The Good Earth | Study Guide

Pearl S. Buck

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The Good Earth | Chapter 9 | Summary



The rains still do not come. No one in the family moves much at all as they are all starving and without energy. Ching visits and gossips that Wang Lung's uncle and his family are eating, perhaps human flesh. Wang Lung decides his family should travel south or they will die. Ching feels bad about his previous theft and gives Wang Lung his last double handful of red beans. Wang Lung feeds them one by one to O-lan before she gives birth.

After O-lan goes into labor, Wang Lung hears one cry and then silence. He enters the room and O-lan claims the child was born dead. He understands O-lan killed the girl child in mercy for she would have no food to survive anyway.

Wang Lung's uncle comes with profiteers. They offer to buy his land for 1/20 of the regular price, and Wang Lung refuses. Instead O-lan sells them the furniture for two pieces of silver.


The situation is desperate, and Wang Lung decides it cannot get worse. It is safe for him to curse and spit on the gods, something he would normally be too afraid to do. Unfortunately it can and does get worse, so much so that O-lan ends up murdering their newborn. Though both can view this as a necessary evil, it is certainly something neither would have done in better circumstances.

Despite his grudging acceptance of O-lan's actions, Wang Lung still has some honor. He refuses to eat human flesh, a practice suspected of his much less honorable uncle. Instead of eating his newborn, he wants to give her a proper burial at the graveyard on his property. He lacks the strength to do so, however, and a wild dog eats the girl. For the first time Wang Lung is "wholly filled with despair."

A visit from his uncle finally inspires Wang Lung to go south. He refuses to sell his land to the greedy, oily men who are like vultures that his uncle brings. Wang Lung accuses his uncle of eating, but his uncle denies it in the same breath that he reveals his three youngest children are gone. It's not hard to imagine that he ate them. The uncle is so cowardly he hides as the vulture men take the bed from underneath his older brother.

But Wang Lung still owns his land. His land is what will keep hope alive within him in the dark times ahead.

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