Chapter 26 Notes from The Good Earth

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The Good Earth Chapter 26

O-lan lies dying for many months. In the meantime, Wang Lung and the family realize what a big presence she has been in their lives because no one knows what to do around the house. The old man is confused and impatient because O-lan no longer comes to him.

The only person who does not know anything is the eldest daughter who always smiles. One day Wang Lung and the two children forget to bring her in from outside and the poor fool is later found, crying and trembling. Wang Lung begins to scold his son and daughter, but remembers that they are only children carrying out adult responsibilities.

While O-lan lies dying, Wang Lung does not pay attention to the land, turning all the affairs over to Ching's care. Winter comes, and during the cold season, Wang Lung sits by O-lan, warming her bed with fire. O-lan protests that it is too expensive, but Wang Lung cries that he will sell all of his land if it will make her better. But O-lan says calmly in return: "I must die-sometime anyway. But the land is there after me." Chapter 26, pg. 185

Topic Tracking: Earth 18

Because he knows that O-lan will die soon, Wang Lung buys two good coffins for her and his father. Wang Lung sits by O-lan day after day, but they do not talk much. She is often faint, murmuring various random things. When she does this, Wang Lung takes her hand and strokes it, but is sad and tortured because he can never love her. Rather, he notices how ugly O-lan is and cannot help being repulsed. Because of this, however, Wang Lung is especially kind to O-lan. Even when he goes to visit Lotus, he is not at ease, always thinking about O-lan.

On some days, O-lan is more clear-headed than she is on others. One day, she calls for Cuckoo and tells her that although in the great house Cuckoo was a beautiful favorite of the Old Lord, she has been a man's wife, bearing him sons. O-lan tells Wang Lung that after her death, neither Cuckoo nor Lotus should be allowed to enter her room and touch her things.

Near the New Year, O-lan is suddenly better, and tells Wang Lung that preparations need to be made for the New Year. She asks him to call the maid, who is betrothed to the first son, for she will teach the girl what to do. The daughter-in-law comes in a sedan chair with her mother and an old servant. Wang Lung is happy that she seems dutiful and proper, and O-lan is also very happy which is comforting to Wang Lung.

O-lan also asks to be allowed to see her eldest son be wed to the daughter-in-law before she dies. She tells him that she wants to die, knowing that Wang Lung will have a grandson. Because Wang Lung wishes to make O-lan happy, he agrees and sends for his son from the city to be married. Cuckoo makes all the needed preparations for the marriage feast, and many villagers are invited.

Wang Lung's son returns home the night before his marriage. In the two years that he has been away from home, he has grown tall and good-looking; he is a polished, well-dressed lord of a wealthy family. Wang Lung is extremely proud to see his son this way. Upon arrival, the son is sad to see his mother ill.

The maid is taken to Lotus' chambers where Lotus, Cuckoo, and the uncle's wife prepare her by washing and dressing her on the day of the marriage. The men of the family and the guests are in the middle room, and the daughter-in-law comes in followed by the eldest son with his two brothers. Wang Lung's old father, understanding what is happening, laughs happily to the amusement of all the guests. The son seems pleased with his wife, and Wang Lung, in return, is happy that he has chosen the right maid for him. The son and the daughter-in-law bow to the old father, to Wang Lung, and then to O-lan. She sits up, waiting for them, and Wang Lung thinks that she will be healthier again. After bowing to her, the couple sits by O-lan's bed, drinking the marriage wine.

Feasting soon begins, and there are food and people everywhere. There are people Wang Lung does not even know, for many have come from far to attend the ceremony. O-lan wishes the doors opened so that she will be able to hear and smell everything. After the feast, however, O-lan becomes tired and faint. She tells the son and his wife to look after Wang Lung, the old father, and the poor fool, but no one else. She makes it clear that they are not bound in duty to Lotus. After, O-lan falls in and out of consciousness, murmuring things to herself and turning her head. Wang Lung sits alone beside her, but cannot help being repulsed by O-lan's dull, ugly face. For a short moment, O-lan fixes her eyes on Wang Lung and gazes at him for some time as though she does not know who he is. Soon, her head droops, and she is dead.

After O-lan dies, Wang Lung asks his uncle's wife to prepare the body for burial. Wang Lung goes to make the necessary preparations. He goes to see a geomancer for a lucky burial date and rents a temple to store the coffin until the time of the burial. As if making amends for O-lan after her death, Wang Lung does everything he can for her. The whole family goes into mourning, and the eldest son moves into O-lan's room with his new wife. Wang Lung permanently moves into the inner court.

One morning, the second daughter goes into the room of Wang Lung's father to find the old man dead. Wang Lung decides to bury O-lan and his father together on the same day. Placing the coffin of his father in the middle room until the burial date, Wang Lung grieves for his father because the old man lived so long, barely alive.

On the set burial date, Taoist priests come to chant for the dead. Wang Lung does not mind that the land he will bury O-lan and his father in is a good piece of land because being buried in the family's own land is what a proper, established family does. After chanting, Wang Lung and his family, including the poor fool and Lotus, dressed in robes of white sackcloth, are carried to the burial site in sedan chairs. As O-lan's coffin is first lowered into the ground to await the old man's, the others weep loudly. Wang Lung does not cry because he thinks that what has happened is inevitable. After the coffins have been buried, Wang Lung walks home alone, wishing that he had not taken the pearls away from O-lan. He tells himself: "There in that land of mine is buried the first good half of my life and more. It is as though half of me were buried there, and now it is a different life in my house." Chapter 26, pg. 195. Wang Lung weeps and wipes his tears away like a child.

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