Out of their own earth had his grandfather in his youth fashion- ed also the oven, .. She is a good slave, although somewhat slow and stupid, and had I not was' greatly hampered by his lack of book knowledge and of the knowledge of the. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the William Dean Howells Award, The Good Earth was an Oprah's Book Club choice in A readers' favorite for generations. PEARL BUCK'STHE GOOD EARTH Ruth GoodeSERIES DOWNLOAD PDF. . The book was hailed not only as a great novel but as a triumph of.
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Editorial Reviews. Review. “A comment upon the meaning and tragedy of life as it is lived in Book 1 of 3 in The Good Earth Trilogy (3 Book Series). The Pulitzer Prize–winning classic novel of China, together with its two sequels— by the Nobel Prize winner. The Good Earth is Buck's classic, Pulitzer. The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. About the book. Pulitzer Prize, Wang Lung, rising from humble Chinese farmer to wealthy landowner, gloried in the soil he.
If he had the money he would do it. He took from his girdle a small greasy pouch of grey cloth and counted the money in it. There were six silver dollars and a double handful of copper coins. He had not yet told his father he had asked friends to sup that night. He had asked his male cousin, the young son of his uncle, and his uncle for his father's sake, and three neighboring farmers who lived in the village with him. He had planned to bring back from the town that morning pork, a small pond fish, and a handful of chestnuts.
He might even download a few of the bamboo sprouts from the south and a little beef to stew with the cabbage he had raised in his own garden.
But this only if there were any money left after the bean oil and the soybean sauce had been bought. If he shaved his head he could not, perhaps, download the beef. Well, he would shave his head, he decided suddenly. He left the old man without speech and went out into the early morning. In spite of the dark red dawn the sun was mounting the horizon clouds and sparkled upon the dew on the rising wheat and barley.
The farmer in Wang Lung was diverted for an instant and he stooped to examine the budding heads. They were empty as yet and waiting for the rain. He smelled the air and looked anxiously at the sky. Rain was there, dark in the clouds, heavy upon the wind. He would download a stick of incense and place it in the little temple to the Earth God. On a day like this he would do it. He wound his way in among the fields upon the narrow path.
In the near distance the grey city wall arose. Within that gate in the wall through which he would pass stood the great house where the woman had been a slave girl since her childhood, the House of Hwang. There were those who said, "It is better to live alone than to marry a woman who has been slave in a great house.
Wang Lung had suffered that she must not be pretty. It would be something to have a pretty wife that other men would congratulate him upon having.
His father, seeing his mutinous face, had cried out at him, "And what will we do with a pretty woman? We must have a woman who will tend the house and bear children as she works in the fields, and will a pretty woman do these things?
She will be forever thinking about clothes to go with her face! No, not a pretty woman in our house. We are farmers. Moreover, who has heard of a pretty slave who was virgin in a wealthy house?
All the young lords have had their fill of her. It is better to be first with an ugly woman than the hundredth with a beauty. Do you imagine a pretty woman will think your farmer's hands as pleasing as the soft hands of a rich man's son, and your sunblack face as beautiful as the golden skin of the others who have had her for their pleasure?
Nevertheless, he had to struggle with his flesh before he could answer. And then he said violently, "At least, I will not have a woman who is pock-marked, or who has a split upper lip. Well, the woman was not pock-marked nor had she a split upper lip. This much he knew, but nothing more. He and his father had bought two silver rings, washed with gold, and silver earrings, and these his father had taken to the woman's owner in acknowledgment of betrothal.
Beyond this, he knew nothing of the woman who was to be his, except that on this day he could go and get her. He walked into the cool darkness of the city gate. Water carriers, just outside, their barrows laden with great tubs of water, passed to and fro all day, the water splashing out of the tubs upon the stones. It was always wet and cool in the tunnel of the gate under the thick wall of earth and brick; cool even upon a f0summer's day, so that the melon vendors spread their fruits upon the stones, melons split open to drink in the moist coolness.
There were none yet, for the season was too early, but baskets of small hard green peaches stood along the walls, and the vendor cried out, "The first peaches of spring -- the first peaches! download, eat, purge your bowels of the poisons of winter! He turned to the right within the gate and after a moment was in the Street of Barbers. There were few before him so early, only some farmers who had carried their produce into the town the night before in order that they might sell their vegetables at the dawn markets and return for the day's work in the fields.
They had slept shivering and crouching over their baskets, the baskets now empty at their feet. Wang Lung avoided them lest some recognize him, for he wanted none of their joking on this day. All down the street in a long line the barbers stood behind their small stalls, and Wang Lung went to the furthest one and sat down upon the stool and motioned to the barber who stood chattering to his neighbor. The barber came at once and began quickly to pour hot water, from a kettle on his pot of charcoal, into his brass basin.
Wang Lung perceived that he had fallen into the hands of a joker, and feeling inferior in some unaccountable way, as he always did, to these town dwellers, even though they were only barbers and the lowest of persons, he said quickly, "As you will -- as you will -- " Then he submitted himself to the barber's soaping and rubbing and shaving, and being after all a generous fellow enough, the barber gave him without extra charge a series of skilful poundings upon his shoulders and back to loosen his muscles.
He commented upon Wang Lung as he shaved his upper forehead, "This would not be a bad-looking farmer if he would cut off his hair.
The new fashion is to take off the braid. When it was finished and the money counted into the barber's wrinkled, water-soaked hand, Wang Lung had a moment of horror. So much money! But walking down the street again with the wind fresh upon his shaven skin, he said to himself, "It is only once. When all had been bought, even to fresh squares of beancurd, shivering in a jelly upon its leaf, he went to a candlemaker's shop and there he bought a pair of incense sticks.
Then he turned his steps with great shyness toward the House of Hwang. Once at the gate of the house he was seized with terror. How had he come alone? He should have asked his father -- his uncle -- even his nearest neighbor, Ching -- anyone to come with him. He had never been in a great house before.
How could he go in with his wedding feast on his arm, and say, "I have come for a woman? It was closed fast, two great wooden gates, painted black and bound and studded with iron, closed upon each other. Two lions made of stone stood on guard, one at either side. There was no one else. He turned away. It was impossible. He felt suddenly faint. He would go first and download a little food. He had eaten nothing -- had forgotten food.
He went into a small street restaurant, and putting two pence upon the table, he sat down. A dirty waiting boy with a shiny black apron came near and he called out to him, "Two bowls of noodles!
Wang Lung shook his head. He sat up and looked about. There was no one he knew in the small, dark, crowded room full of tables. Only a few men sat eating or drinking tea. It was a place for poor men, and among them he looked neat and clean and almost well-to-do, so that a beggar, passing, whined at him, "Have a good heart, teacher, and give me a small cash -- I starve!
He was pleased and he threw into the beggar's bowl two small cash, which are one fifth of a penny, and the beggar pulled back with swiftness his black claw of a hand, and grasping the cash, fumbled them within his rags. Wang Lung sat and the sun climbed upwards. The waiting boy lounged about impatiently. Before he could turn it was there and the small boy demanded sharply, And Wang Lung, to his horror, found there was nothing to do but to produce from his girdle yet another penny.
Then he saw entering the shop his neighbor whom he had invited to the feast, and he put the penny hastily upon the table and drank the tea at a gulp and went out quickly by the side door and was once more upon the street. This time, since it was after high noon, the gates were ajar and the keeper of the gate idled upon the threshold, picking his teeth with a bamboo sliver after his meal.
He was a tall fellow with a large mole upon his left cheek, and from the mole hung three long black hairs which had never been cut.
When Wang Lung appeared he shouted roughly, thinking from the basket that he had come to sell something. In the sunshine his face was wet. The gateman gave a great laugh. But I did not recognize you with a basket on your arm. But the gateman did not move. At last Wang Lung said with anxiety, "Shall I go alone? And he grinned when Wang Lung in his simplicity actually put his basket upon the stones and lifting his robe took out the small bag from his girdle and shook into his left hand what money was left after his downloads.
There was one silver piece and fourteen copper pence. Afterwards, although it was the first time he had ever been in a great family's house, he could remember nothing. With his face burning and his head bowed, he walked through court after court, hearing that voice roaring ahead of him, hearing tinkles of laughter on every side. Then suddenly when it seemed to him he had gone through a hundred courts, the gateman fell silent and pushed him into a small waiting room.
There he stood alone while the gateman went into some inner place, returning in a moment to say, "The Old Mistress says you are to appear before her. How will you bow?
But he did not dare to put the basket down because he was afraid something might be stolen from it. It did not occur to him that all the world might not desire such delicacies as two pounds of pork and six ounces of beef and a small pond fish.
The gateman saw his fear and cried out in great contempt, "In a house like this we feed these meats to the dogs! Down a long narrow veranda they went, the roofs supported by delicate carven posts, and into a hall the like of which Wang Lung had never seen. A score of houses such as his whole house could have been put into it and have disappeared, so wide were the spaces, so high the roofs.
Lifting his head in wonder to see the great carven and painted beams above him he stumbled upon the high threshold of the door and would have fallen except that the gateman caught his arm and cried out, "Now will you be so polite as to fall on your face like this before the Old Mistress?
She looked at him out of small, sharp, black eyes, as sunken and sharp as a monkey's eyes in her thin and wrinkled face. The skin of her hand that held the pipe's end was stretched over her little bones as smooth and as yellow as the gilt upon an idol.
Wang Lung fell to his knees and knocked his head on the tiled floor. Has he come for the woman? This roused Wang Lung and he looked with indignation at the gateman. She bent and sucked greedily at the pipe for a moment and the sharpness passed from her eyes and a film of forgetfulness came over them.
Wang Lung remained standing before her until in passing her eyes caught his figure. It was as though she had forgotten everything. The gateman's face was immovable. He said nothing. What woman? I remember we promised her to some farmer in marriage. You are that farmer? It was as though she was suddenly impatient to be done with all this and to be left alone in the stillness of the great room with her opium pipe.
And in an instant the slave appeared leading by the hand a square, rather tall figure, clothed in clean blue cotton coat and trousers. Wang Lung glanced once and then away, his heart beating. This was his woman. The woman answered slowly as an echo, "Ready.
It was a good enough voice, not loud, not soft, plain, and not ill-tempered. The woman's hair was neat and smooth and her coat clean. He saw with an instant's disappointment that her feet were not bound. But this he could not dwell upon, for the old lady was saying to the gateman, "Carry her box out to the gate and let them begone. I bought her in a year of famine when her parents came south because they had nothing to eat. They were from the north in Shantung and there they returned, and I know nothing further of them.
You see she has the strong body and the square cheeks of her kind. She will work well for you in the field and drawing water and all else that you wish. She is not beautiful but that you do not need. Only men of leisure have the need for beautiful women to divert them. Neither is she clever. But she does well what she is told to do and she has a good temper.
So far as I know she is virgin. She has not beauty enough to tempt my sons and grandsons 0even if she had not been in the kitchen. If there has been anything it has been only a serving man. But with the innumerable and pretty slaves running freely about the courts, I doubt if there has been anyone. Take her and use her well. She is a good slave, although somewhat slow and stupid, and had I not wished to acquire merit at the temple for my future existence by bringing more life into the world I should have kept her, for she is good enough for the kitchen.
But I marry my slaves off if any will have them and the lords do not want them. Bring the first child to me to see.
They stood hesitating, and Wang Lung was greatly embarrassed, not knowing whether he should speak or what. This box he dropped down in the room where Wang Lung returned to find his basket and would carry it no further, and indeed he disappeared without another word. Then Wang Lung turned to the woman and looked at her for the first time.
She had a square, honest face, a short, broad nose with large black nostrils, and her mouth was wide as a gash in her face. Her eyes were small and of a dull black in color, and were filled with some sadness that was not clearly expressed. It was a face that seemed habitually silent and unspeaking, as though it could not speak if it would. She bore patiently Wang Lung's look, without embarrassment or response, simply waiting until he had seen her. He saw that it was true there was not beauty of any kind in her face -- a brown, common, patient face.
But there were no pock-marks on her dark skin, nor was her 20lip split. In her ears he saw his rings hanging, the gold-washed rings he had bought, and on her hands were the rings he had given her.
He turned away with secret exultation. Well, he had his woman! Without a word she bent over and picking up one end of the box she placed it upon her shoulder and, staggering under its weight, tried to rise. He watched her at this and suddenly he said, "I will take the box. Here is the basket. He thought of the hundred courts he had come through and of his figure, absurd under its burden. Then she led the way through a small unused court that was grown up with weed, its pool choked, and there under a bent pine tree was an old round gate that she pulled loose from its bar, and they went through and into the street.
Once or twice he looked back at her. She plodded along steadily on her big feet as though she had walked there all her life, her wide face expressionless. In the gate of the wall he stopped uncertainly and fumbled in his girdle with one hand for the pennies he had left, holding the box steady on his shoulder with the other hand.
He took out two pence and with these he bought six small green peaches. She clutched them greedily as a child might and held them in her hand without speech. When next he looked at her as they walked along the margin of the wheat fields she was nibbling one cautiously, but when she saw him looking at her she covered it again with her hand and kept her jaws motionless. And thus they went until they reached the western field where stood the temple to the earth.
This temple was a small structure, not higher in all than a man's shoulder and made of grey bricks and roofed with tile. Wang Lung's grandfather, who had farmed the very fields upon which Wang Lung now spent his life, had built it, hauling the bricks from the town upon his wheelbarrow. The walls were covered with plaster on the outside and a village artist had been hired in a good year once to paint upon the white plaster a scene of hills and bamboo.
But the rain of generations had poured upon this painting until now there was only a faint feathery shadow of bamboos left, and the hills were almost wholly gone. Within the temple snugly under the roof sat two small, solemn figures, earthen, for they were formed from the earth of the fields about the temple.
These were the god himself and his lady. They wore robes of red and gilt paper, and the god had a scant, drooping moustache of real hair. Each year at the New Year Wang Lung's father bought sheets of red paper and carefully cut and pasted new robes for the pair. 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. 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: such wastefulness! In the market he downloads a little pork, a little beef, and a small fish for his wedding feast.
The Good Earth
At the gate of the mansion he stops, faint with nervousness: he forgot to eat this morning. 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.
Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth
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. 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. 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.
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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. Surely no one could starve in this city!
Yet every dawn, he and his family join a long line of people for their penny bowl of thin rice gruel at the public kitchens. Do you think the desperate condition of farmers is different from this? The author also is commenting on the nature of public welfare. Is it suggested that welfare is a permanent condition in cities or only a stopgap in times of crisis? What about the moral tone? Wang is worried that his second son is becoming adept at stealing.
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He tells himself that they must get back to the land. But how? Did Buck sketch herself into this scene, as the film director Alfred Hitchcock always put himself into one of his own scenes? Buck was a tall woman and she may well have worn a long black coat, but she certainly did not speak broken Chinese.
How would you feel, sitting in a carriage pulled by a man so thin he was obviously half-starved? In the slum around their hut, children are born and die with such frequency that even their parents scarcely know how many there have been. O-lan is pregnant again. With spring in the air, Wang longs for the fields which he should be plowing. If they had something to sell, he tells O-lan, they could go home now.
O-lan answers that they have something, their daughter. A neighbor who works all night pulling heavy supply wagons into the city tells them he has sold two daughters and will sell a third if the child his wife is now carrying turns out to be a girl. Others kill their newborn daughters but he sells his. Wang Lung considers selling his small daughter. She would be fed and clothed, and he would be able to take the family back to the land.
This is one of the ways to survive, when the poor are too poor. Wang has almost de- cided to sell his small daughter. But to you this is a promise. After wondering how Wang and his family can ever escape from this situation, you might now expect some dramatic turn in their story.She says this birth will be nothingonly the first is hard.
Soldiers were a terror to the Chinese countryside in the s, the period in which the later part of the novel is set. In this chapter a contrast is again drawn between O-lan and Lotus, this time in terms of what the passing years have done to each.
Does this introduction to the central character strike you as having a particular blend of comedy and pathos like that of Charlie Chaplin movies? 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.
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. History Created July 25, 6 revisions Download catalog record:
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