The Good Earth

by: Pearl S. Buck

Chapter 1

Buck represents traditional Chinese culture, including the inferior position accorded to women, as objectively as possible. Buck, a lifelong feminist, does not overtly criticize the traditional role of Chinese women, but she is frank in her depiction of the difficulties women endured because of that traditional role. Her depiction of O-lan’s experiences makes these difficulties clear. Like O-lan, Chinese women had no real rights, no voice in choosing their spouses, and no means of meeting their husbands before the day of their marriage. The early interactions between O-lan and Wang Lung show that some women lived in constant fear. Although Wang Lung treats her kindly, carrying the heavier burdens and buying her fresh spring peaches, O-lan is filled with fear because she does not know what to expect from him next. And, as Buck subtly indicates, O-lan has endured unpleasantness from men. When Wang Lung wakes her to take her to bed on their wedding night, O-lan instinctively defends herself from a blow before realizing that it is her husband waking her. This behavior indicates that O-lan was probably physically abused as a slave, also a common practice in traditional Chinese culture.