The Good Earth | Study Guide

Pearl S. Buck

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The Good Earth | Chapter 4 | Summary



The day after his son is born, Wang Lung goes into town to make his purchases. He also lights incense to appease the earth gods.

O-lan continues to work the fields, laying the baby on a blanket when she does. Unlike his uncle, Wang Lung is frugal and smart. He sells his harvest later in the winter when people pay more. He does not like to visit with other villagers because he does not want others to ask to borrow from his plenty. Wang Lung and O-lan hide their extra silver in the wall.


As he walks around town, Wang Lung feels "there was never a man so filled with good fortune as he." But he instantly regrets his lack of humility. He is superstitious that the gods of the earth might not protect him from "malignant spirits who could not endure the happiness of mortals." At this point in the novel Wang Lung is still able to keep his pride in check, and he continues to be blessed. The harvest is good, and O-lan is sensible and thrifty.

Wang Lung's uncle's wife is O-lan's polar opposite. Where O-lan mends and repairs, the uncle's wife is "forever clamoring for sweet food and ... for new shoes bought in the town." This woman is described as fat, lazy, and foolish. It is obvious that O-lan is considered more virtuous for her down-to-earth qualities. Wang Lung, too, is unlike his uncle, who must sell his harvest sometimes even as it stands in the field.

O-lan and Wang Lung's son are his treasures, which is clear when they are compared to his precious land. The two are "as brown as the soil" and look like "figures made of earth." The immense value of the rain is described as "silver lines."

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