The Good Earth


Cast of Characters

Wang Lung

Wang Lung serves as the protagonist of The Good Earth. Although he begins as a poor farmer, Wang Lung’s fortune waxes and wanes throughout the text. He marries a slave named O-lan, who was once owned by the powerful Hwang family. Wang Lung often feels torn between moral piety and the decadent temptations of the world around him. He is a complicated protagonist; often, readers find themselves torn between admiring Wang Lung’s love of his land and finding themselves disgusted at the way he lusts for women and money. Within the character of Wang Lung, traditional values and modern conveniences find themselves juxtaposed. At times, Wang Lung sincerely values family life; he shows tender moments in which he dutifully cares for O-lan and his children. However, Wang Lung cannot resist the temptation of taking a concubine with bound feet; soon, he directs all of his attention to his new concubine instead of his faithful wife. Wang Lung cannot resist the temptation of anything that will boost his wealth and status. He especially wants to become wealthier than the Hwang family. Acquiring their house gives Wang Lung the satisfaction that he has finally succeeded in the world.

However, at the end of his life, Wang Lung returns to his love of family and his love of the land. He is finally able to see how much the land and his family mean to him. Unfortunately, his sons have been affected by his worldly pleasures and do not share any of his appreciation.


O-lan is a former slave and the wife of Wang Lung. O-lan was sold to the Hwang family before she was a teenager. However, she later marries Wang Lung and becomes a wife and mother. Although she adores him, Wang Lung’s affection for her wanes over time. He is disgusted by her large feet that were never bound. Still, she remains patient with her husband and children. O-lan represents many women who lived with traditional Chinese values; she tirelessly works for the benefit of her husband, but...

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Essays About The Good Earth