The Good Earth | Study Guide

Pearl S. Buck

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The Good Earth | Chapter 22 | Summary

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Summary

Working on his land cures Wang Lung of his lovesickness. He lies down on the land and refuses to take a bath before visiting Lotus, despite her complaints. Yet he is proud to have her, as men in town mention his possession of her with envy. His status grows, allowing him to lend money out at interest and settle disputes in the town.

Wang Lung turns his attention to his oldest son, Nung En, who has become "petulant and moody." When it comes out that he has skipped school, Wang Lung beats him with bamboo. He decides he must find a wife for Nung En.

Analysis

"The health of the earth spread into his flesh" and restored Wang Lung's virtue. His love for the earth kept him from sliding down further into the kind of decadence that destroyed the House of Hwang. He goes back to his roots: farming, getting dirt on his skin, and eating garlic. When Lotus objects to these ways, he no longer cares to please her. He says, "Now you see that your lord is but a farmer and you a farmer's wife!" She disagrees, saying, "A farmer's wife I am not, be you what you like!" This is significant because she is rejecting the virtuous, humble life of the "good earth." She will always be a symbol of Wang Lung's temptation into a life of decadence and the corrupting power of wealth. This point is emphasized by showing how when Wang Lung returns to the earth, his hands regained the calluses of hard work. They were once made soft by the "idleness of love."

Nung En does not benefit from the healing power of working the earth. When Wang Lung was a lad, he did not have time to be melancholy. But O-lan recognizes wealth has corrupted her son. "But he is like a young lord," she says, "and he is idle in the house." Wang Lung's pride will not allow him to command his son to labor. He decides the best solution to occupy his son is to find him a good wife.

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