The Good Earth | Study Guide

Pearl S. Buck

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The Good Earth | Chapter 26 | Summary

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Summary

O-lan does not die quickly. While she lies abed, it becomes quickly apparent how much she did around the house. Wang Lung sits by her side all winter, lighting a fire in a pot next to her to warm her. He buys her the best coffin and is tender toward her like never before.

During her lucid phases, she calls Cuckoo to her and rebukes her. She also asks Wang Lung to arrange the wedding between Nung En and Liu's daughter, Pomegranate Flower. Pomegranate Flower comes to live in Wang Lung's house, and O-lan approves of her. Cuckoo prepares for the wedding, and Nung En returns. The couple marries in a grand feast, and O-lan dies.

The entire family wears white in mourning, and then Wang Lung's father dies too. They have a funeral for both, and Wang Lung buries them in his good earth on his land.

Analysis

This chapter continues an exploration of the concept that only the beautiful are worthy of love. While Wang Lung sits next to O-lan's deathbed, he sees "into her heart" for the "first time." She sometimes mumbles things from her childhood, such as, "Well I know I am ugly and cannot be loved." Wang Lung cannot bear to hear this. He tries to show her tenderness. He does this even as he is ashamed that he feels none of the same "melting of the heart" he does with Lotus. He does not love O-lan's "stiff dying hand."

This chapter also shows that O-lan has come to terms with her lack of beauty. She calls Cuckoo to explicitly compare their destinies. "You were accounted beautiful," she tells Cuckoo, "but I have been a man's wife and I have borne him sons." Cuckoo derided O-lan for her lack of beauty, but O-lan declares she ended up with the better fate. After all Cuckoo is "still a slave."

O-lan's last words also indicate she knows her role as a wife and mother makes her more valuable to Wang Lung than Lotus. About herself, she says, "If I am ugly, still I have borne a son." And about Lotus, she says, "How can that one ... care for him as I do? Beauty will not bear a man sons!" After her funeral Wang Lung wishes "he had not taken the two pearls from O-lan." He can no longer "bear to see Lotus put them in her ears again." This is his realization that his betrayal of O-lan was wrong. He knows O-lan was "the first good half of my life" and that half of him is buried now in his land, too.

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