The Good Earth depicts a famer’s journey to prosper from his land while undergoing many struggles and hardships. Farmer Wang Lung lives in a civilized village where he and the villagers work and live off the land, but when a famine strikes, this forces Wang and his family to move towards the city in search of food and money. In the busy city, that is very chaotic due to a revolution, Wang and his family must rely on begging and stealing instead of relying on the Earth. Throughout the hardships and struggles Wang realizes the privilege of having land that allows him and others thrive off of the Earth.
Taking place in China, Wang is a poor farmer and he and his father take great pride of living off their small amount of land. Wang marries a young woman, O-Lan, who is a slave to the Great House that is owned by the most powerful family in the entire village. Wang is excited to have O-Lan as his wife and is very anxious to have his first son. Eventually, Wang and his wife have two boys and one girl. Also anxious to provide for his family, due to the famine Wang is forced to move his family towards the big city where they plan to return home once they make their earnings.
In the city, the family lives off of begging and stealing just to survive. Wang finds a job that pays very little and must provide for his kids, wife, and his father. With a revolution occurring in the city, a mansion is looted by the city’s citizens and the O-Lan is caught in the rush. O-Lan finds precious gems in the mansion and is almost put to death when a soldier from the government catches her. Luckily she is let go and gives the precious gems to Wang who is excited to move back to the village. With the return of Wang and his family, Wang attempts to end the famine and expands the land he owns.
Wang’s fortune is entirely from the precious diamonds and gems in which he gives two pearls to O-lan. His mischievous uncle is always insisting new ideas and strongly influencing Wang to invest his money and expand his soon to be empire. Wang listens to his uncle and buys more land and even the Great House where he went to take O-Lan’s hand in marriage. O-lan isn’t very pleased with the purchase of the new lands and the Great House, but she stands by her husband’s side and does not question him. With the family’s new fortune, Wang begins to associate himself with the higher class and tarts to become more tied in with this class. With the influence from his uncle, Wang marries a second wife which most of the family isn’t appreciative off. O-lan’s pearls were used by Wang to propose to his new wife. Wang is thriving from success and his sons are mature enough to help him. Wang sends one of his sons to college to get a degree on agriculture so the family business can be more efficient and Wang decides to keep his younger son at home to help maintain the crop. Unfortunately, Wang finds his youngest son having an affair with his second wife and Wang shuns his son and banished his new wife.
Following that, messengers arrived to Wang’s house to inform him of the swarm of locust that was heading towards Wang and the villagers’ crops. I thought that there was no solution to fight the pests; however Wang’s oldest son, now informed with agricultural knowledge, proposes to fight the locust. Highly skeptical, the villagers agree and prepare for the operation, but Wang’s uncle says with doubt that there is no way the villagers can fight the locusts. The swarm arrives in millions over the hills and the villagers fight the swarm using torches lit by kerosene and also lighting the Earth on fire.
Many are exhausted from the struggle to fight the swarm, but Wang insists that the villagers must keep fighting. This intense situation allowed Wang to rebind and work with his son who he once shunned. Eventually the villagers fight off the swarm until the change of wind direction which shifted the direction of the locusts. Ironically, Wang’s uncle, in excitement, states that he believed in Wang the entire time. The villagers celebrate their successful operation, but O-lan’s health was diminishing. She was sick to the point to where she could barely walk and laid in bed to rest.
Wang comes to her side and acknowledges her as his wife and doesn’t want her to die. Before O-lan’s death, she asks to look at the two pearls that she once had and Wang shows her the pearls. She is happy to see the pearls and soon dies. Throughout this film, specific scenes reveal aspects of Taoism and Confucianism. Taoism’s principles are mainly based on taking no action contrary to nature. In the beginning of the film when Wang and his father are farming off of the small amount of land, Taoism’s aspects are shown because Wang farms for themselves and others and not wanting to gain power.
Nature sends rains and winds, but Wang still continues to farm and does not take any actions that are contrary to nature. Another scene where Taoism’s principles are shown is when Wang defeats the locusts that were eating his crop. Wang, at this time, holds a reputable tittle which allows him to supervise his crops and not actually work in them. However, this emergency brought Wang back to the Earth and began what he once did every day. Wang worked off the Earth to get in his crop and he always respected the Earth. Even when the famine struck the village and the family had nothing to eat and they were forced to kill their ox for meat.
However, when Wang went to butcher the ox he couldn’t butcher it because Wang viewed the ox as his companion. On the other hand, Confucianism’s ethnic principles ultimately focus on that all people are to be treated with humanity, but within a well-articulated hierarchy. Aspects of the ethnic principles are shown by the class system that exists in the village. The Great House is at the highest point of the class system and regulates most of the village. As for Wang and fellow farmers; they are at the bottom of the class system and have very little authority.
The revolution in the city that Wang and his family were forced to move to was invaded by troops to control the looting and chaos. Social order was created when the troops regulated the looters that were convicted of stealing from the mansion and many citizens began to realize their social rank. Aspects of both religions are shown throughout this film, from thriving off of the Earth to order that is created in the city, but Wang’s view on things changes when he realizes the privilege being wealthy and prospering from the Earth.