The Good Earth

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Wang Lung Character Analysis

Wang Lung is the main character of The Good Earth. He’s a hardworking, honest man who hates conflict and aspires to better himself and his family. He starts out as a simple farmer, but through wise management of his land and a refusal to ever give up, he manages over the course of the novel to become quite wealthy and move into the great House of Hwang. Though he’s virtuous, he also has his faults—he angers easily and hurts his wife, O-lan, by ignoring her for his concubine Lotus once he becomes wealthy. While Wang Lung does in some ways fall prey to the degeneration that wealth causes, his dedication to his land prevents him from ever becoming as dissipated as the Old Lord. Wang Lung believes that his land is his most important possession and the foundation of his family, and he does all he can to protect it. Additionally, he cares deeply about what other people think of him, and he strives to act in whatever way is most fitting to his station.

Wang Lung Quotes in The Good Earth

The The Good Earth quotes below are all either spoken by Wang Lung or refer to Wang Lung. 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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Chapter 2 Quotes

Moving together in a perfect rhythm, without a word, hour after hour, he fell into a union with her which took the pain from his labor. He had no articulate thought of anything; there was only this perfect sympathy of movement, of turning this earth of theirs over and over to the sun, this earth which formed their home and fed their bodies and made their gods. The earth lay rich and dark, and fell apart lightly under the points of their hoes.... Some time, in some age, bodies of men and women had been buried there, houses had stood there, had fallen, and gone back into the earth. So would also their house, some time, return into the earth, their bodies also. Each had his turn at this earth. They worked on, moving together—together—producing the fruit of this earth—speechless in their movement together.

Related Characters: Wang Lung, O-lan
Related Symbols: The Land
Page Number: 29-30
Explanation and Analysis:

After Wang Lung and O-lan have been married for a few months, O-lan runs out of tasks to do in the house and comes to help Wang Lung in the fields. Though marriage in this culture is a distinctly unequal institution, in that men have almost complete power over their wives, this scene is one of equal partnership. Wang Lung and O-lan rarely talk to each other, and they don’t talk in this scene, either, but their work shows a unity of mind and purpose that results from a natural affinity for each other rather than from long discussion and forced intimacy.

Significantly, this almost spiritual union between husband and wife comes from their work on the land. O-lan is really the only character who values the land as deeply as Wang Lung does, and in this scene they are joined by their care for the earth that gives them life. Buck emphasizes the cycle of life and death, writing of the generations of farmers that have come before this one, all of them dependent on the earth for life and eventually returning to it in death. Wang Lung and O-lan are part of this cycle, and they, too, will die one day; but their labor is given an elegant significance by the fact that they’re part of this traditional partnership with the earth. Furthermore, the earth deserves respect because of its constancy—no matter how the human world has changed or will change around it, the land remains more or less as it is, providing life for those who tend to it.

Chapter 3 Quotes

Wang Lung sat smoking, thinking of the silver as it had lain upon the table. It had come out of the earth, this silver, out of his earth that he ploughed and turned and spent himself upon. He took his life from this earth; drop by drop by his sweat he wrung food from it and from the food, silver. Each time before this that he had taken the silver out to give to anyone, it had been like taking a piece of his life and giving it to someone carelessly. But now... he saw the silver transmuted into something worth even more than itself—clothes upon the body of his son. And this strange woman of his, who worked about, saying nothing, seeming to see nothing, she had first seen the child thus clothed!

Related Characters: Wang Lung, O-lan, The Old Mistress
Related Symbols: The Land
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

Before O-lan gives birth to her first child, she tells Wang Lung that she plans to take the child (whom she assumes will be a son) to the House of Hwang to show him to the Old Mistress. She wants to clothe him well and present him triumphantly as a sign of her social ascendancy, as she used to be a slave in the house. Wang Lung thinks this is a wonderful idea, and he gives her the money for the clothes.

This passage essentially acts as Wang Lung’s meditation upon the land, money, family, and social status. He recognizes the life-giving quality of the earth, but he also sees how the earth produces money, and money produces objects that can both take care of his family and increase his importance in the eyes of others. Now that he has a family of his own, he feels that his work produces rewards that it never did before because he can see his family prosper directly because of his work. However, the fact that this passage comes directly after O-lan’s plan to impress the Old Mistress implies that Wang Lung also sees his son’s clothes as a mark of his status, which increases along with his wealth. He, too, was humiliated in front of the Old Mistress (though certainly to a lesser degree), and he would like to see his money go to salve that humiliation.

Finally, Wang Lung expresses amazement at O-lan’s inner life. O-lan is consistently a more complicated character than Wang Lung understands. It seems that because she’s a nearly silent woman, he thinks there’s nothing more to her than what he sees. However, he here realizes that she has dreams just like he does, even if she doesn’t always tell him about them.

Chapter 5 Quotes

I had but a moment for private talk with the cook under whom I worked before... but she said, ‘This house cannot stand forever with all the young lords, five of them, spending money like waste water in foreign parts and sending home woman after woman as they weary of them, and the Old Lord living at home adding a concubine or two each year, and the Old Mistress eating enough opium every day to fill two shoes with gold.’

Related Characters: O-lan (speaker), Wang Lung, The Old Mistress, The Old Lord
Related Symbols: The House of Hwang, Opium
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

After O-lan visits the House of Hwang with her son, she tells Wang Lung as they walk home that the family is experiencing financial difficulties. The Hwangs are so used to having endless amounts of money at their disposal that they have neither the ability nor the desire to limit their pleasures. The description of the Hwang family in this passage shows that wealth has led them into constant decadent indulgence, and throughout the book, wealth will be associated with this same sense of excess.

Furthermore, as Wang Lung later begins to grow prosperous, he will imitate the Hwang family in many aspects of his life, as he continues to admire their wealth and superiority in the town. However, he will fail to fully consider the mistakes they made in order to avoid making them himself. O-lan’s account of the Hwangs’ mistakes in this passage actually foreshadows the later progression of Wang Lung’s family. His eldest son will pursue women he shouldn’t and spend excessive amounts of money; Wang Lung himself will buy concubines; and he will have to constantly supply his uncle and his wife with opium. O-lan is the only one who never gives in to the temptation of debauchery, perhaps because she sees clearly the fall of the Hwangs as she relates it in this passage.

Chapter 7 Quotes

The voice of his wife answered from the bed more feebly than he had ever heard her speak,

“It is over once more. It is only a slave this time—not worth mentioning.”

Wang Lung stood still. A sense of evil struck him. A girl! A girl was causing all this trouble in his uncle’s house. Now a girl had been born into his house as well.

Related Characters: O-lan (speaker), Wang Lung, The daughter / the eldest daughter (the poor fool), Wang Lung’s uncle
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

Wang Lung’s uncle comes to him to ask for money so that he can marry off his daughter, who’s been associating with men in a way that’s deemed inappropriate. Wang Lung doesn’t want to give him the money because he knows his uncle will waste it, but when he’s forced into it, he goes to fetch the money and finds that O-lan has just given birth.

The fact that the characters call girls “slaves” from the very moment of their births shows, perhaps more than anything else, the misogyny of this society. Even if they’re not literally sold into slavery, girls are destined to work their whole lives for their husbands. Furthermore, O-lan seems to despise herself for giving birth to a girl, and to despise the baby for being a girl. She hardly thinks Wang Lung even needs to know about the child. Her attitude shows that misogyny is so deep-seated in her culture that women often participate in their own oppression just as much as men oppress them.

Wang Lung, for his part, literally sees the girl as a sign of evil, though she’s only just been born and is hardly even aware of the world around her. This is quite a lot of baggage for a baby to carry from the moment of birth, simply because of her gender. Buck also fails to push back against this interpretation of the baby as a sign of evil, since the famine begins just after her birth, seeming to confirm Wang Lung’s prediction.

Chapter 8 Quotes

They cannot take the land from me. The labor of my body and the fruit of the fields I have put into that which cannot be taken away. If I had the silver, they would have taken it. If I had bought with the silver to store it, they would have taken it all. I have the land still, and it is mine.

Related Characters: Wang Lung (speaker), Wang Lung’s uncle
Related Symbols: The Land
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

During the famine, the villagers believe, at the uncle’s urging, that Wang Lung has excess food that he’s storing for his family. They come and ransack his house to find it, but in fact there’s very little food. They leave Wang Lung feeling terribly distressed at the possibility of his family’s starvation, but he takes comfort in the fact that no one can steal his land.

This passage explains one of the reasons that Wang Lung always feels so intimately connected to his land: it’s more fully his than anything else, because he owns the land without question and it’s seemingly impossible for anyone to force it out of his possession. Thus, the land will always be there for him and will always provide the possibility of food and money.

After his last harvest, Wang Lung bought more land from the House of Hwang, which seemed potentially foolish since food was already scarce. However, he now feels confident that he made the right decision, even though his family is starving. The villagers could have stolen his money or food, but the land endures as his no matter what humans do. This lesson also shows why land is so important to wealth, and why the Hwangs begin to decline in earnest once they begin getting rid of their land.

Chapter 12 Quotes

...[O]nce when Wang Lung heard a young man... [say] that China must have a revolution and must rise against the hated foreigners, Wang Lung was alarmed and slunk away, feeling that he was the foreigner against whom the young man spoke with such passion. And when on another day he heard another young man speaking... and he said... that the people of China must unite and must educate themselves in these times, it did not occur to Wang Lung that anyone was speaking to him.

Related Characters: Wang Lung
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

When the family flees to the city to escape the famine, Wang Lung feels very different from the city people because he’s a country farmer and doesn’t know all the social rules of the city. He comes into contact with some of the political movements of the time, though he’s not educated or aware enough to understand them as such.

In this passage, Wang Lung encounters men speaking about one of the most important Chinese political debates of the nineteenth and early twentieth century: to what extent Europeans should be allowed influence in the country. However, his isolation in the countryside means that he doesn’t understand what the men are really talking about.

Wang Lung’s sense that he himself is a foreigner, rather than realizing the men are speaking against Europeans, gestures to a weakness within the Chinese nationalist political movement. How is China to unite as a culturally independent country against Western influence if rural peasants such as Wang Lung hardly even recognize themselves as Chinese? In other words, the cultural and economic divides within China work against the unification of its people against an outside threat.

Chapter 13 Quotes

Day by day beneath the opulence of this city Wang Lung lived in the foundations of poverty upon which it was laid. With the food spilling out of the markets, with the streets of the silk shops flying brilliant banners of black and red and orange silk to announce their wares, with rich men clothed in satin and in velvet, soft-fleshed rich men with their skin covered with garments of silk and their hands like flowers for softness and perfume and the beauty of idleness, with all of these for the regal beauty of the city, in that part where Wang Lung lived there was not food enough to feed savage hunger and not clothes enough to cover bones.

Related Characters: Wang Lung
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

As Wang Lung’s family and other families like theirs struggle for basic survival, begging or working physically exhausting jobs for barely any money, the city is filled with rich people enjoying all the luxuries it has to offer. This passage displays the yawning chasm between rich and poor, with few people in between and no way for the poor to work their way up in the world.

At Wang Lung’s home in the countryside, the poor farmers come into contact less often with the sort of wealth that Wang Lung sees every day in the streets of the city. In fact, in the countryside this kind of wealth seems to exist almost exclusively within the bounds of the House of Hwang. Thus, the farmers are less inclined to feel the unfairness of their poverty in comparison to others’ wealth, since almost everyone around them lives similarly to themselves.

In the city, on the other hand, the poor are faced every day with rich men enjoying themselves at the cost of the poor. Thus, it makes sense that movements such as Marxism, which encourages poor laborers to rise against the rich, are active in the city but not in the country. Buck’s description of social inequality in this passage seems to support such movements to redistribute wealth.

Chapter 14 Quotes

“The dead man is yourselves,” proclaimed the young teacher, “and the murderous one who stabs you when you are dead and do not know it are the rich and the capitalists, who would stab you even after you are dead. You are poor and downtrodden and it is because the rich seize everything.”

...[Wang Lung] listened in interest to hear further what the rich men had to do with this thing, that heaven would not rain in its season. And at last... Wang Lung grew bold and asked,

“Sir, is there any way whereby the rich who oppress us can make it rain so that I can work on the land?”

Related Characters: Wang Lung (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Land
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:

In the city, men on the streets sometimes give Wang Lung pamphlets and speak to crowds about various issues. One day, a man gives him a paper with a picture of a fat man stabbing a poor man. The speaker seems to be a Marxist, as he’s essentially discussing the oppression of the poor by the rich. Calling the rich “capitalists” also indicates that he’s suggesting an alternative to capitalism, which Marxism does.

Wang Lung has rarely thought of the rich as his enemy, instead living in awe of them and desiring to be more like them. Furthermore, he can’t understand the man’s speech the way the city laborers around him can, because he sees land as the way to acquire money. Marxism focuses on the proletariat, meaning people who work for a wage, rather than on farmers, whose prosperity depends greatly on the whims of nature. Buck thus seems to criticize Marxism here for ignoring a large portion of the population, or for rejecting those with the more “wholesome” lifestyle of depending on nature.

When the people finally do rise against the rich, they are probably inspired in part by men such as this one, who help root the idea in their minds. Wang Lung, however, can’t relate to the way he describes the world, so he’ll only get dragged along in the revolt rather than fully participating in it.

Chapter 16 Quotes

“If I could have two,” she went on humbly, “only two small ones—two small white pearls even...”

“Pearls!” he repeated, agape... Then Wang Lung... looked for an instant into the heart of this dull and faithful creature, who had labored all her life at some task at which she won no reward and who in the great house had seen others wearing jewels which she never even felt in her hand once.

Related Characters: Wang Lung (speaker), O-lan (speaker)
Related Symbols: The House of Hwang, The Pearls
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

Once the family returns to their land, Wang Lung discovers that O-lan has been hiding a packet of jewels that she stole from the great house in the city when the mob broke in. Wang Lung insists they must sell the jewels, but O-lan asks if she might keep two pearls.

This passage shows how rarely Wang Lung truly sees O-lan as a person, simply because she’s a woman, and a silent, uncomplaining one at that. O-lan has had very little happiness in her life, having been sold as a slave at an early age, treated badly in the House of Hwang, and then living as Wang Lung’s servant as much as his wife. However, this doesn’t mean that she doesn’t appreciate beauty just as much as anyone else, or have her own inner mysteries and desires. This moment makes Wang Lung see that O-lan is more complicated than he thought, and when he allows her to keep the pearls (that really belong to her anyway, since she obtained them) it bonds them together in their quest for a better life.

But all this was not a sudden thing. All during the lifetime of the Old Lord and of his father the fall of this house has been coming. In the last generation the lords ceased to see the land and took the moneys the agents gave them and spent it carelessly as water. And in these generations the strength of the land has gone from them and bit by bit the land has begun to go also.

Related Characters: Cuckoo (speaker), Wang Lung, The Old Lord
Related Symbols: The House of Hwang, The Land
Page Number: 151-52
Explanation and Analysis:

When Wang Lung brings the jewels to the House of Hwang to buy land, he finds that only the Old Lord and the servant Cuckoo remain. The Old Mistress is dead, the house is falling to pieces, and the rest of the family has scattered. Cuckoo explains that mismanagement of the family’s wealth allowed this ultimate destruction.

Cuckoo’s interpretation of the family’s loss of wealth both supports Wang Lung’s ideas about the land and acts as a warning to Wang Lung as his family grows in prosperity and begins to follow in the footsteps of the Hwang family. Cuckoo points out that as the Hwangs lost their connection with the land and let other people manage it for them, they lost all appreciation for the value of money and the work that it took to earn it.

Furthermore, Cuckoo seems to associate their distance from the land with a weakening of body and character. If the land—and working on it—gives life, then ignoring the land makes life drain from the family. Finally, the Hwangs began to sell their land, meaning they got rid of the very source of their wealth. This is the fate that the end of the book will imply for Wang Lung’s own family.

Chapter 18 Quotes

...[N]ow, instead of [his money] passing from him like life blood draining from a wound, it lay in his girdle burning his fingers when he felt of it, and eager to be spent on this or that, and he began to be careless of it and to think what he could do to enjoy the days of his manhood.

Everything seemed not so good to him as it was before. The tea shop which he used to enter timidly, feeling himself but a common country fellow, now seemed dingy and mean to him.

Related Characters: Wang Lung
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:

After many prosperous years, Wang Lung’s land floods and he finds himself with excess time on his hands. He becomes unhappy with O-lan and decides that he deserves to have a good time now that he’s made his fortune.

In this passage, the reader sees Wang Lung struggling with how to change his life to fit with his wealth. Until now, he’s always been constantly working to tend the land and make money. But now that he’s more or less achieved his goal, he feels lost. The idea of wealth is wonderful, but now that he has it he doesn’t know what to do with it.

Wang Lung’s sense of loss proves that wealth doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness. When he was poor, he was thrilled with simple pleasures like O-lan’s cakes or a set of new clothes. Now, he’s dissatisfied with everything around him, expecting greater things from his wealth, and his search for satisfaction will only lead him into decadence and familial discord.

Chapter 19 Quotes

His good brown body that he washed but rarely, deeming the clean sweat of his labor washing enough for ordinary times, his body he now began to examine as if it were another man’s, and he washed himself every day...

He bought sweet-smelling soap in the shop, a piece of red scented stuff from foreign parts, and he rubbed it on his flesh, and not for any price would he have eaten a stalk of garlic, although it was a thing he had loved before, lest he stink before [Lotus].

Related Characters: Wang Lung, Lotus
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:

As Wang Lung labors under his great passion for Lotus, he becomes a changed man, to the point that his family doesn’t understand what’s happened to him. The actions detailed in this passage indicate that Wang Lung is trying to become someone different than who he has been, someone who he thinks will satisfy Lotus, and in the process he must deny the person he has been his entire life.

In washing every day, Wang Lung seems to be trying to wash away his former self. His farming life, as represented by his sweat, is no longer satisfactory to him, because he doesn’t think it’s satisfactory to Lotus. Similarly, though he’s hardly even acknowledged the existence of the world outside of where he himself lives, he suddenly buys soap from somewhere far away, which seems like a symbolic severing of his formerly deep-rooted connection with his home. Finally, he stops eating garlic. Garlic is a traditional food of the farming class, so in denying himself garlic, he attempts to act as someone of higher social status, rather than as who he really is.

Wang Lung makes all of these changes to himself in an attempt to seem more refined and act in a way that he thinks denotes a superior social standing, hoping to impress Lotus and make her desire him. In fact, this essentially marks the beginning of his dissatisfaction with the simple fact of his wealth, and his enduring need to act in a way fitting to someone wealthy. However, denying his roots only ever causes problems for Wang Lung, and the wealthy don’t necessarily act in beneficial ways.

Chapter 20 Quotes

And Wang Lung... felt his mouth suddenly dry and parched and his voice came from him in a whisper,

“Silver, then! Silver and gold! Anything to the very price of my land!”

Related Characters: Wang Lung (speaker), Wang Lung’s uncle, Lotus, Cuckoo
Related Symbols: The Land
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:

When his uncle forces his family on Wang Lung, he overhears his uncle’s wife telling O-lan that Wang Lung is going to buy another woman. Wang Lung hadn’t actually thought of this before, but now he’s set on buying Lotus. The uncle’s wife says that Cuckoo will certainly sell Lotus if he offers enough money.

This passage shows how desperate Wang Lung’s lust for Lotus has made him, and how different he’s become from the man he was before he fell in love. He used to be somewhat thrifty with his money, since he worked so hard to earn it, and he certainly never considered letting his land go. Even when his family was on the brink of death from starvation, Wang Lung refused to sell his land to buy them food.

Now, Wang Lung seems earnestly ready to sell his land in order to buy Lotus. This change signifies a greater change that wealth brings upon him—a surrender to his desire for luxury and satisfaction in all aspects of life, and a drawing away from the land that he used to treasure above all else. This moment is only one extreme of a broader severing of his ties to the land as he becomes wealthy enough to hire others to work it for him.

Chapter 22 Quotes

As he had been healed of his sickness of heart when he came from the southern city and comforted by the bitterness he had endured there, so now again Wang Lung was healed of his sickness of love by the good dark earth of his fields and he felt the moist soil on his feet and he smelled the earthy fragrance rising up out of the furrows he turned for the wheat.

Related Characters: Wang Lung, Lotus
Related Symbols: The Land
Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:

After Wang Lung sees Lotus lash out at his children, his passion for her finally cools. When the floods recede from his land, goes out to the fields and begins to work as he hasn’t in a long time.

As always, the land heals Wang Lung of whatever trouble he’s having. In this case, his corrupting love for Lotus has gotten in the way of his loyalty to the land and caused him to stray from the principles that he was raised with as a farmer, instead leading him into the unhealthy excesses of the wealthy.

The land acts as an antidote to the sins that money invites, as it’s a life-giving force that continues to exist no matter what, for all people. Thus, it’s always there for Wang Lung to return to once he comes to his senses, and now he returns to it with his whole body, seeing its color, feeling it on his bare feet, and smelling its healthy scent. As he helps the earth create life in his crops, the earth gives him life in turn.

Chapter 24 Quotes

But [O-lan] rose at dawn and she did her work and Wang Lung saw her only as he saw the table or his chair or a tree in the court, never even so keenly as he might see one of the oxen drooping its head or a pig that would not eat.... And she said nothing but she worked at her cooking and at the washing at the pool even in the winter when the water was stiff with ice to be broken. But Wang Lung never thought to say,

“Well, and why do you not with the silver I have to spare, hire a servant or buy a slave?”

Related Characters: Wang Lung, O-lan
Page Number: 239
Explanation and Analysis:

Wang Lung deals with problems within his family and in his fields, and through it all O-lan remains constant, performing the work that Wang Lung expects of her. However, she’s also become ill without Wang Lung realizing it. In fact, this passage shows that Wang Lung hardly notices her at all.

Wang Lung’s society expects women to perform their duties quietly and without complaint, and it also expects wives to do whatever is needed to keep their household running smoothly. Yet O-lan receives no praise or reward when she conforms to these expectations as perfectly as she does. Instead, her silence makes her fade into the background. Of course, this is mostly Wang Lung’s fault, as he’s abandoned her for Lotus and dismissed her value entirely when he began to see her as ugly. He fails to appreciate her and won’t realize how essential her work is until she grows ill in earnest and can no longer do it.

Furthermore, this passage demonstrates that the practice of calling all girls “slaves” from the moment of birth is really an accurate custom. Even though O-lan is no longer technically a slave, she still must work as though she is, receiving no compensation or even appreciation. Wang Lung never thinks to use his wealth to ease her burden because he essentially thinks of her as a slave, part of the landscape that he doesn’t need to think about rather than as a member of his family. Essentially, this passage is emblematic of the broader treatment of women throughout the book.

Chapter 25 Quotes

...[M]y mother said I was not to weep aloud because you are too kind and weak for pain and you might say to leave me as I am, and then my husband would not love me even as you do not love her.

Related Characters: The second daughter (speaker), Wang Lung, O-lan
Page Number: 249
Explanation and Analysis:

Wang Lung visits Liu and engages his second daughter to Liu’s son. When he returns home, he notices that his daughter has been crying, and she tells him that it’s because her bound feet hurt.

Foot binding was practiced in parts of China for centuries. Because small, dainty feet were considered beautiful, girls’ feet would be broken and bound tightly with cloth so that they could never grow large. O-lan’s feet were not bound, and when Wang Lung grows wealthy and thus picky, he criticizes her feet in particular. O-lan then binds her daughter’s feet in hopes that her daughter’s husband will love her more than she thinks Wang Lung loves her.

In this scene, his daughter’s uncomprehending honesty makes Wang Lung finally begin to realize the betrayal that he has practiced on O-lan. He has rejected her for her appearance rather than valuing her for her wisdom and faithfulness, and she’s so obedient that she doesn’t even try to make him see his wrongdoing. Instead, she puts her daughter through physical pain in the hopes that she can avoid the emotional pain that O-lan herself experiences.

Even as O-lan acts in reaction to Wang Lung’s cruelty, she still sees him as “kind and weak,” expecting him to stop the foot binding if he realizes how painful it is. Thus, she seems to blame herself for her ugliness, rather than blaming Wang Lung for his superficial judgment of her. O-lan experiences her society’s misogyny in all the worst ways, and yet she never seems to fight the wrongs done to her.

Chapter 28 Quotes

Then Wang Lung’s uncle took it greedily, for it was sweet to smell and a thing that only rich men used, and he took it and bought a pipe and he smoked the opium, lying all day upon his bed to do it. Then Wang Lung saw to it that there were pipes bought and left here and there... and the silver for this Wang Lung did not begrudge because it bought him peace.

Related Characters: Wang Lung, Wang Lung’s uncle
Related Symbols: Opium
Page Number: 281-82
Explanation and Analysis:

Wang Lung’s uncle’s family becomes so troublesome, with the uncle threatening to set his robber band on the house and the uncle’s son molesting Wang Lung’s daughter, that Wang Lung decides his only choice is to get the uncle’s family addicted to opium. Opium acts as a narcotic, subduing the user’s energy and causing strange dreams.

However, opium is also regarded as a luxury. The uncle is eager to accept the opium partly for this reason, since he sees it as a toy of the wealthy and he wants to live in the comfort of the wealthy. Though it’s very expensive, Wang Lung would rather spend the money on keeping his uncle’s family quiet than spend it on giving them everything they ask for.

Additionally, opium is associated with the House of Hwang, as the Old Mistress smoked copious amounts of it. In fact, her constant desire for opium contributed to the family’s loss of their fortune. Thus, Wang Lung should perhaps be more cautious about bringing opium into his household, since it adds to the ways in which his family imitates the Hwangs, who ended in ruin.

Now Wang Lung in the old days when the great family were there would have felt himself one of these common people and against the great and half hating, half fearful of them. But now that he had land and that he had silver and gold hidden safely away, he despised these people who swarmed everywhere, and he said to himself that they were filthy and he picked his way among them with his nose up and breathing lightly because of the stink they made. And he despised them and was against them as though he himself belonged to the great house.

Related Characters: Wang Lung
Related Symbols: The House of Hwang
Page Number: 291-92
Explanation and Analysis:

Wang Lung’s eldest son wants his father to rent the House of Hwang so the family can move there. Wang Lung goes to inspect the house and has to walk through the commoners living in the outer courts to reach the inner courts, where he could live.

Wang Lung’s response to the commoners shows that he has to some extent forgotten his roots and become just as proud and arrogant as the Old Mistress and the gateman were on his first visit to the House of Hwang. The passage suggests that there’s no fundamental difference between Wang Lung and the commoners whom he disdains. In fact, they’re just the same, since he used to be one of them. Only his money makes him think that he’s better than they are.

Wang Lung’s whole life story serves to show that the rich aren’t divinely chosen; the rich are normal people who in some cases are particularly hard workers, but in general just get lucky.

There before him was the great carven dais where the old lady had sat, her fragile, tended body wrapped in silvery satin.

And moved by some strange impulse he went forward and he sat down where she had sat and he put his hand on the table and from the eminence it gave him he looked down on the bleary face of the old hag who blinked at him... Then some satisfaction he had longed for all his days without knowing it swelled up in his heart and he smote the table with his hand and he said suddenly,

“This house I will have!”

Related Characters: Wang Lung (speaker), The Old Mistress, The gateman’s wife
Related Symbols: The House of Hwang
Page Number: 293
Explanation and Analysis:

Wang Lung has been considering renting the House of Hwang, and he comes upon the gateman’s wife, who shows him into the inner courts and the great hall where Wang Lung met the Old Mistress the first time he came to the house. On Wang Lung’s first visit here, he was humiliated by his poverty and his ignorance of how to act around such social superiors. Even the gateman, a servant himself, acted as though he were far better than Wang Lung.

This experience has stuck with Wang Lung his entire life, and now he’s finally able to retrospectively take control of the situation. As he sits in the Old Mistress’s chair, he symbolically becomes the social equal to the Old Mistress. Furthermore, he’s clearly a social superior to the gateman’s wife. Though this may seem like a very small triumph, the fact that the gateman so humiliated Wang Lung on his first visit gives it significance as well.

Although Wang Lung hasn’t quite realized it, it seems that he’s been working his entire life towards this moment, towards being able to take this seat that he’s always thought of as the ultimate place of power. As it represents the pinnacle of his achievement and occurs before his family begins to more earnestly follow the Hwangs’ path to self-destruction, this moment can be seen as the climax of the novel. However, in the fact that Wang Lung symbolically becomes the Old Mistress just before her family’s decline, this passage also marks the moment that his family slips into her family’s dangerously luxurious shoes.

Chapter 30 Quotes

...[T]hese common people found that the rent for the rooms and the courts where they lived had been greatly raised... and they had to move away. Then they knew it was Wang Lung’s eldest son who had done this...

The common people had to move, then, and they moved complaining and cursing because a rich man could do as he would and they... went away swelling with anger and muttering that one day they would come back even as the poor do come back when the rich are too rich.

Related Characters: Wang Lung, The eldest son (Nung En)
Related Symbols: The House of Hwang
Page Number: 308
Explanation and Analysis:

Wang Lung’s eldest son wants the family to take over the outer courts of the house, rather than staying confined to the inner courts. He thinks it isn’t socially respectable for them to be living in such close quarters with commoners. Thus he offers a higher rent to the Hwangs so that they’ll evict the commoners. Wang Lung doesn’t explicitly play a role in this event, but he lets his son do as he wants and never protests.

The eldest son’s actions are despicable in any circumstances, but particularly in light of the fact that his own family—and he himself—used to be in the position of the commoners. In the city, Wang Lung’s family lived in poverty up against the wall of a wealthy house, just as these commoners do. But neither Wang Lung nor his son pays any heed to this past of theirs, preferring to dwell on their current prosperity instead.

Furthermore, Wang Lung doesn’t seem to have learned anything from his experience as a commoner. In the city, the people struggling around him used the very same phrase that’s used in this passage, “when the rich are too rich,” to justify their revolt against the wealthy and their ransacking of the great house. This book works in cycles, and this phrase represents the cycle of poverty and revolt against it. And with the Marxist ideas that Wang Lung heard in the city floating around, revolt against his own family might come sooner rather than later.

Chapter 33 Quotes

...[H]e had been of half a mind to walk out on his land and feel the good earth under his feet and take off his shoes and stockings and feel it on his skin.

This he would have done but he was ashamed lest men see him, who was no longer held a farmer within the gates of the town, but a landowner and a rich man.

Related Characters: Wang Lung
Related Symbols: The Land
Page Number: 339
Explanation and Analysis:

When Wang Lung is lusting after Pear Blossom, he becomes restless with desire and considers going out to his land from his house in the town. However, he now feels that his social status doesn’t accommodate visits to his land; the land is for the poor farmers and laborers, and people might lose their respect for him if they saw him going into the territory of these lower-class people.

Wang Lung’s hesitancy to go to his land indicates perhaps the most dangerous stage of his symbolic replacement of the Hwang family. Throughout the book, the land has acted as a healing force and as the source of wealth and life. Characters have repeatedly warned that when a family grows disconnected from their land, their fortunes fall rapidly. This is exactly what happened to the Hwangs, as Wang Lung well knows, considering that he benefited from their sale of their land.

Essentially, Wang Lung’s concern for social propriety is taking precedence over his connection to his beloved land. If he doesn’t go out to the land, it can’t heal him of his attachment to the vices of wealth as it has in the past.

Chapter 34 Quotes

Every man I hate except you—I have hated every man, even my father who sold me. I have heard only evil of them and I hate them all.... I am filled with loathing and I hate them all. I hate all young men.

Related Characters: Pear Blossom (speaker), Wang Lung
Page Number: 350
Explanation and Analysis:

Pear Blossom becomes Wang Lung’s concubine and then more of a simple companion. One day he asks her why she’s so afraid of men, and she answers that she hates them all. She gives no particular reason for her hatred, but all of the misogyny portrayed throughout the story provides a pretty good idea of why a woman would hate men.

Ironically, Pear Blossom says that she hates “even [her] father who sold [her],” as though this hatred seems particularly odd. However, it makes perfect sense that she would hate a father who showed that he loved her so little that he could say goodbye to her forever and leave her in slavery. In fact, this early experience provides a concrete reason for her hatred of men, as it probably showed her how little they value and respect women.

But Pear Blossom’s attitude is almost more powerful in its vagueness. As she doesn’t point to any particular explanation for her hatred, it allows her emotion to apply to all of the men in the book and all of their awful acts against women, even the ones for which she wasn’t present. In a book whose female characters generally accept and perpetuate their own oppression, Pear Blossom stands out as a woman who recognizes, on some level, that she deserves better from men.

“Now, evil, idle sons—sell the land!” He choked and would have fallen, and they caught him and held him up, and he began to weep.... “It is the end of a family—when they begin to sell the land,” he said brokenly. “Out of the land we came and into it we must go—and if you will hold your land you can live—no one can rob you of land—”

...And he stooped and took up a handful of the soil and he held it and he muttered,

“If you sell the land, it is the end.”

...And they soothed him and they said over and over, the elder son and the second son,

“Rest assured, our father, rest assured. The land is not to be sold.”

But over the old man’s head they looked at each other and smiled.

Related Characters: Wang Lung (speaker), The eldest son (Nung En), The second son (Nung Wen)
Related Symbols: The Land
Page Number: 357
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage occurs at the very end of the book, when Wang Lung follows his sons out onto the land and overhears them discussing how best to sell the land and divide the money.

All of Wang Lung’s life experience has taught him that land is the most important possession. The land is to be worshiped and loved, and in return it will take care of a family. The land gives life and heals, and when a family turns away from it, as the Hwangs did, the family won’t last long. Furthermore, Wang Lung knows that the land in itself is immovable wealth, and it also produces wealth—including all of the wealth that Wang Lung has acquired, and that now puts his sons in the position of considering selling the land.

Furthermore, Wang Lung now finds his sons, his own flesh and blood, betraying his sincerest wish. He’s struggled with his family plenty in the past, and even experienced his uncle’s family’s extreme betrayals of him, but he’s always had control of the land, his most important possession. Now, with death approaching, he knows that he will soon be powerless to prevent his sons from making what he sees as the worst possible mistake.

On a more symbolic level, the very title of the book is The Good Earth, gesturing to the land. Thus, if the land is sold, the family is stripped of its story and becomes immediately nonexistent, no longer connected to the one constant element of the world—the earth.

However, another possible interpretation of this ending exists. Wang Lung has always ignored the goings-on of the world around him, preferring to remain as unmoved as the land itself. As a result, he’s very traditional in a rapidly changing world. His sons, on the other hand, are more attuned to progress and political events. The world does change, and it’s possible that the sons know that the economy is changing, too, and farming may no longer be the most practical way to make money. In this interpretation, Wang Lung clings foolishly to the past as he goes to his grave and the world sweeps on without him.

Get the entire The Good Earth LitChart as a printable PDF.
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Wang Lung Character Timeline in The Good Earth

The timeline below shows where the character Wang Lung appears in The Good Earth. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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Wang Lung awakens on his wedding day. He usually waits to hear his father coughing and opening... (full context)
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Wang Lung goes into the kitchen in a shed connected to the house, where there is an... (full context)
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Wang Lung sets a fire in the stove as he has done ever since his mother died.... (full context)
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Wang Lung ’s father comes to the door of the kitchen, coughing and asking for his water.... (full context)
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Wang Lung washes himself with a towel and puts on clean clothing instead of his dirty, torn... (full context)
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Wang Lung returns to his room and considers whether he should get a shave before he goes... (full context)
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Wang Lung leaves the house and stops to look at the buds of his crops. They need... (full context)
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Wang Lung enters the city gate, passing a man selling peaches. He decides he’ll buy his wife... (full context)
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Wang Lung buys food and incense and then goes to the House of Hwang. But once he... (full context)
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Wang Lung returns to the House of Hwang, and now the gates are open. The gateman challenges... (full context)
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The gateman leads Wang Lung into a huge room, and Wang Lung almost trips as he gapes up at the... (full context)
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Wang Lung can hardly look at O-lan, he’s so nervous. He’s satisfied with her voice, but disappointed... (full context)
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At the city gate, Wang Lung buys peaches and gives them to O-lan to eat. She walks behind him, and he... (full context)
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Wang Lung lights incense in front of the figures, and he and O-lan stand before them. O-lan... (full context)
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Wang Lung ’s father stands in the doorway, but it’s beneath him to acknowledge O-lan. Instead, he... (full context)
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...sit in the middle room. O-lan doesn’t want the men to see her, which makes Wang Lung proud that he gets to see her. He brings the food she’s prepared into the... (full context)
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When the guests finally leave, Wang Lung finds O-lan asleep by the ox in the kitchen. When he wakes her, she instinctively... (full context)
Chapter 2
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The next morning, Wang Lung feels luxurious as he watches O-lan get dressed. He’s surprised that her face looks the... (full context)
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Lying in bed, Wang Lung finds himself wondering whether O-lan likes him and enjoyed their night. He’s very happy with... (full context)
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Over the next few months, Wang Lung works hard in his fields, but he always watches O-lan, and he takes great pleasure... (full context)
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...busy house, O-lan quickly runs out of tasks, so one day she comes out to Wang Lung in the fields and begins hoeing alongside him. As hours pass and it becomes hot,... (full context)
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They go home, where Wang Lung ’s father is impatient for his dinner. Wang Lung tells him that O-lan is pregnant,... (full context)
Chapter 3
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As the pregnancy progresses, Wang Lung suggests one night after dinner that they should find a woman to help with the... (full context)
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...Both will be clad in new clothes, and she’ll present herself to the Old Mistress. Wang Lung realizes that O-lan has been planning this for a long time, even though it seemed... (full context)
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...she gives birth. Her time comes one evening when she’s working in the field with Wang Lung , harvesting the rice. Wang Lung has been getting impatient with her slow work, but... (full context)
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Wang Lung ’s father tells him not to worry yet and recalls his many children who died.... (full context)
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Wang Lung goes back to the room, and O-lan allows him to enter. It smells like blood,... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...O-lan makes food as usual but doesn’t go to work in the fields. That afternoon, Wang Lung goes to town to buy fifty eggs and red paper to dye them red. He... (full context)
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Before long, O-lan begins working in the fields with Wang Lung again. They thresh and winnow the harvested wheat, and then plant another crop for winter.... (full context)
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...have been bountiful, and the house is full of onions, garlic, wheat, and rice. Because Wang Lung is careful with his money, he can afford to wait until food is scarce to... (full context)
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...their wealth while the winter becomes bitterly cold. When the baby turns one month old, Wang Lung invites guests over and gives them the eggs that he’s dyed red. Everyone admires his... (full context)
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...they have time to visit each other and socialize while their wives work at home. Wang Lung , however, worries that others will want to borrow from his plentiful stores of food... (full context)
Chapter 5
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As the New Year approaches, Wang Lung makes preparations, gluing red paper with symbols for happiness and riches onto his farm tools... (full context)
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O-lan bakes fancy moon cakes like those eaten in the House of Hwang. When Wang Lung sees how beautiful they are, he’s very proud. His father wants Wang Lung’s uncle to... (full context)
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...visit each other. O-lan dresses the baby in his fancy new clothes, and she and Wang Lung also dress well. They go to the House of Hwang. Wang Lung is gratified by... (full context)
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When the gateman brings O-lan back, Wang Lung examines her face and can tell that all has gone well. As they leave the... (full context)
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Wang Lung exults at this news, but fears that evil spirits will want to spoil his happiness.... (full context)
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...the family is looking to sell land just outside the city wall. This entirely convinces Wang Lung of the family’s fallen fortunes, since land is the most important thing. Suddenly he decides... (full context)
Chapter 6
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The new piece of land changes Wang Lung ’s life. When he first buys it, he almost regrets his purchase, wishing he could... (full context)
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One day Wang Lung goes to look at his new land. He paces out how large it is and... (full context)
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Wang Lung works hard throughout the spring. His father takes care of the baby so that O-lan... (full context)
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After dinner, Wang Lung goes to look at his new son and is pleased. He imagines that he’ll have... (full context)
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Wang Lung has good harvests again and hides more money in the wall. The land he’s bought... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Wang Lung has often thought his uncle might cause trouble, and now he begins to do so.... (full context)
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The uncle’s wife tells Wang Lung that they can’t pay for their daughters to marry since they don’t have the sort... (full context)
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The next day, Wang Lung ’s uncle comes to the field where he’s working. O-lan isn’t working with him, because... (full context)
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Wang Lung ’s uncle agrees that his daughter should be married, and he’s worried that she’ll get... (full context)
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Wang Lung replies that he isn’t rich, and has many mouths to feed. His uncle says that... (full context)
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Finally, Wang Lung asks what his uncle wants of him. His uncle calms down and asks for money... (full context)
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In the room, Wang Lung finds that O-lan has birthed a girl, which she calls a “slave.” Wang Lung feels... (full context)
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By evening, Wang Lung ’s anger wanes and he remembers that he now has another mouth to feed. He... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Now that the gods have turned against Wang Lung , nothing goes well. The sky is always clear, and no rain comes. Despite Wang... (full context)
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The land Wang Lung bought from the House of Hwang is the only field that bears crops, because it’s... (full context)
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...House of Hwang haven’t borne harvests either, so the agent is desperately in need of Wang Lung ’s silver. They make the deal quickly. Wang Lung feels satisfied to have this fertile... (full context)
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...discussing whether the clouds might hold rain, but the wind always blows the clouds away. Wang Lung harvests small amounts of beans and corn, making sure nothing is wasted. O-lan tells him... (full context)
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...fall, no one asks anyone else how they find food, but only thinks of themselves. Wang Lung has taken care of his ox as long as possible, letting it graze with the... (full context)
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Wang Lung lies in bed with a quilt around his head so he can’t hear O-lan kill... (full context)
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The villagers think that Wang Lung is hiding money and food. His uncle comes asking for help, and Wang Lung has... (full context)
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The men throw Wang Lung ’s family out of the house and tear everything up to find his food. They’re... (full context)
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Wang Lung stands outside and feels frightened that he has nothing with which to feed his family.... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Wang Lung feels that he has to do something to prevent his family from dying. He’s angry... (full context)
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...and she never cries, but only stares out of a hollow face. In normal circumstances, Wang Lung would have ignored her, but now he dotes on her, calling her a “poor fool.”... (full context)
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One day, Wang Lung ’s neighbor Ching comes to the house and wonders what’s left to eat now that... (full context)
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Wang Lung begs Ching to give him any food he has left, and he’ll forgive Ching for... (full context)
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That night, Wang Lung sits in the main room while O-lan gives birth alone, as she wishes. He doesn’t... (full context)
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Wang Lung brings the child out and wraps it in a mat. Its head flops around and... (full context)
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The next morning, Wang Lung realizes that his family is far too weak to travel. Besides, they might not find... (full context)
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As Wang Lung thinks of death, he sees men, including his uncle, coming towards the house. His uncle... (full context)
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Wang Lung doesn’t acknowledge the men, but sees that they’re men from town who look well fed.... (full context)
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Finally Wang Lung asks how much the men will give him, thinking he must feed his children. A... (full context)
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...men take everything from the house. When they go to take the bed from under Wang Lung ’s father, the uncle stands outside to avoid seeing his brother. When they leave, O-lan... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...family closes the door behind them, the boys carrying bowls and chopsticks, and they leave. Wang Lung carries the girl until he has to give her to O-lan so that he can... (full context)
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...the gate to the House of Hwang. It’s locked, and a few people lie outside. Wang Lung hears one say that the rich are eating while they starve, and another says he... (full context)
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...the town as it gets dark, and they find a crowd of people moving south. Wang Lung asks where everyone is going, and someone tells him they’re going to ride the “firewagon”... (full context)
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Wang Lung realizes that they can’t survive another day of walking, so he says they’ll take the... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Wang Lung pays the family’s fare and buys some bread and rice. They’ve eaten so little lately... (full context)
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Wang Lung saves the rest of the money. He listens to the wisdom of other people in... (full context)
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When they get off the firewagon, Wang Lung has a plan. He leaves the family with O-lan and goes to buy mats. He... (full context)
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Wang Lung sees that there are huts built against the wall behind them, but no one knows... (full context)
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...forward towards the good smell of the steam, jostling dangerously though there’s plenty for all. Wang Lung can only cling to his family, and he manages to get the rice before the... (full context)
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They go outside and eat their rice, and Wang Lung thinks he’ll save some for later, but a guard tells him he can’t take any... (full context)
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...returns to their hut and sleeps soundly. The next morning, they need more money, but Wang Lung no longer despairs, because there’s so much food in the city. O-lan says she, the... (full context)
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Wang Lung rents a ricksha (rickshaw). He struggles to pull it, so he goes up and down... (full context)
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Wang Lung doesn’t even know how much the coin is worth, so he has it changed into... (full context)
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Wang Lung has three more passengers that day, but he only has a penny left after he’s... (full context)
Chapter 12
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As Wang Lung begins to feel secure in his family’s survival, he starts getting to know the city... (full context)
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Even though Wang Lung ’s family looks like the city people, they are like foreigners there. Life is slower... (full context)
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Finally, Wang Lung learns that he is not a true foreigner. One day when he’s looking for passengers,... (full context)
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...grains, meats, vegetables, and sweets. It doesn’t seem possible that anyone could starve here, but Wang Lung and his family still join the large group of people who buy cheap rice from... (full context)
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The second son begins to get good at stealing. Though this doesn’t bother O-lan, Wang Lung hates seeing his sons steal. One night when there’s pork in the stew they’re cooking,... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Though the city is filled with luxury, Wang Lung ’s family has barely enough to survive. The working people of the city have no... (full context)
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...of cloth or food. They’re endlessly having children, who are only more mouths to feed. Wang Lung and his family become part of this class of people that permeates the city and... (full context)
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The first hints of spring are arriving, and Wang Lung can’t sleep, so he stands on the edge of the street where his father squats.... (full context)
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Wang Lung returns to the hut and tells O-lan that if he had anything to sell, they... (full context)
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Wang Lung cries out in despair that he can never earn enough to save any money. A... (full context)
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That night, Wang Lung can’t sleep because he’s thinking so much about the difference between his life on this... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...to the countryside to forage for food, and O-lan and the boys go with them. Wang Lung continues to work. The warm weather makes everyone less satisfied with their meager lot in... (full context)
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Wang Lung feels separate from the other men because he owns land and plans to return to... (full context)
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Wang Lung can think only of his land, and so he hardly pays attention to the goings-on... (full context)
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Later a Chinese man gives another paper to Wang Lung . This one has a picture of a poor Chinese man being stabbed to death... (full context)
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...the wall that separates them from the wealthy house. They feel discontented and unfairly treated. Wang Lung still only wants his land back. (full context)
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One day, while pulling his ricksha down the street, Wang Lung sees a number of common men captured by a band of soldiers. He realizes that... (full context)
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Wang Lung tells O-lan what has happened and feels terrified that he’ll be forced to die on... (full context)
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Wang Lung only goes out at night now, and he pulls huge wagonloads of goods for very... (full context)
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From the hut, Wang Lung hears soldiers marching constantly to battle. Everyone in the city is afraid, and no one... (full context)
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Wang Lung holds his daughter and asks her if she’d like to go to a great house,... (full context)
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...tell them that the gates of the wealthy house have opened. O-lan leaves immediately, and Wang Lung follows in a daze. (full context)
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Wang Lung finds a mob forcing its way into the house. He gets caught up in the... (full context)
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Wang Lung comes upon a fat man who hasn’t escaped. He’s terrified of Wang Lung and begs... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Now back at home from the city, Wang Lung feels like he never left. He uses the gold to buy seeds and an ox.... (full context)
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The door, roof thatch, and farm tools have been stolen from their house. Wang Lung buys new tools and mats to cover the roof, and in the evening he looks... (full context)
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Finally Wang Lung ’s neighbor, Ching, tells him that robbers lived in his empty house and attacked the... (full context)
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Wang Lung is glad to discover that no one knows where his uncle has gone, though he’s... (full context)
Chapter 16
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One night in bed, Wang Lung feels a bundle hanging around O-lan’s neck. At first she doesn’t want to show it... (full context)
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Wang Lung says that they must trade the jewels for land, which can’t be stolen. As he’s... (full context)
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Wang Lung decides to use the other jewels to buy more land from the House of Hwang.... (full context)
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When Wang Lung says he’s come to buy from the house, a woman (Cuckoo) suddenly opens the gates... (full context)
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Cuckoo harshly tries to initiate business discussions, but Wang Lung protests that he can’t do business with a woman. Cuckoo shouts that no one else... (full context)
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...to leave the house, but she convinced him to stay so she wouldn’t be alone. Wang Lung realizes that she’s taking advantage of the Old Lord. Wang Lung says he can’t do... (full context)
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Wang Lung needs to think about what he’s learned, so he goes to a tea shop. It... (full context)
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Wang Lung buys tea for the shopkeeper in exchange for the news that he’s missed. The man... (full context)
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Wang Lung returns to the great house and speaks to Cuckoo at the gate. Once she assures... (full context)
Chapter 17
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After the purchase, Wang Lung has more land and harvest than he can handle, so he adds a room to... (full context)
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Wang Lung makes his sons work in the fields with him to get them used to the... (full context)
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Wang Lung has no troubles at this time besides the fact that his eldest daughter never speaks,... (full context)
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...usually famines every five or ten years in this region due to flooding or drought. Wang Lung decides to become wealthy enough that he’ll be able to weather these hard years and... (full context)
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Wang Lung eventually comes to work on the business end of the farm, rather than in the... (full context)
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Wang Lung and O-lan outfit the boys with clothes and writing supplies. They are to attend a... (full context)
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On his way home, Wang Lung is filled with pride in his sons. When he passes a neighbor, he tells him... (full context)
Chapter 18
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After seven years of good harvests, the river floods almost half of Wang Lung ’s land. Many houses in the region are destroyed, but Wang Lung’s house is on... (full context)
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Wang Lung gets impatient with his father, who still thinks tea is too luxurious and doesn’t realize... (full context)
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Wang Lung looks at O-lan but never sees anything new. He suddenly sees that she’s ugly and... (full context)
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Wang Lung gets grumpier as he remembers that he owes his land to O-lan’s theft of the... (full context)
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Wang Lung doesn’t enjoy anything as much as he used to. The tea shop he’s always gone... (full context)
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Wang Lung goes to a fancier tea shop that he’s always considered a bad place where people... (full context)
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Wang Lung goes back to the tea shop every day and stares at the paintings. He might... (full context)
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Wang Lung feels he must prove he’s not just a country farmer. Cuckoo already knows he’s wealthy,... (full context)
Chapter 19
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If Wang Lung had to plant his fields or if some crisis had occurred in the family, he... (full context)
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When Cuckoo recognizes Wang Lung , she dismisses him as just a farmer, which angers him. He wants to show... (full context)
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If anyone had told Wang Lung that such small, dainty hands and feet existed, he wouldn’t have believed them. He sits... (full context)
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Though Wang Lung has suffered much in his life, he suffers more than ever due to Lotus. He... (full context)
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Wang Lung begins to sleep outside rather than in his own bed. He snaps at anyone who... (full context)
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Wang Lung ’s family doesn’t understand the change in him. He no longer lets O-lan make his... (full context)
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Wang Lung spends vast amounts of money not only to be with Lotus, but to buy her... (full context)
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One day, Wang Lung finds O-lan washing his clothes and asks her what she’s done with the pearls she... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Wang Lung might have spent all his money if his uncle didn’t suddenly turn up at his... (full context)
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Wang Lung realizes that his uncle will never leave, since he now knows that Wang Lung can... (full context)
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Wang Lung feels that since he can have no comfort in his own house, he has to... (full context)
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Wang Lung suddenly realizes he must satisfy his desire for Lotus by buying her and bringing her... (full context)
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Wang Lung is afraid to go to the tea house until Lotus is his. He thinks he’ll... (full context)
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Wang Lung waits impatiently for Lotus, so he has a man build a goldfish pool for the... (full context)
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Eventually Lotus arrives, carried in a sedan chair across the fields and followed by Cuckoo. Wang Lung is suddenly afraid and hides in his room until his uncle’s wife calls to him.... (full context)
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When Wang Lung ’s uncle’s wife emerges, she tells him that Lotus isn’t as young as she appears,... (full context)
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O-lan finally returns at night with the children and goes through her normal routine without Wang Lung . He now spends all of his time with Lotus. Lotus has commanded that Cuckoo... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Wang Lung refuses to believe that bringing Lotus and Cuckoo into his house will cause conflict, even... (full context)
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...of Hwang. She points out how their positions have reversed from that time. O-lan asks Wang Lung what Cuckoo is doing there. He feels a mixture of shame and anger and can’t... (full context)
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...the cauldron to boil her own. When Cuckoo complains, O-lan ignores her. Cuckoo goes to Wang Lung , who scolds O-lan. O-lan says she won’t be a slave to slaves. When he... (full context)
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...begins going to town every day to buy expensive foods to cook in the kitchen. Wang Lung doesn’t like her spending so much money, but doesn’t want to tell her this or... (full context)
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Wang Lung becomes afraid to tell Lotus what to do, so she’s constantly talking to his uncle’s... (full context)
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One day Wang Lung ’s father, who’s usually oblivious to the world around him, discovers the doorway through which... (full context)
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One day Wang Lung hears Lotus scream and finds that the twins have brought his eldest daughter into her... (full context)
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Wang Lung loves his children, and he gets angry. He says that if Lotus doesn’t love them,... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Wang Lung ’s land heals the damage his love has done to him. He directs his men... (full context)
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Wang Lung realizes he has much to do, and he works hard in the fields, his body... (full context)
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Wang Lung is proud of other men’s jealousy of Lotus, because this shows his wealth. His uncle... (full context)
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Wang Lung has a good harvest that year, and he takes it to market with his eldest... (full context)
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When they’re walking home, Wang Lung decides that he must find his eldest son a wife so he doesn’t have to... (full context)
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At New Year’s, men come to visit Wang Lung and say he can have no greater fortune than what he already has. Wang Lung... (full context)
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One evening after Wang Lung beats his eldest son, O-lan tells him that the beatings will do no good. She’s... (full context)
Chapter 23
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Lotus pouts at the fact that Wang Lung pays attention to anything other than her. He laughs and tells her that he’s thinking... (full context)
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...man’s profession was, and Cuckoo identifies him as Liu, a grain dealer. When she tells Wang Lung where Liu’s market is, he realizes he sells his own grain there, and he thinks... (full context)
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One morning, the eldest son comes home drunk and sick. Wang Lung discovers him, and O-lan washes him and puts him to bed. Wang Lung questions the... (full context)
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Wang Lung finds his uncle’s son in his uncle’s rooms, also drunk. He questions the young man,... (full context)
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...are never closed now, and families of common people rent the rooms. It’s all dirty. Wang Lung asks the way to the whore named Yang, but when he knocks on her door... (full context)
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The very same day, Wang Lung tells Cuckoo to go to Liu and arrange his son’s marriage. He watches over his... (full context)
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Wang Lung finds himself in a more uncomfortable situation than ever. His uncle acts just as he... (full context)
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Wang Lung tries to be particularly courteous to his uncle’s family, even giving them extra money. He... (full context)
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Liu agrees to the marriage of his daughter to Wang Lung ’s eldest son, but wants to wait another three years, which worries Wang Lung. He... (full context)
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...that it’s made of locusts. Eventually the wind blows a dead locust to the ground. Wang Lung forgets about his family troubles and urges the villagers to fight the locusts. Some say... (full context)
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Wang Lung summons his workers and some of the other villagers, and they burn some of the... (full context)
Chapter 24
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One day Wang Lung ’s eldest son tells him that his teacher has no more to teach him, and... (full context)
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That night, when Wang Lung visits Lotus, she says that his eldest son wants to leave and go south. He... (full context)
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Wang Lung soon forgets about his son’s problems as he gains back through work the money he... (full context)
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Wang Lung is almost entirely content, but one night O-lan comes to him. She’s become thinner and... (full context)
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O-lan tells Wang Lung that their eldest son goes into Lotus’s court when he’s not there. Wang Lung hardly... (full context)
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When dawn comes, Wang Lung eats and then goes into the fields. After a while he shouts that he’s going... (full context)
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Wang Lung grows more angry and jealous than he’s ever been in his life. He strips a... (full context)
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Once Wang Lung ’s anger cools, he goes into Lotus’s room, where she lies crying. He accuses her... (full context)
Chapter 25
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Wang Lung is relieved when his eldest son has gone. He feels that he can now take... (full context)
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Wang Lung goes that very day to visit Liu. He has to ask a passerby to identify... (full context)
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...examine each other and like what they see. They drink and make small talk, until Wang Lung finally proposes that his second son might go to work for Liu. Liu says he’d... (full context)
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When Wang Lung returns home, he sees that his second daughter is pretty and has nicely bound feet.... (full context)
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That night, Wang Lung can’t sleep for thinking about O-lan’s faithfulness and how she has accurately read his character.... (full context)
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It seems like this is the first occasion Wang Lung has had time to think about O-lan, and now he can’t stop thinking about her.... (full context)
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Wang Lung watches O-lan as she goes about her work, and one day he sees that she’s... (full context)
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Wang Lung is terrified and shouts at the doctor to give her medicine. O-lan awakens. The doctor... (full context)
Chapter 26
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O-lan lies dying all through the winter, and Wang Lung ’s family finally realizes how much she had done for them. Nobody else seems to... (full context)
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Wang Lung pays no attention to the land while O-lan is dying. Ching takes care of everything,... (full context)
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Wang Lung refuses to talk about O-lan’s death, but one day he goes to buy a coffin... (full context)
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Wang Lung sits by O-lan in silence, though sometimes she talks as though remembering her childhood, speaking... (full context)
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...has been married and had sons, while Cuckoo remains a slave. Cuckoo is angry, but Wang Lung leads her away. O-lan forbids Cuckoo or Lotus from touching her possessions after she dies. (full context)
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Just before the New Year, O-lan seems better. She has Wang Lung send for the girl who is engaged to their eldest son so that she can... (full context)
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...few days, O-lan says she wants to see her eldest son marry before she dies. Wang Lung doesn’t like to hear her talk about dying, but she sounds stronger in speaking her... (full context)
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...the wedding, the eldest son comes home, looking like a man and wearing fine clothes. Wang Lung is proud of him and brings him to see O-lan. The son is sad at... (full context)
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When the bride comes before the guests, Wang Lung is glad to see her modesty. His sons enter, and he’s very proud of them.... (full context)
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...has the doors left open so that she can hear and smell the feast, and Wang Lung repeatedly assures her that everything has been done properly. When the guests leave, she becomes... (full context)
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...she is, she did have a son. She worries that Lotus won’t take care of Wang Lung . Wang Lung sends everyone else out and sits by O-lan, despising himself for noticing... (full context)
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Wang Lung doesn’t want to be near O-lan’s dead body, so he has his relatives prepare the... (full context)
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Before long, Wang Lung ’s father dies in his sleep. The second daughter finds him in the morning and... (full context)
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...priests come from the Taoist and Buddhist temples and chant all night. If they stop, Wang Lung pays them more. Ching has arranged the burial plot with plenty of room for future... (full context)
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At the graves, Wang Lung does not cry, because he feels that nothing could have been done to prevent the... (full context)
Chapter 27
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Wang Lung has hardly thought about his crops, but after the burial Ching tells him that a... (full context)
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Wang Lung watches the water, which stays below his house on a hill and doesn’t quite reach... (full context)
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Wang Lung has secretly hidden stashes of money and grain, so he knows his family won’t starve.... (full context)
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The next day, Wang Lung ’s uncle asks for money, and Wang Lung has to give it to him, though... (full context)
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Wang Lung ’s eldest son keeps his wife shut up in their room away from his cousin,... (full context)
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Before long, Wang Lung ’s uncle’s son begins to look at Wang Lung’s second daughter, who is very pretty.... (full context)
Chapter 28
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After Wang Lung sends his second daughter away, he offers his uncle the opium, pretending he’d bought it... (full context)
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One day the eldest son announces that his wife is pregnant. Wang Lung is joyful and has Ching buy good food for the pregnant woman to eat. The... (full context)
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As summer approaches, people return from the south and come to borrow money from Wang Lung to reestablish their farms. He also buys land from them. Others sell their daughters instead,... (full context)
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Wang Lung goes across his land with Ching, discussing the soil, and brings his youngest son to... (full context)
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When Wang Lung returns from the fields, his eldest son says he can’t bear to have his cousin... (full context)
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...suggests that they might move to town and leave the uncle’s family in the country. Wang Lung refuses to consider the suggestion, saying that the land has given them all they have.... (full context)
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Wang Lung makes no decision yet, but he does notice the despicable actions of his uncle’s son.... (full context)
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One day Wang Lung visits his second son at the grain market and asks what he thinks of the... (full context)
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...marry a woman from town like his brother’s wife, who will make him spend money. Wang Lung is surprised at this characterization of his eldest son’s wife, but he’s happy to find... (full context)
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Wang Lung goes to the House of Hwang. There are common people everywhere in the courts, and... (full context)
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Wang Lung asks the gateman’s wife to let him into the gate she’s guarding. She says she... (full context)
Chapter 29
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Wang Lung tells his eldest son to arrange to rent the house, and the family prepares to... (full context)
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The uncle’s family moves into what were Lotus’s courts, but Wang Lung can tell that his uncle will die soon, and then he can throw out his... (full context)
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Wang Lung decides that he should decrease the work necessary to run his lands by renting some... (full context)
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Wang Lung ’s uncle’s son grows restless, and when he hears about a war in the north,... (full context)
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As his grandson’s birth approaches, Wang Lung spends more time at the house in town, amazed to think that he’s living where... (full context)
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One morning Wang Lung hears his eldest son’s wife in labor. He’s frightened of her screams, so he brings... (full context)
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Finally, Lotus comes to tell him that he has a grandson. Wang Lung is joyful and laughs at his anxiety. He sits remembering O-lan giving birth to all... (full context)
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Wang Lung ’s eldest son throws a great feast to celebrate the birth of his son. Afterwards,... (full context)
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Wang Lung demands to know what happened to Ching, and the laborers tell him that Ching, now... (full context)
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Wang Lung stops going to his land so often, and he rents it all out but refuses... (full context)
Chapter 30
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Wang Lung thinks he has everything he could want and can live in peace. But his eldest... (full context)
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Wang Lung knows nothing of what goes on, as he stays in the inner courts, sleeping and... (full context)
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One day Wang Lung ’s second son comes to him and says that they’re spending too much money on... (full context)
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Wang Lung tells his eldest son they’ve made enough improvements to the house, but his son insists... (full context)
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The eldest son persists, saying that Wang Lung ’s youngest son should be sent to school. Wang Lung had planned for him to... (full context)
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Wang Lung sends for his youngest son. He sees that the boy is beautiful, but frowns frequently.... (full context)
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Wang Lung appoints his second son as steward over the land, which pleases him, as it will... (full context)
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None of the family seems quite at peace in the house. Sometimes Wang Lung wishes he were back in his plain house on his fields. The eldest son and... (full context)
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After five years, Wang Lung ’s uncle dies during a very cold winter. Wang Lung’s uncle and the uncle’s wife... (full context)
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When Wang Lung ’s uncle dies, he buries him in the family burial plot and the family wears... (full context)
Chapter 31
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Wang Lung has often heard of war, but the closest he came to it was in the... (full context)
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...ranks of men in uniforms march through the streets holding weapons. Their fierce expressions frighten Wang Lung , but just as he’s about to lock the gate his uncle’s son marches by... (full context)
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Dismayed, Wang Lung and his eldest son bar the door of the inner court. The second son rushes... (full context)
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...wife. Then he goes to Lotus and calls her “Old Mistress,” saying he can tell Wang Lung is rich by how fat she is. Lotus is flattered and gives him a flirtatious... (full context)
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Finally Wang Lung shows the uncle’s son to his mother’s room. He wakes the uncle’s wife by banging... (full context)
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...at the slaves. Cuckoo says they need to give him a slave for himself, and Wang Lung approves. He sends Cuckoo to the cousin, who tells her he wants a slave named... (full context)
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Pear Blossom can tell that Wang Lung pities her, so she weeps at his feet. He tells Cuckoo he doesn’t want to... (full context)
Chapter 32
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Wang Lung and his sons hire carpenters and masons to repair the courts where the soldiers were... (full context)
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Before long, the uncle’s wife dies. Wang Lung sends for the farm laborer who accidentally caused Ching’s death. Wang Lung sits on the... (full context)
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...waste of money. The elder son doesn’t like it that his brother controls the money. Wang Lung has no peace. (full context)
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Ever since Wang Lung protected Pear Blossom from his uncle’s son, Lotus has disliked her and accuses Wang Lung... (full context)
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Wang Lung ’s youngest son has long been absorbed with his books, but when the soldiers were... (full context)
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Wang Lung thinks that he has given his youngest son everything he could desire, but he decides... (full context)
Chapter 33
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Wang Lung begins to think only of Pear Blossom. One day he feels particularly lustful, and he... (full context)
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Pear Blossom passes the gate to Wang Lung ’s court, and he calls her in. He holds on to her coat, thinking that... (full context)
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Eventually Cuckoo realizes that Pear Blossom has become Wang Lung ’s concubine, and she’s reminded of the Old Lord. Wang Lung tells her he’s not... (full context)
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Wang Lung is ashamed to tell his sons about Pear Blossom. The second son comes to talk... (full context)
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Later that day, the eldest son comes to Wang Lung ’s court. Wang Lung is afraid for him to find out about Pear Blossom, but... (full context)
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The youngest son comes that evening when Pear Blossom is sitting with Wang Lung in the court. The youngest son appears suddenly, like a panther, looking fierce. He says... (full context)
Chapter 34
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Before long, Wang Lung ’s passion for Pear Blossom passes, but he’s still fond of her and glad to... (full context)
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Wang Lung is usually alone except for Pear Blossom and his eldest daughter. He worries about Pear... (full context)
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As the years pass, Wang Lung sits in the sun like his father did. Sometimes he visits Lotus, who sits talking... (full context)
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Wang Lung asks Cuckoo about his sons’ wives, and she tells him that his eldest son seems... (full context)
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As Wang Lung grows old, he keeps his love of the land, and he goes out to it... (full context)
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Wang Lung returns to town and sends for his eldest son, but when he arrives Wang Lung... (full context)
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Wang Lung lives peacefully, thinking often about his land, but not worrying about planting or harvests. He... (full context)
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One day Wang Lung follows his sons out onto the land. He comes up to them silently and hears... (full context)