The Good Earth

The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck, is a tale of a farmer who rises from a commoner to a wealthy land owner. The setting is pre-Revolutionary China, sometime in the 20th century. The story is one of a farmer who becomes a wealthy man through hard work while facing droughts and floods. He becomes very rich, but forgets his true love, the earth, which got him to where he was. The mood of the story is serious. Droughts and floods affect the outcome of crops, which in turn, affect the people who need them to survive. As the story progresses, the mood changes to become more light hearted and careless. It is typical of today's society of how the main character becomes rich and then forgets what it was like to be on the other side. He spends money carelessly and neglects to remember how his life was just a few months before. The main element of the story is definitely character. We look through the eyes of the main character and see how he, as a person, grows and matures.There are many characters in the story. The first is Wang Lung, a farmer and the main character of the story. The author tells the story through his view of life. We see Wang Lung at the beginning of the story as a young man, full of energy and love for his land. He has been raised on the land he now farms and takes great pride in maintaining it. Later in the story, he becomes a rich man, and forgets his land, "One's flesh and blood." As he finds out that money is not everything and cannot by happiness, he realizes his fault and returns to the earth.

O-lan is Wang Lung's wife in the story. She was a slave girl raised in the great House of Hwang. Wang Lung buys her from the house, but he sees that "there is no beauty of any kind in her face." But Wang Lung cannot afford a beautiful wife, for he is only a farmer. O-lan is a strong, but quite character. She bears hardships as they come and gives Wang Lung four children. Wang Lung seems to care for her, but she in return shows very little emotion. She is a hard character to reach and only before she dies, do we see the real side of O-lan.

The next main character is Lotus, a prostitute living at the tea shop in town. During the story, Wang Lung becomes ashamed of his plain wife. He ventures into the tea shop in town and pays for a prostitute, Lotus. She excites him and "kept him fevered and thirsty, even if she gave him his will of her." Wang Lung falls in love with this woman and buys her to live in his house. She is a woman of delicacy and elegance, the complete opposite of O-lan, who she comes to dislike. The two live in opposite parts of the house, which keeps them happy. Lotus is another character who is blocked out from the reader. We only know that she is a material person, asking for jewels and expensive clothes and food from Wang Lung.

There are many other characters who play fairly large, but not main parts in the story. Wang Lung has four children, three boys and a girl. The two oldest boys become rivals later in the story and offer Wang Lung "no peace" in his old age. The girl, who he affectionately calls "the fool," does not speak, but with her empty smile and sweet gaze fills Wang Lung with intense love and sadness. Wang Lung also lives with his father, who in his old age, sits in the sun most of the day only calling out to be fed.

The story begins on Wang Lung's wedding day. He heads to the House of Hwang where he buys his wife, O-lan, from the Old Mistress there. He finds his wife plain, but a good worker and a strong-willed person. She works beside him on his land, harvesting the grain to sell. It is not long before she bears his first child, a son. But after birth, she returns to the fields to finish with the day's work. This shocked me and gave me an idea of how strong a person she really was.

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