As we wrap up this sweeping tale of China, I say once again—I love this book! For me, The Good Earth did what real literature is supposed to do—it opened me up. I was fascinated by the culture, the struggle, the moment in time that Pearl Buck has created.
I was so moved by O-lan's deep abiding love...by the tragedy of her life as a woman slave in China. Yet even in her tragedy, O-lan is a pure force of good—and, ironically, good luck.
In fact, once Wang Lung lets go of O-lan, it's as if his world falls apart. I knew that would happen, didn't you—karma come to roost. As Wang Lung becomes a wealthy landowner, ever more drawn to the "modern" symbols of money and power—a second, even a third "wife," a great house, sons who don't work the land—his luck seems to fail him. It's no coincidence, I believe, that Wang Lung's farms are destroyed by a flood of unparalleled proportions, that his home is occupied by the revolutionary army, that he is held hostage by an ungrateful and bitter cousin. Without O-lan's influence, even Wang Lung's own sons create war within the family and within Wang Lung's heart.
And what does he yearn for most? Peace. The kind of peace he had at his poorest, simplest time, when it was just Wang Lung and O-lan, in silent harmony, working the land.
Without O-lan, Wang Lung's love for the land doesn't sustain him. His life and his relationships are all empty. He has become a modern man and raised modern sons who have no love for him or his land. In his old age, Wang Lung is lonelier, further disconnected and regretful of the past. Does he know, as his life comes to its close, that O-lan was the closest thing to a partner he ever had?
Even if Wang Lung realizes the mistakes he's made, he's powerless to change them. Is it fate, the will of unmerciful, vengeful gods he has wrestled with through the whole novel, or his own doing? I believe Wang Lung's journey contains a powerful message for us all: If you sacrifice people and love to strive for riches outside yourself, in the end, all you have is a handful of earth.
The richness of the earth...of life...comes from love.