The Good Earth


Pearl Buck

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The Good Earth Characters

Wang Lung

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… (read full character analysis)


O-lan is Wang Lung’s wife. She’s a quiet, hardworking woman who has suffered much even before she comes to Wang Lung’s house. Her father sold her as a slave in a year of famine… (read full character analysis)

Wang Lung’s father

Wang Lung’s father is quite old. He trusts Wang Lung to take care of him, and Wang Lung feels a strong familial duty to do so. He generally does little more than sit in the… (read full character analysis)

The eldest son (Nung En)

Wang Lung intends for his eldest son to become a scholar and help him when he signs contracts to sell his harvests. He doesn’t expect his son to become moody and lustful—like a young lord… (read full character analysis)

The second son (Nung Wen)

The second son is crafty and thrifty. He goes to school along with the eldest son, and then Wang Lung apprentices him to Liu to learn to be a merchant. Wang Lung only begins… (read full character analysis)
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The youngest son

Wang Lung intends for his youngest son to work on the land after him. As this son remains quiet and sullen, Wang Lung doesn’t notice for a long time that he doesn’t actually want to… (read full character analysis)

The daughter / the eldest daughter (the poor fool)

The eldest daughter is born during the famine, and Wang Lung takes her birth as a bad sign because she’s his first female child. She proves to be mentally disabled (perhaps as a result of… (read full character analysis)

The second daughter

Wang Lung’s second daughter, the youngest son’s twin, is a pretty girl whom he marries to Liu’s son. She cares a lot about her appearance and carefully keeps her feet bound, because… (read full character analysis)

Wang Lung’s uncle

Wang Lung’s uncle is his father’s brother. He’s a lazy, immoral man who’s always looking to live off of Wang Lung’s charity. His perpetually loose, untidy clothes signify his generally careless way of… (read full character analysis)

Wang Lung’s uncle’s wife

Wang Lung generally despises his uncle’s wife. She’s almost as lazy and immoral as her husband, always demanding luxuries they can’t afford. Early on, Wang Lung tells her off for letting her daughters talk to… (read full character analysis)

Wang Lung’s uncle’s son

Wang Lung’s nephew takes after his parents—he’s just as lazy and cruel as they are. He becomes a bad influence in Wang Lung’s house, leading Wang Lung’s eldest son to Yang, the whore… (read full character analysis)


Ching starts out as a fellow farmer and Wang Lung’s neighbor. When a mob comes to Wang Lung’s house to steal food during the famine, Ching takes a handful of beans. He feels terribly… (read full character analysis)

The Old Mistress

The Old Mistress is the female head of the House of Hwang. Wang Lung meets her only once, when he goes to fetch O-lan from the great house for their marriage, but the meeting… (read full character analysis)

The Old Lord

The Old Lord is the male head of the House of Hwang. Like his wife, the Old Mistress, he represents the wealth and power that first frightens Wang Lung, and then becomes… (read full character analysis)


Lotus starts out as a prostitute in one of the tea shops in town, with Cuckoo as her madam. Wang Lung falls in love with her there, and his love consumes his life, ruining his… (read full character analysis)

Pear Blossom

Wang Lung buys Pear Blossom as a young slave in a year of famine. His uncle’s son takes a liking to her when he comes to Wang Lung’s house with the soldiers, but Wang Lung… (read full character analysis)

The gateman

The gateman controls the gate at the House of Hwang. When Wang Lung first visits the house to fetch O-lan for their marriage, the gateman intimidates him and laughs at him for his farmer’s… (read full character analysis)

The gateman’s wife

The gateman’s wife gives Wang Lung tea while he waits for O-lan to show their baby to the Old Mistress. By this point, Wang Lung feels secure enough in his social status to shun… (read full character analysis)

The Old Lord’s agent

The agent deals with all of the Old Lord’s business transactions, always taking a cut for himself. When Wang Lung first buys land from the Old Lord, he does it through the agent. Later… (read full character analysis)


Liu owns the grain market where Wang Lung sells his harvests. He goes to the tea shop where Lotus is a prostitute and treats the women very fairly. Thus, when Lotus hears that Wang Lung… (read full character analysis)


Wang Lung discovers that his eldest son has been visiting this prostitute along with his uncle’s son. She’s known for being cheap and serving the common people of the town, so Wang Lung particularly… (read full character analysis)

The doctor

Wang Lung brings a doctor to examine O-lan once he realizes she’s ill. The doctor tries to sell Wang Lung medicine for her, but keeps raising the price each time Wang Lung offers to pay… (read full character analysis)


A woman who worked as a slave in the House of Hwang at the same time as O-lanOld Lord took her as a concubine. Later, Cuckoo came to run the tea-shop where Lotus was a… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
The eldest son’s wife
The eldest son marries Liu’s daughter, who reminds Liu of Lotus. Like Lotus, she has a taste for luxury, and thinks herself superior to those lower in birth than she, such as the second son’s wife.
The second son’s wife
The second son’s wife comes from one of the villages, and she’s a robust country girl. She works hard and doesn’t aspire above her station, just as her husband wanted. However, she does get into conflicts with the eldest son’s wife.
The teacher
Wang Lung sends his eldest son and second son to a teacher who beats his students with a fan. During the summers, the teacher falls asleep in class.