The Good Earth


Symbols and Themes


Themes are the central topics of the work.

Man’s Connection to the Land

As the title suggests, The Good Earth primarily deals with how man connects with the earth. Throughout Wang Lung’s life, his earth and land signify power and possible status. However, he learns that like life, the land is part of a grander cycle that ultimately cannot be controlled. Sometimes the land floods, famine occurs, or the land cannot provide. Conversely, other times the land is plentiful, and the harvest provides more than enough for Wang Lung and his family.

Wang Lung’s connection with the land signifies that despite his shortcomings, Wang Lung is good and moral. Unlike the Hwang family, who use hired labor and seem lazy compared to those who farm, Wang Lung’s family works hard alongside the land. He and O-lan know that if they revere the land, they will be rewarded.

Buck posits Wang Lung’s respect of the land within the context of traditional Chinese culture. His love of the land also represents his reverence of his elders and things past. However, as money enters the picture, Wang Lung finds himself becoming more and more like the greedy Hwang family. As he ages, Wang Lung returns to his love of the land and aches when his sons do not cultivate the same respect for the land he loves.

Treatment and Oppression of Women

Although he is not always outwardly cruel to O-lan, Wang Lung’s treatment of his wife shows that he does respect her as much as he should. He treats her marginally better than she was treated as a slave at the House of Hwang, but he does not treat her as an equal. He often chastises her because her feet are not bound, and he is quick to toss her aside when Lotus comes into his life. Though O-lan has given up her needs and her life to take care of the family and the land, Wang Lung often finds himself irritated with her.

The book suggests that female...

Sign up to continue reading Symbols and Themes >

Essays About The Good Earth