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The protagonist of The Good Earth, Wang
Lung begins the novel as a poor, simple young farmer forced to marry
a slave, and ends it as a wealthy patriarch with enough money and
influence to own concubines. Though he gains a fortune, Wang partially
loses his connection to the earth, his simple piety, and his ability
to participate in the old traditions that have given his life meaning.
His success is, therefore, a mixed blessing.
Throughout the novel, Wang’s character is essentially
defined by two contrasting and even contradictory traits. The first
trait is his love of the land, which enables his piety, his good
sense, his frugality, his work ethic, and his love of family. The
second trait is his desire for wealth and status. Though Wang’s
love of the land keeps his heart pure for much of the novel, his
acquisitiveness and desire for status eventually sullies his character
and darkens his actions. Though in the end Wang’s moral sense causes
him to repent his separation from the land, he never quite loses
his tendency to desire wealth and status, and he passes on this
tendency to his sons. Consequently, in his old age, he is doomed
to watch them repeat the mistakes of the Hwangs and sever their
connection from the land that created their fortune.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Good Earth!