The Good Earth | Study Guide

Pearl S. Buck

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The Good Earth | Chapter 27 | Summary

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Summary

Ching tells Wang Lung there will be floods, and there are. Many people die, and many people go south. Wang Lung's family is fine, and he also feeds his laborers though they are idle. Because his uncle is a Redbeard, Wang Lung must continue to give him silver for whatever he wants. So his uncle and his wife and son eat meat even when everyone else goes without. Nung En notices and accuses Wang Lung of favoritism, but Wang Lung confides in him about the villainy of his uncle. Nung En suggests neutralizing their threat by plying them with opium.

Wang Lung has to send his second daughter away to Liu's house to protect her from his uncle's lustful son. While in town he buys six ounces of opium.

Analysis

During this time of flooding and famine, Wang Lung need not worry. He is rich and under his uncle's protection from bandits. Though times are harder than usual, no one in his care is in danger of starvation. O-lan was too humble to eat sugar and oil even to celebrate the birth of her firstborn son, Nung En. But Lotus is "not accustomed to" being without luxury. Therefore, Wang Lung gives it to her secretly. This detail fits in with the theme of the corrupting power of wealth. It could be argued Lotus has allowed herself to become spoiled in a way O-lan never did.

Early on in the novel opium is presented as a symbol of decay and the corrupting power of wealth. Old Mistress Hwang's addiction was one of the reasons money flew so freely from that house. It was one of the reasons for the House of Hwang's downfall. Wang Lung is at first reluctant to bring opium into his house, mostly because of its cost. But when his uncle's son threatens his own daughter, Wang Lung must take action. Nung En's plan to render his great-uncle's family harmless is crafty and not altogether moral. Wang Lung seems to decide for the lesser of two evils.

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