The Good Earth

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The gateman controls the gate at the House of Hwang. When Wang Lung first visits the house to fetch O-lan for their marriage, the gateman intimidates him and laughs at him for his farmer’s ignorance. When Wang Lung returns with O-lan so that she can show their baby to the Old Mistress, their clothes make the gateman show Wang Lung more respect. The gateman’s reactions to Wang Lung show how the general public regards him as his wealth and social status grows.

The gateman Quotes in The Good Earth

The The Good Earth quotes below are all either spoken by The gateman or refer to The gateman. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Rich vs. Poor Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Washington Square Press edition of The Good Earth published in 2004.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“Raise him,” said the old lady gravely to the gateman, “these obeisances are not necessary. Has he come for the woman?”

“Yes, Ancient One,” replied the gateman.

“Why does he not speak for himself?” asked the old lady.

“Because he is a fool, Ancient One,” said the gateman...

This roused Wang Lung and he looked with indignation at the gateman.

“I am only a coarse person, Great and Ancient Lady,” he said. “I do not know what words to use in such a presence.”

Related Characters: Wang Lung (speaker), The Old Mistress (speaker), The gateman (speaker), O-lan
Related Symbols: The House of Hwang
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

Wang Lung goes to the House of Hwang to fetch his new wife, O-lan, who works as a slave there. The gateman shows him into a great hall, where the Old Mistress is to present Wang Lung with O-lan, and Wang Lung falls onto his knees before her to show his respect.

This is Wang Lung’s first of many visits to the House of Hwang, and this first visit leaves a great impression on him, effectively setting the standard against which he will measure all future visits as he rises in status and receives greater respect in the house. On this visit, even the gateman, a servant himself, feels that Wang Lung is so far beneath him that he can insult Wang Lung even in front of the Old Mistress. Wang Lung himself admits that he’s completely in awe of the great house and its mistress, and that his much lower social status means he doesn’t know how to act here. This scene makes it clear that social status doesn’t depend only on wealth, but also on one’s way of bearing oneself. Wang Lung is not insulted directly for his poverty, but instead for the social acts that mark him out as ignorant.

Much later, Wang Lung will buy the house and sit where the old lady sits, quite aware of the symbolism in the act that shows how his fortunes have risen.


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The gateman Character Timeline in The Good Earth

The timeline below shows where the character The gateman appears in The Good Earth. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Rich vs. Poor Theme Icon
Social Status Theme Icon
...also dress well. They go to the House of Hwang. Wang Lung is gratified by the gateman ’s amazement at the sight of his family. The gateman can tell that Wang Lung... (full context)
Rich vs. Poor Theme Icon
When the gateman brings O-lan back, Wang Lung examines her face and can tell that all has gone... (full context)
Chapter 6
Rich vs. Poor Theme Icon
Social Status Theme Icon
...imagined. When he got to the great house, the Old Lord was still asleep, and the gateman refused to wake him, because he was with a new concubine. Wang Lung had to... (full context)
Chapter 16
Rich vs. Poor Theme Icon
The Oppression of Women Theme Icon
Connection to the Earth Theme Icon
Social Status Theme Icon
...left even before this, when the food and money ran out. Some of them, including the gateman , were among the robbers. She admits that the wealth has been poorly managed for... (full context)