The Good Earth | Study Guide

Pearl S. Buck

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The Good Earth | Chapter 31 | Summary

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Summary

War comes near, and soldiers stream into town. Wang Lung's uncle's son is among the soldiers, and he brings his comrades to live with Wang Lung. To protect them, Wang Lung puts all the women and children in the inner courts. This does not stop Wang Lung's uncle's son from bothering them.

Cuckoo suggests giving the uncle's son a slave for a mistress to keep him away from the other women. Wang Lung lets him choose. But when his uncle's son selects Pear Blossom, Wang Lung saves her from this fate. Another slave girl volunteers in Pear Blossom's place. She conceives a child by Wang Lung's uncle's son before he leaves.

Analysis

Despite all the hardships Wang Lung has lived through, he has never seen war. Now, gray soldiers pour "like evil filthy water" into his courts, "filling every corner and crack." He has to bear them because if he does not, they will kill everyone. Because of the fuzziness of temporal landmarks in The Good Earth, it is hard to pinpoint which historical war Wang Lung's uncle's son is fighting in. But based on his third son's statement in Chapter 32, the soldiers are most likely Communist.

Wang Lung's uncle's son reveals more of his unsavory characteristics by commandeering and terrorizing Wang Lung's household. He walks about "at will, carrying his knife shining and glittering and open in his hand." He insults Nung En's wife by calling her a "cold fish." He admires Nung Wen's wife, dubbing her "red radish" and "red meat." He declares he'd rather eat red meat than cold fish. This exchange further alienates the brothers and their wives. The uncle's son also calls Lotus "Old Mistress." This is an unflattering comparison to the opium-corrupted Old Mistress Hwang. It is especially acute as Lotus takes pleasure in the name and laughs "deep and gurgling, out of her fat throat."

Cuckoo suggests Wang Lung's uncle's son is "given a slave for pleasure" while he is around. The offer touches on the unsavory practice of forcing slave girls into sex. Wang Lung saves Pear Blossom from this fate. This is further evidence that his continued close connection to his land has kept Wang Lung from becoming a corrupted lord.

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