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The Good Earth

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The Good Earth

In The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, Wang Lung is a poor farmer, living in China. Wang Lung believes that land is everything, and his connection to the land is something that is referenced often throughout the novel. Wang's and his son's actions and attitudes towards women, superstitions, and morals change throughout the book. These changes closely parallel Wang's connection to the land, because the land is Wang's life, so when his land ownership changes, he himself changes with the land.

Wang's attitude changes towards women throughout the novel, getting more focused on physical appearance as he obtains more land. At first, Wang hopes for a pretty wife, but doesn't expect beauty because he is not wealthy. He is at first disappointed at the site of his wife's "ugly", unbound feet when he goes to get her from the great House of Hwang. Soon though, Wang quickly gets over his disappointment and is glad just to have a woman of his own. Wang at this time is just a poor farmer, and does not yet have much land. He is initially not concerned with his wife's physical appearance, he is simply glad to have a wife. Buck writes, "He decided suddenly that she should like him as her husband"(28). Wang, at this early stage, overlooks his wife's physical appearance and hopes that she likes him as a husband. As Wang Lung toils, but is still not very rich, he places great value on his wife and her ability to work the fields. When she is pregnant with their second child, Wang gets annoyed because his wife will not be able to work in the fields during the harvest, which is still the most important thing to him. Wang Lung shouts angrily at O-lan, "So you have chosen this time to breed again, have you!"(58). Wang Lung is angry that his wife will not be able to work in the fields with him, because, now the most important thing to him in his woman is not her physical appearance, but that she must be able to help him harvest. Finally, when Wang becomes very rich and idle, all that he wants in a woman is beauty. This is because he no longer needs a wife to work in the fields. Wang now does not like the fact that he, a wealthy landowner, has an ugly wife whose feet aren't bound. He expresses his disgust towards O-lan by saying to her "I have labored and have grown rich and I would have my wife look like less of a hind"(181). Wang now only cares for beauty in a woman, because he has laborers to help him in the fields and only wants a woman for her physical appearance. He now just wants a wife to look the part of the wife of a wealthy man. As Wang became rich through land ownership he changed from not basing a woman's desirability on physical appearance to totally basing her importance on physical beauty.

Wang Lung's actions also change about superstitions throughout the novel, these changes parallel the changes in the his land ownership. When Wang first gets married, he prays to the gods, hoping that they will bring him good luck. "He would buy a stick of incense and place it in the little temple to the Earth God"(8). Wang Lung prays to the gods because he is doing well, as he had just gotten a wife, and wishes to continue his good fortune. When Wang encounters a famine, he refuses pray to the gods, because he is angry at how they are forcing him to encounter this terrible crop shortage. He even refuses to acknowledge their statues when he and his family move south during the drought. When Wang is rich, he prays to the gods often to hope to have them help him out. Before his son's wife is about to give birth to his first grandson, he goes to a temple and has a priest burn incense for him, in hopes that his grandchild will be a boy, and that his son's wife will live through the birth. When Wang is rich, he often prays to the gods, or burns sweet incense at the temples for



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