The Good Earth | Study Guide

Pearl S. Buck

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The Good Earth | Chapter 23 | Summary

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Summary

Wang Lung speaks to Lotus about his troubles with his older son, Nung En. She mentions a rich man, Liu, who used to visit the tea house, and that he has a daughter. Cuckoo agrees to act as a matchmaker, but Wang Lung asks her to wait so he can think about it.

Then he finds out Nung En has been going out at night with Wang Lung's uncle's son. His uncle's son points him to a whore at the apartments of the former House of Hwang. Wang Lung visits the whore, Yang, and tells her he will pay her to leave his son alone.

The bad influence of Wang Lung's uncle's son causes Wang Lung to confront his uncle and ask him to leave. However, his uncle shows him "a false beard of red hair." Wang Lung understands his uncle is a marauder and he can never throw him out. A plague of locusts threatens the harvest, but Wang Lung is able to save his best fields.

Analysis

In this chapter Wang Lung experiences corrupting threats to his life and his land. The first involves his uncle and his uncle's son. Both have caused him nothing but grief and "have no gratitude even in [their] idleness!" He would like nothing more than to throw them both out. Then he discovers his uncle is the reason bandits had never "come to his house and his lands." Without his uncle's protection, Wang Lung is sure to be attacked. This is an especially bitter pill for Wang Lung to swallow because his worst fears about his uncle's evil character are confirmed. And yet he can never bring his uncle to justice because he would more likely "be beaten for his unfilial conduct." He might even be killed by his uncle's associates in revenge.

His uncle and his uncle's son would seek to corrupt Wang Lung's virtue and his family's reputation. But the locusts would corrupt his livelihood by destroying his harvests. He works hard to save what he can. He also refuses to eat the dead locusts. This is because "to him they were a filthy thing because of what they had done to his land."

Wang Lung does acknowledge the locust threat kept him from being idle or thinking about his troubles. When Wang Lung needs soothing, he always turns to his fields. The "good land" does its "healing work" and brings him peace.

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