The Good Earth | Study Guide

Pearl S. Buck

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The Good Earth | Chapter 2 | Summary

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Summary

Wang Lung enjoys his new married life. O-lan takes not only hot water to his father but also brings him tea. He knows he cannot afford to drink tea every day, but he accepts the tea. He takes this as a sign she likes him.

In the next months Wang Lung works as he always has. But he also has the luxury of O-lan tending to his house. Soon enough she lacks tasks to do at home and joins him in the fields. He likes working with her. After some time she announces she is with child. They return to the house to tell Wang Lung's father. He is pleased, as is Wang Lung.

Analysis

When O-lan asks if she should bring Wang Lung's father tea, Wang Lung tells her his first lie. He knows his father would disapprove of being served tea, as he sees it as wasteful. So Wang Lung claims it only makes his cough worse. The question also attacks his burgeoning pride as he knows O-lan lived in a great house where even the slaves might have tea.

Possessing a tremendous work ethic, O-lan proves herself to be a great asset to Wang Lung. In addition to her cooking, cleaning, and mending, she goes out to collect twigs and leaves for fuel. She picks up droppings from animals on the main road for fertilizer. She also makes sure the ox is well cared for. Wang Lung feels prosperous to have her, and he wonders about her inner life. However, he is ashamed for his curiosity. The culture of the time dictated that females were mere slaves, inferior to men, and not to be much considered.

Despite his shame he is pleased to have her with him in the fields. They connect with each other on a basic level by connecting to the earth. Wang Lung works without conscious thought. In their work "there was only this perfect sympathy of movement, of turning this earth of theirs over." At this point "the earth lay rich and dark," and Wang Lung muses his forefathers "each had his turn at this earth." The two worked on "producing the fruit of this earth." This is both literal and also figurative in the sense that O-lan soon declares her pregnancy. When Wang Lung's father learns this, he laughs and declares that "the harvest is in sight!"

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