The Good Earth | Study Guide

Pearl S. Buck

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The Good Earth | Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

Wang Lung visits his uncle's house to have a word with his uncle's wife about their daughter. Wang Lung perceives the daughter as bringing dishonor to the family because she is not yet married. His uncle's wife complains her husband has bad luck and no money to pay a dowry.

His uncle comes to visit and asks for money, something Wang Lung predicted would be a problem. He has to "lend" nine pieces of silver to his uncle or else his uncle will talk badly about him and his not supporting his elders. He is upset because he knows his uncle will simply gamble it all away. As he goes to retrieve the silver, Wang Lung mentions O-lan has borne another child. But this one is not worth a mention as she is only a "slave." Crows fly overhead and Wang Lung sees this as an "evil omen."

Analysis

This chapter illuminates both the Chinese custom of elder respect and also the problem of having extra wealth. Wang Lung's work ethic contrasts with that of his uncle's. Wang Lung and O-lan both work extremely hard for what they have. His uncle and his wife do not. Wang Lung openly accuses his uncle of "idling over a gambling table" and "letting the fields grow to weeds," among other sins. Wang Lung's uncle takes great offense at Wang Lung's angry tirade against him. The Sacred Edicts command "a man is never to correct an elder." So long as Wang Lung has nothing to give, his uncle will not bother with him. But as soon as he perceives Wang Lung has spare money, he can take advantage of the filial expectation that Wang Lung must take care of him or suffer shame.

Wang Lung's uncle's wife takes no personal responsibility for her family's poverty. She blames it on her husband's bad luck. "His destiny is evil and through no fault of his own," she says. "Heaven wills it." While it is plausible the earth has not treated Wang Lung's uncle's family kindly, they have not worked very hard either. They have brought much of their misfortune upon themselves.

Superstition is a powerful motivator for these characters, however. Wang Lung's uncle's wife blames her situation partly on bearing girls instead of boys. And when Wang Lung discovers his third child is a girl, "a sense of evil" strikes him. It is interesting to note Wang Lung's subsequent trials actually do begin shortly after the birth of his daughter. In Wang Lung's superstitious mind, the two are causally related, though it is clear to the reader any relation is simply coincidental.

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