Like the land itself, Pearl S. Buck's beautiful language rises and falls with so many layers and nuances in The Good Earth! It's a simple book, but deep and rich, don't you think? If you're reading along with our Book Club calendar, you've just traveled through the heart of the novel. You've seen the dark side and the redemption of the land and the man, Wang Lung. And you've felt, no doubt, the wisdom and poignant nobility of the woman, O-lan.
If you're a woman reading this, you've probably felt what I often feel when reading historical genres. Can you imagine being born in pre-revolutionary China—only 100 years ago—and automatically being considered worthless? Weren't we born at the right time?!
It's ironic, but no surprise to me, that O-lan's instincts and experience—even the very jewels she retrieves from the great house in the city—are what ultimately make Wang Lung the rich landowner he becomes. In O-lan I feel such an abiding, humble dignity. The real jewels O-lan offers to Wang Lung are her enduring faithfulness, her insight, her strength. She is forever honest and true, much like the land that Wang Lung belongs to.
Weren't you disappointed when Wang Lung strayed from the earth and from his wife? I knew no good could come of it...the karma for that had to catch up with him later. As a matter of fact, I think he is a heel for taking in the whore Lotus, even though it's the culturally acceptable thing to do.
Do you find it interesting how even today, when a spouse decides to fool around, they go through much of the "makeover process" Wang Lung went through—cutting off his traditional hair, getting new clothes, avoiding garlic and bathing with soap every day. The absolute nerve!
I was so disappointed and angry with him for asking O-lan to give back the two precious pearls she'd kept between her breasts—pearls she wanted to keep for the day when their youngest daughter might wed. But, in his lovesick rage, Wang Lung even turns against his daughter. "Why should that one wear pearls with her skin as black as earth? Pearls are for fair women!" (p.186) O-lan dutifully hands the jewels over and continues her laundry, not stopping to wipe her tears away.