The Good Earth


Chapter 1

Chapter One Summary

Wang Lung is a young farmer who is ready to take a wife for marriage. His father meets with the Hwang family to see if they will agree to give up a slave. They are a prosperous family, so Wang Lung finds them a suitable source for a daughter-in-law. However, Wang Lung’s father requests that the slave be an unattractive woman. He fears that if the slave is too good-looking, she may have already lost her virginity. Wang Lung understands his father’s request, but he desires his future wife to have good skin and be without a cleft palate.

Before his wedding, Wang Lung washes and employs a man to shave his face and head. He buys supplies for the wedding, including food and incense to please the gods. As he tries to enter the Hwangs’ gate, the gatekeeper makes Wang Lung pay him silver before he can enter.

Once inside the House of Hwang, Wang Lung must bow to the Old Mistress. As she smokes opium, The Old Mistress calls for O-lan, who is the future bride of Wang Lung. Although O-lan’s skin is smooth, Wang Lung finds himself disappointed that his future bride does not have bound feet. The Old Mistress informs Wang Lung that the family bought O-lan when she was ten; she was purchased during a famine year. The Old Mistress confirms that O-lan is a virgin.

Wang Lung carries O-lan’s box for her on their way home. The box is heavy, but Wang Lung doesn’t mind. He buys peaches for his new wife. When they reach his home, Wang Lung burns his incense to the gods. Wang Lung’s father is not pleased with the price for the wedding feast and supplies, but he looks forward to the guests. O-lan cooks a meal for the feast, but she wants to protect her modesty. Therefore, she does not allow any of the men to see her. This makes Wang Lung very happy.

Chapter One Analysis

In the first chapter, Buck sets up the contrast between the wealthy Hwang family and Wang Lung. Wang Lung has very little money or status, but the materialistic Hwang...

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Essays About The Good Earth