Notes on The Good Earth Themes

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The Good Earth Topic Tracking: Earth

Chapter 2

Earth 1: There is a prevailing sense that the earth is the provider of all basic things needed to sustain life. There is also the sense that the earth is the place where man rises from and ultimately returns to by the end of his life. These sentiments are established from the very beginning of the novel. O-lan and Wang Lung work the land together harmoniously, both having a deep reverence for the land.

Chapter 5

Earth 2: When Wang Lung hears that the Hwang family wishes to sell land, he is shocked. Because land is directly connected with life, he cannot imagine parting with it and is surprised to hear that the Hwangs would sell it.

Chapter 6

Earth 3: When he first buys a piece of land from the Hwang family, Wang Lung is ecstatic. But when he realizes that to the great house, the land does not mean much, Wang Lung has an intense motivation to accumulate as much land as possible.

Chapter 8

Earth 4: During the famine, to Wang Lung, keeping the fields alive is just as important, if not more, as keeping his own family alive; the destruction of the land means the fall of his own family. When O-lan tells him that the plants must go dry if the children are to have anything to eat, Wang Lung replies that the children must starve if the plants die.

Chapter 9

Earth 5: When his uncle tries to get him to sell his land, Wang Lung cries out in protest that he will never sell the land that is man's birthplace as well as his burial place.

Chapter 11

Earth 6: Thus, when Wang Lung and his family go to the southern city during the famine, Wang Lung continually yearns for the land. Although life in the city is hard and agonizing, the thought that his land is back home waiting for him brings him peace and comfort.

Chapter 12

Earth 7: When Wang Lung learns that his second son has stolen a piece of meat from a woman, he is in despair because his sons are growing up as thieves in the city. He tells himself that they must go back to the land because city life is corrupting and evil. There is a sense that the land is where innocence and honesty reside.

Chapter 13

Earth 8: Wang Lung's father, like Wang Lung, also cherishes an unwavering faith in the land. When Wang Lung yearns for the land, wanting to return to it, the father understands him well. He tells Wang Lung that there were times in his life when he also had to leave the land. When Wang Lung reminds his father that he always returned, the old man simply replies that it was because there was the land.

Chapter 14

Earth 9: In the southern city, Wang Lung labors like many other desperate men in the village of huts, but the thought of his land makes him feel different from all the other people. He belongs to the land, not to the city, and certainly not to the downtrodden group of poor laborers.

Earth 10: Wang Lung is always devoted to his land. When other men talking about doing different things with money, Wang Lung talks of buying land from which to reap harvests. Others ridicule him for it, but he is resolute, not minding their scorn for him.

Earth 11: The city becomes increasingly restless, and Wang Lung sees many people shouting in front of a large crowd in the streets. One day, a man is talking about how the rich people and the capitalists are killing the poor commoners. Initially, Wang Lung is interested in this talk, but quickly loses interest when the man disregards the importance of the land. To Wang Lung, land is more valuable than anything because it is always constant. It is something that can never be taken away from him unlike food or money.

Earth 12: When people in the city become fearful, the city life becomes more and more unbearable to Wang Lung who constantly yearns for the land. He even thinks seriously about selling his daughter if only it would enable him to return to his land.

Chapter 15

Earth 13: When Wang Lung and his family finally do return to the land, Wang Lung cannot part from it nor can he stop thinking about it. Wanting to be alone with his land, Wang Lung spends many days planning and thinking about what to plant.

Chapter 16

Earth 14: Wang Lung is not the only character in the book who knows the value of the land. Even Cuckoo, the slave who sells him the Hwang land, tells him that the reason for the fall of the Hwang family was the family's heedlessness to the land.

Chapter 22

Earth 15: Wang Lung forgets the land for awhile when he is sick in love with Lotus. When Lotus comes to his house, he is plagued by various domestic problems, but when the waters in the fields recede and Wang Lung is able to work his land, he is immediately healed of his sickness. Earth is a healing agent for Wang Lung.

Chapter 23

Earth 16: Wang Lung is so attached to his land that despite the threat his bandit uncle poses to his family, he cannot move to town for fear of living without his land close by.

Earth 17: When Wang Lung is burdened by troubles in his household, he turns to the land for comfort. After he has worked on the land, he immediately feels better. When the locusts threaten to destroy his crops, Wang Lung works on his land for seven consecutive days. It is exhausting, but healing at the same time.

Chapter 26

Earth 18: O-lan also acknowledges and respects the earth. As she lies dying, O-lan tells Wang Lung that he must not sell the land in his futile attempts to cure her. She will die sometime, but the land will always be there, even after her death. It is forever constant.

Chapter 28

Earth 19: Wang Lung is always reluctant to part with his land. When his eldest son suggests that the family go live in what used to be the great House of Hwang, Wang Lung initially dismisses the suggestion, reminding his unappreciative son that if it had not been for the land, the family would have starved and the son himself would not have become a lord.

Chapter 29

Earth 20: Even after having moved to the house in town, Wang Lung still returns to the land everyday to walk around.

Chapter 34

Earth 21: Over the years, Wang Lung ages and changes, but one thing remains within him - his consideration and never failing love for the land. Although he leaves it for awhile after having built his fortune, he always returns to the land every spring.

Earth 22: The last scene of the book is a poignant one in which Wang Lung hysterically yells at his two sons when he overhears them talking about selling the land. He is appalled and distressed, unable to control his tears at the mention of selling the land. He scolds his sons, telling them that it will be the end of the family if they begin to sell the land. Land is where they have come from and where they must return. It is also the only constant thing that cannot be taken away.

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