes this on occasion, and he is ashamed. Yet Wang has genuine moments of tenderness toward O-lan. When he brings her home for the first time, he takes her heavy box and carries it himself, an unusual act for a Chinese husband.
After their wedding night he is anxious to know whether she is as pleased with him as he is with her. And several times, when she shows herself to be wise as well as strong and capable, he takes pride in her and congratulates himself on having such a woman, although it never occurs to him to tell her so.
In taking O-lan for granted, Wang may exhibit a common human flaw. Her most important function is to bear him sons. The taking of a concubine or second wife for pleasure was an accepted practice. Is he obliged to love O-lan or be loyal to her? One you will find to be significant is the ancient rule of respect for elders and relatives.
Wang has his own strict ideas of right and wrong. When he and his family become refugees in the southern city, he refuses to beg. Instead he pulls a riksha, a two-wheeled cart, even though he takes in less money at this gruelling work than O-lan and the children with their begging. When his second son steals a piece of meat, Wang plucks it out of the stew, throws it on the ground, and later beats the boy in punishment.
But he feels no guilt about this illicit wealth because he uses it to save his land and download more. The land is his anchor, and away from it he loses direction. You may feel there is another inconsistency in the simple farmer- his weakness for female beauty.
Although he knows that bound feet, traditional objects of beauty, would be of no value to a poor farmer, he is disappointed that O-lan has big feet. Women with bound feet- feet kept small and reshaped by binding at a young age- find it very painful to walk long distances or to carry heavy loads. He also notes her plain face with some distaste. This longing for feminine beauty makes Wang a too-willing victim of the practiced wiles of Lotus Flower.
As he grows older, Wang longs for peace in his house. But his sons argue, his daughters-in-law bicker, and he finds peace only on his land. His passion for the land overrides all other emotions. The land is his livelihood, his security, and the source from which he draws spiritual refreshment. In the face of starvation he will not sell a single field.
She reveals very little about herself in words, but you will find out a good deal about her thoughts and feelings from her actions. She was sold by her poor parents to the great Hwang household at the age of ten, during a famine. Too plain to be desirable as a concubine, she was a good worker and so was kept as a kitchen slave.
Note her behavior in her new role as wife. She is quick and thorough in performing her household duties, so that she has time to do more than is expected of her.
She works beside Wang at hoeing and planting, and yet has his meal on the table when he comes in from his work. What does this say about O-lan? Perhaps she is happier now than she has ever been since her childhood.
You might say that she has achieved what she never dared hope for in her years as a kitchen slave. She is mistress of her own household. She has a husband who does not beat her or order her about but is on the whole gentle and considerate in the small, everyday ways that sweeten life.
O-lan does not express her happiness in words. Could you interpret this as evidence that Olan sees herself as sharing in a joint enterprise with her husband, not as a slave wife but as a co-worker? Might this explain why she persists in working in the fields throughout her pregnancy, right up to the onset of her labor pains, and then returns to the fields again with scarcely any rest after giving birth?
Although she is slow in her speech, O-lan is not slow-witted. She recognizes the first signs of decline in the House of Hwang and sets Wang on his land-downloading course. Through the long winter he sits beside her as she waits for death. They are often types that reflect various aspects of Chinese society.
Some of these characters have no names but are identified only by their relationship to Wang Lung. In Chinese families, one is usually identified by a relationship rather than a proper name. He complains when his comfort is not properly attended to, and he scolds Wang Lung for spending money to celebrate his wedding or the birth of a son. At the same time he is proud that his son can make such a fine show before the neighbors. As the story of Wang progresses, you will notice certain traits shared by father and son.
What are they? How do the men differ? The old man has absolute faith that his son and grandsons will take care of him, and he endures the hardships of the famine with good nature.
He has an earthy sense of humor. When he sees Lotus, the concubine, painted and dressed in silks, he refuses to accept her, insisting that one wife was enough for him and for his father before him. He exploits the traditional obligation toward blood relatives to prey upon Wang. During the famine he sells his eldest daughter and his younger children disappear without explanation. He and his wife and son continue to be well-fed and are even suspected of cannibalism.
A gambler at the beginning of the story, he later turns out to have criminal connections. He seems to represent the disintegration of life and family that follows breaking with the land. If you agree that he is the nastiest character in the book, do you think Wang Lung should have dealt with him differently, given Chinese family obligations? She demands delicacies of food and drink, and she does no work in the household.
But neither does she do any real mischief. On the contrary, she is useful to Wang in arranging the download of Lotus. Her gossipy good humor pleases Lotus, but their closeness bothers Wang. He returns when Wang is rich and has moved into the Great House. Although he has become a coarse and brutal ruffian, he has some of the sinister charm of an adventurer. Unlike Wang, the son grows up contemptuous of the land.
He is the one who persuades Wang to move into the mansion in the town, which he furnishes and decorates in aristocratic style. Some readers see in this son a symbol of the old Chinese aristocracy with all its pompousness. In contrast to his elder brother, he loves money not for what it can download but for itself. You might see in this son another facet of traditional Chinese society, the landless merchant class that made its money by squeezing the poor.
The two women bicker constantly, sharpening the underlying feud between their husbands and depriving the household of the peace that Wang Lung longs for. This son, too, demands an education. A silent boy, he keeps his thoughts and wishes to himself. From his cousin and the soldiers quartered in the house, he gains a taste for soldiering, and he runs away to join one of the armies roaming the region.
When last heard of, he has be- come a high-ranking revolutionary officer. Some readers see in this son the new China which has lost all contact with the land and tradition. The deprivations of her first years have left her retarded.
Wang makes her his special care.
She also reflects a good side of Wang. When Wang discovers her weeping over the pain and offers to have her feet unbound, this daughter refuses, saying that then her husband will not love her.
How do you think this would be received by the young married women you know? She is painted, perfumed, dressed in silks and jewels, skilled in pleasing men and exacting expensive gifts from them. Selfish and self-indulgent, Lotus Flower exerts considerable power over Wang until her behavior toward his children offends him, and he frees himself from his emotional dependence on her. Although a slave, as his concubine she has a secure and permanent place in the household, and as Wang grows old she simply grows fatter, lazier, and more self-indulgent.
A shrewd, sharp-tongued woman, she appears cunning and grasping. Might you find a more sympathetic interpretation of her character as a woman who has spent her entire life in slavery and is seeking only security in her later years? When Wang is attracted to her himself, she convinces him that she likes only old men because they are kind.
You might consider whether, unlike the more robust Cuckoo, Pear Blossom has responded to a life in slavery by becoming more sensitive to the unfortunate and rejected. When Wang comes back from the south with his new wealth, Ching is barely alive.
When Ching dies, Wang feels that he has lost his only true friend. But the Hwang fortunes are already fading. The five young lords sons are away in the city, spending their wealth on pleasures. The Old Lord is occupied with his concubines, the Old Mistress with her opium, and nobody cares for the land.
These two characters and the House of Hwang present an object lesson in the rise and fall of families. Once every five years or so it suffers a drought in which no crops grow. The region is bare of forests, so there is no wood for building or for fuel.
With no woodlands to hold back the run-off of rains, there is also flooding. A third hazard is a periodic plague of locusts that devour the crops when they are close to harvest. In The Good Earth, Wang and his neighbors are visited by all three of these disasters in succession.
His house has three tiny rooms, a thatched roof, and walls made of earthen bricks, with small window holes covered over with paper to keep out the winter cold. The cooking fire in the oven consists of a handful of straw and dried grass, and Wang lights it with a spark struck from a flint chip with a scrap of iron.
Later, when the setting changes to the House of Hwang within the town, you see an elegant Chinese mansion, with carved furniture and screens, courtyard after courtyard planted with flowering trees, and a goldfish or lily pool in its center. When Wang takes his starving family south during the famine, the setting shifts to a city, probably Chinkiang, in the coastal province of Kiangsu. Here the climate is mild, and the outlying farms grow a great variety of crops, which are harvested twice a year.
It is a rich city, thriving with trade and tea houses where businessmen gamble and take their pleasures, and the markets are plentiful enough to feed all the starving in Anhwei, could the food be transported. Historically, China had no distribution system that could relieve famine in one region with food from another. Even under the republic founded in , there was no strong central government to carry out such a rescue.
But all along the way- like signposts on a road- you may read messages pointing to the deeper meaning of the story, the lifesustaining bond of human beings with the land. Wang always returns to this. Wang receives his livelihood and spiritual rejuvenation from the land.
He experiences harmony with O-lan working beside him. His sole source of stability is in the land, and this is why he always transforms any material gain into land. You see the decline of the House of Hwang as it becomes separated from the land, and the same seems to hold for Wang when he is apart from his land.
Is it possible that the author means that labor and the good earth are not enough? The casual way in which a fellow refugee talks of strangling a girl child at birth or selling her as a slave is in itself a shock. Wang Lung and Olan deal with both these alternatives. As a peasant wife a woman worked both in the house and in the fields.
She could be a household slave, like Cuckoo. Rich or poor, if she is a wife, her principal function is to bear sons. 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. Those waists, which a man could encircle with his two hands, were achieved only by tight corseting that forced the internal organs out of place and often caused injury.
Tight corseting was not as crippling as foot-binding but it had the same purpose- to please men. Precise rules govern all relationships in the Chinese family. The rules are binding: The dominance of males runs through these rules as well. A wife who has borne sons, like O-lan, is entitled to more respect and consideration from her husband than if she has borne only daughters. You may find this particular obligation unfair, imposing a heavy burden on Wang Lung, especially considering the character of the uncle and his family.
Wang frees himself from their demands only by supplying his uncle and aunt with opium, an addictive and debilitating drug. His trust is well founded. Wang Lung gives him the first share of whatever food there is, even if he must deprive his own children.
Some nomadic societies leave the old people who cannot keep up with the migration to starve and die. Can you make a case for either of these two customs? Are both too extreme? Wang Lung gives his old father not only respect and obedience but also loving care. From his own sons Wang receives only a show of respect. As you read, consider why Wang Lung fails so completely to understand his sons.
Is this simply a case of the generation gap? You may want to remember that Wang grew up as the hard-working son of a poor farmer, while they grew up as sons of a prosperous landowner. Primarily, since he is a farmer, he worships burns incense before two small earth gods in the field to bring good fortune to himself and his family.
But he also appeals to the goddess of mercy to give his daughter-in-law a boy child in return for a new robe. He downloads a paper god of wealth when his fortunes are on the rise and scolds the gods when misfortune occurs. He is superstitious and believes in omens. He tries to fool the evil spirits, as when he hides his own baby boy under his robe and proclaims out loud that it is only a worthless girl child.
Wang Lung also respects the more sophisticated Confucian principles of family deference and is pleased when his son erects an ancestral shrine in the house.
As a matter of convention he gives donations to both the Buddhist and Taoist temples on the birth of his first son.
This mixture of deference to the ancient philosophies and to the spirit world was typical of everyday Chinese religious practice. However, the more established religious institutions seem more the preserve of the educated.
For a simple farmer like Wang, even when he becomes rich, the little earthen idols- gods of the renewal of life- are supremely powerful. But if you believed, as Wang did, that these gods had purposely created your good fortune or your bad times, you might respond in the same way.
How does your religious heritage teach you to deal with adversity? O-lan, too, strikes most readers as a genuinely good woman. But there are certainly grounds to argue the contrary, at least on some issues.
Infanticide, pillaging, slavery, drug selling, and other less severe actions raise questions about what codes of morality do exist in the novel. Western readers have to keep in mind differences between their culture and that of Wang Lung, where custom allows some unfamiliar behavior. You might ask, however, whether custom and morality, a sense of right and wrong, are the same thing.
Or is there a morality so basic to human beings that local customs, though widely accepted, are actually violations of that morality? As Wang and the other Chinese struggle to survive, what role does necessity play? Is there a justification for stealing?
For infanticide? Under what circumstances? Wang fails entirely to understand his sons. All three of them disappoint him by rejecting the land. For a time Wang finds peace in watching his grandchildren at play, but when they are of school age they giggle at his old-fashioned ideas and he stops visiting them.
Only the land has given him the peace he seeks, and so in old age he moves from the mansion in the town back to the old farmhouse, where he can spend his last years in peace, close to his fields. This lack of domestic tranquility is reflected in the wars and civil strife that surround the personal story of Wang Lung.
The turmoil of a society in transition from an imperial autocracy to a modern republic intrudes periodically in the form of soldiers, looters, rioters, and bandits. Another critic describes it as a mixture of the King James Version of the Bible and a traditional Chinese epic. As the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries, Buck was brought up on the Bible. And although she read widely in English literature, she also read Chinese novels. As Buck herself explained, Chinese novels were written for a wide popular audience.
They developed from the tales that professional storytellers once told to a crowd of people sitting on the ground around them, at a time when most Chinese- like most people everywhere- could neither read nor write. Buck translated one of these Chinese novels into English, and she lectured and wrote on the popular art of the Chinese novel.
Buck wrote The Good Earth at great speed, finishing it in three months. It was as though the story and all its characters had been growing in her mind like seeds in the earth, until the right moment came for them to blossom in the pages of her novel. There is nothing forced or difficult about her style. Her sentences and paragraphs flow clearly and easily, without effort.
Because her characters are not given to much talk, she does not use much dialogue. When they do talk, their turns of phrase seem to suggest that they are talking in their native language. Yet every word and every sentence they utter is good, simple English. Try reading aloud some passages of dialogue from the novel.
See if you can tell what makes them sound as though they might be speaking Chinese.
The Good Earth - eBook
Is it perhaps the rhythm, rather than the words? Buck once said that she thought out all her stories in Chinese first, before writing them down in English. Everything that happens is described as he experiences it and as it affects him. You understand them through their words and actions. This is obviously a rather limiting way of telling a story. In using the third-person form the narrator has somewhat more scope.
Yet the scope is quite limited. For example, when O-lan brings a bowl of tea to her husband on the first morning of their marriage, you know that she is afraid of him only because he sees the fear in her expression. Later you see that O-lan comes to trust her husband from the way that she goes about her work, taking her full share of the toil as an equal partner, and also from the way she offers advice to Wang Lung on the rare occasions when a crisis moves her to break her customary silence.
Just as the characters are described only as they affect Wang Lung, every event is told only as it relates to him. Drought, flood, locusts- all are part of the story only as they affect Wang Lung. Wars are fought all over China and robber bands plunder and murder in the villages, but we learn of these dire events only as Wang Lung does. His uncle turns out to be a member of a notorious band of brigands.
He learns that a robber band raided the House of Hwang during the famine. His cousin brings a band of soldiers into his house. The novel pursues an unswerving story line, faithfully following the experience of the central character.
The novel is made up of thirty-four chapters and falls into two main parts. His achievement of modest prosperity is followed by a sudden reversal in the form of poverty and famine which drives him and his family to the city to beg and perform hired labor.
Chapters 11 to 14, which take place in the city, provide a striking contrast to the earlier depiction of country life and its traditional values. The money and jewels they steal enable them to return to the land. His rise in wealth and status is accompanied by his fall from a state of contentment as he alienates himself from the land and his family.
The last five chapters reveal the price Wang pays for his wealth. He is alone; his wife is dead and so is his father. His sons are unsympathetic to traditional ways and to the land, and even his grandchildren laugh at him for his oldfashioned ways.
He moves back to his farmhouse with a young slave girl who acts as a daughter and with his own mentally retarded daughter whom nobody else would care for. He rises at dawn as always to light the fire and heat the water, but today is different.
Instead of merely washing, he fills the wooden tub and bathes. He puts aside his padded winter suit, now torn and soiled, for a clean one of cotton, and over it goes his one cotton coat saved for feast days. He brushes out and rebraids his queue, the traditional long lock of hair growing from the crown of his head, and he weaves a tasseled black silk cord into the braid. His old father complains: Water for a bath, tea leaves in the bowl of hot water Wang brings him: In the town, Wang has the barber shave his head around the queue but balks at cutting off the queue, as is now the fashion: In the market he downloads a little pork, a little beef, and a small fish for his wedding feast.
At the gate of the mansion he stops, faint with nervousness: Back into the town he goes, to gulp tea and noodles in the tea house, dawdling so long that he is asked to pay extra. He jumps up and heads for the great house again.
Here the gateman treats him with scorn, demands a tip, and finally ushers him into the presence of the Old Mistress. The tiny, withered old lady summons O-lan. Wang Lung is a farmer. He is young, shy, practically a stranger in his own village where he rarely goes, having no money to spend. He is intimidated even by the tea house boy, let alone the arrogant gateman, and all but falls on his face before the Old Mistress.
Does this introduction to the central character strike you as having a particular blend of comedy and pathos like that of Charlie Chaplin movies? From here on the mood changes, and comedy gives way to deeper levels of sympathy. O-lan appears. The Old Mistress orders O-lan to obey her husband, bear him sons, and bring the first child for her to see. Then she abruptly dismisses them. This seems to be the entire marriage ceremony for a poor farmer and a slave bride. The first things Wang does for O-lan are to carry her heavy box and download her a few small, green peaches.
To bring good fortune on his marriage and future, he lights two sticks of incense, one for O-lan and one for himself, before the earth god and goddess in the little field shrine.
O-lan puts out her hand and brushes off the ashes so that the incense will burn well. To Wang it seems that O-lan is sharing a significant moment with him. The queue- or pigtail- worn by Chinese men was already being considered old-fashioned when the story of The Good Earth begins around You will see throughout the book that the birth of female children to poor families was considered a disaster.
A slave could become a wife, kitchen maid, or prostitute. In another traditional gesture, Wang burns incense to the little god and goddess of the earth to ask for good fortune. At the farmhouse, O-lan cooks the wedding feast.
The guests, all male, arrive, and O-lan declines to appear before them. But she has cooked a fine feast, and Wang is proud of both her modesty and her skill. Alone with her at last he is shy and nervous but finally exultant at having a sexual partner and a new life with a woman of his own. Some readers have observed that the first chapters of The Good Earth are beautifully written. Consider how skillfully Chapter 1 sets the scene and introduces all the major characters without once breaking the flow of the narrative.
A particularly touching moment occurs when Wang finds O-lan asleep in the straw beside the ox, like the kitchen slave she had been for ten of her twenty years. He must lead her by the hand into the room she will share with him as his wife. CHAPTER 2 Wang Lung wakes to the brand new luxury of lying in bed while his wife lights the fire, heats the water, and brings him and his father steaming bowls of water.
She has pleased him in their first night together, and he would like to know whether he pleases her. O-lan is afraid, for she has done this on her own.
But Wang is pleased- it is a sign that she likes him. In addition, she gathers, without being asked, fuel from the roadside and manure at the crossroads and comes to hoe beside Wang in the field. In due course she becomes pregnant. One of the reasons that having a son was so crucial for a Chinese family was that it promised one would eventually have the service of a daughterin-law.
By following O-lan through her duties you learn what the life of a peasant woman was like in traditional China, and you learn much about O-lan as well. The way she goes about her work and does what needs to be done without being told indicates that she is happy in her new life. She takes pride in her new household and wants it to run smoothly. Wang Lung would like to know more of her past, but, according to Chinese custom, it would not be proper for a man to show much curiosity about his wife.
You see a strong bond growing between Wang Lung and O-lan. The paragraph describing the two of them working in harmony along the furrows of growing wheat is worth reading with care. It suggests the blend of pain and joy in their joint effort to make the earth productive and also the fatalism of their life close to the soil.
Wang is deeply moved- astonishingly, he has helped to create life.
Wang offers to have a woman come to help her from the village or perhaps from the Great House. For the first time O-lan is angry, and words pour from her. She will return to that house only with her son in her arms, the baby in a red coat and flowered trousers and herself in new shoes and a coat of black satin. She has even counted out what money she will need, just three pieces of silver. You may want to consider it a bad omen in light of future events.
O-lan does not want a woman to help her. She works beside Wang in the field until her labor pains begin. He comes in from the field to find that she has put his hot supper on the table, but she endures the birth almost silently behind her closed door. When he hears a baby cry he begs through the door to know if it is a male, and she answers faintly that it is. Only then is he able to sit down and eat his now cold supper.
Tomorrow he will download red sugar to treat her to a celebratory drink.
He will also fashion red-colored eggs to let all the neighbors know that he has a son. Gifts of money are given in red envelopes, red garments are worn, and food or garnishes are red. This is probably the reason we associate the color with the Chinese. Her anger at his mention of someone from the Great House tells you something- she was treated badly there, surely, and she must hate or mistrust the other women slaves.
pearl-s-buck-good-earth - Pearl S Buck's The House of Earth...
You are not told. You may well wonder how O-lan could be so sure that her baby would be a boy, when she dreamed of dressing him up to be presented at the Great House. Another fact of peasant life is revealed in this chapter, and it is a harsh fact indeed. At different times Pearl Buck worked closely with Chinese women. For a time she helped at an institution that took in slave girls who had fled cruel owners. Soon O-lan is working beside Wang again. The harvest is gathered, the threshing must be done, and then the fields need to be plowed and planted again for winter wheat.
The baby sleeps on an old quilt on the ground, and when he wakes O-lan feeds him. Because she has an abundance of milk, the well-fed baby is fat and good-natured. The harvest, too, is plentiful. The little house is crowded with jars of woven reeds brimming with wheat and rice. Wang stores his surplus against winter and high prices. From the rafters hang strings of garlic and onions, and a leg of pork and two chickens that O-lan has salted down for the winter. The winter rains come, and the winter wheat sprouts.
With no farm work to do, the farmers visit one another, drinking tea and gossiping. Wang Lung does little of this, however. Instead, he enjoys quiet hours spent mending farm implements, with O-lan nearby repairing earthen jars and household tools and making clothes and cloth shoes for the family. When Wang Lung sells his produce he has a good handful of silver pieces above what they need. O-lan digs a hole in the earthen wall of their bedroom, Wang thrusts in the silver, and she closes the hole with a clod of earth.
Some disturbing comments are introduced into this scene of prosperity and contentment. They will be envious or ask to borrow. He is also afraid to let his neighbors know that he has silver hidden away. Their house is ramshackle, their children are unruly, and the uncle sells his produce at the peak of harvest and at the lowest price for ready cash.
You can expect to hear more of this shiftless uncle and his family. Remember to think about how silver is used to symbolize wealth apart from the land. He hangs strips of red paper with good luck mottoes on the doors and a paper flower over the doorway.
His old father cuts out new robes of red paper for the little earth gods. Houses are cleaned thoroughly and ritually rid of evil spirits, elaborate foods are prepared, and gifts are given. In addition, there are firecrackers to chase evil spirits and dances, and rice cakes or steamed bread is eaten. On the second day Wang Lung, O-lan, and their baby boy, dressed in the new clothes O-lan has made for them, go to the House of Hwang. This time the gate- man treats Wang with respect and offers him tea while he escorts O-lan and the baby to the Old Mistress.
O-lan returns looking contented. However, she has seen signs that the House of Hwang is in trouble: Meanwhile, his wife finds jewels in a hiding place in another house, hiding them between her breasts. Wang Lung uses this money to bring the family home, download a new ox and farm tools, and hire servants to work the land for him. In time, the youngest children are born, a twin son and daughter. When he discovers the jewels O-Lan looted from the house in the southern city, Wang Lung downloads the House of Hwang's remaining land.
He is eventually able to send his first two sons to school also apprenticing the second one as a merchant and retains the third one on the land. As Wang Lung becomes more prosperous, he downloads a concubine named Lotus.
O-Lan endures the betrayal of her husband when he takes two pearls, the only jewels she had asked to keep for herself, to make them into earrings to present to Lotus. O-Lan's morale suffers and she eventually dies, but not before witnessing her first son's wedding. Wang Lung finally appreciates her place in his life, as he mourns her passing. Lung and his family move into town and rent the old House of Hwang.
Wang Lung, now an old man, wants peace, but there are always disputes, especially between his first and second sons, and particularly their wives. Wang Lung's third son runs away to become a soldier.
At the end of the novel, Wang Lung overhears his sons planning to sell the land and tries to dissuade them. They say that they will do as he wishes, but smile knowingly at each other. Characters Wang Lung — poor, hard-working farmer born and raised in a small village of Anhwei.
He is the protagonist of the story and suffers hardships as he accumulates wealth and the outward signs of success. He has a strong sense of morality and adheres to Chinese traditions such as filial piety and duty to family. He believes that the land is the source of his happiness and wealth. By the end of his life he has become a very successful man and possesses a large plot of land which he downloads from the House of Hwang. As his lifestyle changes he begins to indulge in the pleasures his wealth can download—he downloads a concubine named Lotus.
In Pinyin , Wang's name is written "Wang Long. O-Lan — first wife, formerly a slave in the house of Hwang. A woman of few words, she is uneducated but nonetheless is valuable to Wang Lung for her skills, good sense, and indomitable work ethic. She is considered plain or ugly; her feet are not bound. Wang Lung sometimes mentions her wide lips. Nevertheless, she is hardworking and self-sacrificing.
Towards the end of the book, O-Lan dies due to failing organs. When she lies on her deathbed, Wang Lung pays all of his attention to her and downloads her coffin not long before her death. Wang Lung's father — An old, avaricious senior who seems to only want his tea, food, and grandsons. He desires grandchildren to comfort him in his old age and becomes exceedingly needy and senile as the novel progresses. He has strong and out-dated morals. The Poor Fool — first daughter and third child of O-lan and Wang Lung, whose mental handicap was caused by severe starvation during her infancy.
As the years go by, Wang Lung grows very fond of her. She mostly sits in the sun and twists a piece of cloth. By the time of Wang Lung's death, she was to be cared for by Pear Blossom. Second Baby Girl — Killed immediately after delivery. Third Baby Girl — The twin of the youngest son. She is described as a pretty child with an almond-colored face and thin red lips.
Her feet were bound and she often complained about the pain. She was betrothed to a merchant's son at 13 due to the harassment of Wang Lung's nephew. He grew up as a scholar and went through a rebellious phase before Wang Lung sent him south for three years to complete his education. He grows up to be a large and handsome man, and he marries the daughter of the local grain merchant, Liu. As his father's position continues to rise, Nung En becomes increasingly enamored with wealth and he wants to live a showy and rich life.I rarely own books, preferring to use the library or borrow, so when I do, it means it's exceptional and means something special to me.
Historically, women in such societies hold an inferior position. The deprivations of her first years have left her retarded. She takes pride in her new household and wants it to run smoothly.
For the first time O-lan is angry, and words pour from her. Buck once said that she thought out all her stories in Chinese first, before writing them down in English.
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