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Notes on Objects & Places from The Good Earth

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The Good Earth Objects/Places

Earth/ Land/ Field: Wang Lung's love for the earth is a chief driving force in his life. The only thing he loves with any constancy is the earth, and this is because the earth is constant as well. Unlike food or silver, the earth is something that can never be taken away from him. Wang Lung always keeps returning to his land, and yearns for it whenever he is away. It serves as a healing element for him whenever he has domestic troubles, and is the foundation upon which he has founded his great family.

Temple to the Earth God: The temple is on the western field, and it was built by Wang Lung's grandfather who was also a farmer. It is made of bricks and tiles. Under the roof of the temple, there are two small earthen figures. It is the Earth God and his mistress. They wear robes of red paper, and on a good New Year, they are given new robes. As a humble farmer, Wang Lung always remembers to pay respects to the god and his lady, but as a wealthy landlord, he becomes careless.

House of Hwang: This is where the great Hwang family dwells, and Wang Lung initially goes into the house to get O-lan who has been a slave in the family. Later, Wang Lung, as a man of fortune and land, rents the house to live there with his own family.

(Un)Bound feet: Wang Lung is disappointed and repulsed when he realizes that O-lan's feet are not bound. O-lan was sold to the great house as a child, and thus, her mother did not have the time to bind her feet. Later, O-lan insists on tightly binding the feet of their second daughter so that she may have small feet. The girl cries every night because of the pain. Lotus has small feet that have been bound.

Shantung: Shantung is the northern city where O-lan's parents came from to sell O-lan to the great house.

Dyed Eggs: Wang Lung dyes eggs in red dye to distribute to other villagers in honor of the birth of his first male child. Later, Wang Lung's son does the same when his first son is born.

Wang Lung's ox: The ox has been Wang Lung's field companion for many years, but must be killed during the famine to provide food for the family.

Firewagon (train): Wang Lung and his family pay to board a train, a firewagon, to travel south during the famine.

Public Kitchen: In the southern city, there are public kitchens where poor people pay a small fee to fill their bellies with white rice.

Ricksha: Wang Lung works as a ricksha puller in the southern city to earn money.

Anhwei: Anhwei is the name of Wang Lung's birthplace where the language is slow and deep.

Kiangsu: Kiangsu is the name of the city that Wang Lung and his family go to during the year of the famine. It is a city where people speak rapidly and foodstuffs are plentiful.

Village of huts: A village of huts forms along the wall of a great house in the southern city. The huts are inhabited by poor workers such as Wang Lung and his family who have come south as a result of the famine in the countryside.

Gold: Wang Lung is swept up by the mob of looting people when the gates of the great house are opened. He finds a frightened rich man, and demands gold from him. With this gold, Wang Lung is able to return home to his land.

Jewels: O-lan finds a small bag of jewels during the looting of the great house. Upon discovery, Wang Lung demands them from her, and with these, he buys more land from the Hwang family.

Pearls: O-lan willingly gives all the jewels to Wang Lung, but asks him to allow her to keep two pearls for herself. She keeps them in a small pouch between her breasts, but one day, Wang Lung takes them from her to give to Lotus. After O-lan's death, Wang Lung wishes that he had not taken the pearls from her.

Small School near the City Gate: Wang Lung is embarrassed by the fact that he is illiterate, and cannot make out any characters while doing business at the grain market. He wishes to see his sons become educated, and sends them to a small school near the city gate that is being kept by an old teacher who once failed the country examination.

Great Tea Shop in Town: It is a newly opened teashop whose owner is a man from the south. Wang Lung begins to frequent the place when he becomes idle as a result of not having any work to do on the land. At the teashop, Wang Lung meets Cuckoo who has become the keeper of the shop, and eventually Lotus who is one of the many beautiful girls working there.

Redbeards: This is the dangerous bandit group to which Wang Lung's uncle belongs. The men in this group roam around the northern countryside, destroying homes and killing people.

Locusts : One year, the sky turns black and a great roar fills the air as locusts fall from the sky to destroy the fields. Wang Lung and his laborers work furiously to destroy these insects, and succeed in saving the best of Wang Lung's fields.

Opium : When Wang Lung goes to the great House of Hwang to get O-lan, he sees the Old Mistress smoking opium. Later, in order to make his uncle and his uncle's wife powerless and 'undesiring,' he and his son devise a plan to give as much opium as possible to the couple. Wang Lung's uncle and his wife become haggard and sick as a result of excessive opium use.

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