December 16, 1998
In the novel, The Good Earth, many themes emerge. One of the most significant themes is relationship: 1.) the relationship between Wang Lung and his land, 2.) between Wang Lung sand the women in his life, and 3.) between rich and poor.
The land is the source of Wang Lungs life. He grew up with the land, farmed the land, and lived off of the land. Wang Lung feels that land is the source of his power. To have more land he worked hard and saved up money to buy good land from the house of Hwang. Throughout all the hardships in his life, Wang Lung always returns to his land. Wang Lung starts out as a poor hard working farmer. All his hard work pays off and he becomes one of the wealthiest men in his village. To Wang Lung, The earth which formed their home fed their bodies and made their godsbodies of men and women had been buried there, houses has stood there, had fallen, and gone back into the eartheach had his turn at the earth (pg.22) brought his family prosperity. Wang Lungs land is the only stable factor in his life. With everything coming and going the land was always his.
There are three major women in Wang Lungs life. No one more important than, O-lan. She is the first woman he Wang Lung had known (pg. 180). O-lan was a simple hard working woman who didnt speak much. She was good to Wang Lung. All by herself, she bore and nursed Wang Lung healthy sons. After she gave birth, she even helped Wang Lung farm the land. O-lan did all the chores, cooked and took care of the grandfather. Unlike the other women in the novel, O-lan knew how to fix things and was more independent. She repaired broken pots, made the clothes and shoes, and didnt need help from anyone else. When they returned from the south their home was ruined. O-lan with her own hands she lashed the mats to the rafters and took earth from the fields and mixed it with water and mended the walls of the house, and she built again the oven and filled the holes in the floor that the rain had washed (pg. 102-103). When men came to Wang Lung during the famine telling him to sell his land, O-lan told Wang Lung not to sell because it is all they have and without it they are nothing. During the hard times in the south O-lan taught the family how to survive by begging and stretching food and money. When O-lan died Wang Lung felt hurt, there in that land is buried the first good half of my life and more. It is though half of me were buried there (pg. 195).
The second woman in Wang Lungs life is Lotus. During the time of famine Wang Lung went to a teahouse where he met Lotus. At the time she was a harlot. The only side of Wang Lung she touched is lust. He was so captured by her beauty and smallness that every night he went in to her (pg. 130). Being a wealthy man Wang Lung bought her and took her home. She was there for Wang Lungs pleasure but, it wasnt easy having her in his home. She didnt do much and spent Wang Lungs money like water. Her beauty wouldnt last forever and Wang Lung knew that. For when O-lan died he realized how much he neglected her and how Lotus wasnt the same when he first met her.
The third woman in Wang Lungs life is his poor little fool. With his poor little fool Wang Lung finds comfort. She doesnt understand anything but, Wang Lung finds security in her innocence. During the hard time in the south she survived. The way she looked at him pleased Wang Lung. He didnt want to sell her because to the security she brought him. When Wang Lung is old he still has his poor little fool. He worries that when he dies there is no one to watch her and he wants her to die with him. She is always Wang Lungs shoulder to lean on when he has trouble.
Then there is the relationship between rich and poor. The rich and poor live totally different lives. The rich seem to be scared of the poor because they lock themselves behind their palaces inside gated towns. Whenever they see a poor person the rich avoid them. The rich have many servants and slaves. To the poor the rich look fat with oily faces and light skin because they have plenty of food to eat and they dont do any hard labor. On the other hand the poor have dark, rugged, thick skin because of all the long hours they spend laboring under the hot sun. The poor live in farming villages or in the city. Life for them is hard. The more children they have means the more mouths there are to feed. Poor children arent given any names because it isnt sure if theyll survive childhood. The poor face starvation, harsh winters, and poor farming conditions. Many sell their girl children or even eat their children. The poor also revolt against the rich. Pearl S. Buck shows good examples of the different lives of the rich and poor.
Relationships are clearly seen in The Good Earth. It is just one of the many themes in this novel. In the relationships above one can note that Wang Lung is a hardworking man that tries to make the best for his family.