The Good Earth

Characters

  • Wang Lung – poor, hard-working farmer born and raised in a small village of Anhwei. He is the protagonist of the story and suffers hardships as he accumulates wealth and the outward signs of success. He has a strong sense of morality and adheres to Chinese traditions such as filial piety and duty to family. He believes that the land is the source of his happiness and wealth. By the end of his life he has become a very successful man and possesses a large plot of land which he buys from the House of Hwang. As his lifestyle changes he begins to indulge in the pleasures his wealth can buy—he purchases a concubine named Lotus. In Pinyin, Wang's name is written "Wang Long."[4] Wang is likely to be the common surname "Wang" represented by the character 王.
  • O-Lan – first wife, formerly a slave in the house of Hwang. A woman of few words, she is uneducated but nonetheless is valuable to Wang Lung for her skills, good sense, and indomitable work ethic. She is considered plain or ugly; her feet are not bound. Wang Lung sometimes mentions her wide lips. Nevertheless, she is hardworking and self-sacrificing. Towards the end of the book, O-Lan dies due to failing organs. When she lies on her deathbed, Wang Lung pays all of his attention to her and purchases her coffin not long before her death.
  • Wang Lung's father – An old, avaricious senior who seems to only want his tea, food, and grandsons. He desires grandchildren to comfort him in his old age and becomes exceedingly needy and senile as the novel progresses. He has strong and out-dated morals.
  • The Poor Fool – first daughter and third child of O-lan and Wang Lung, whose mental handicap was caused by severe starvation during her infancy. As the years go by, Wang Lung grows very fond of her. She mostly sits in the sun and twists a piece of cloth. By the time of Wang Lung's death, she was to be cared for by Pear Blossom.
  • Second Baby Girl – Killed immediately after delivery.
  • Third Baby Girl – The twin of the youngest son. She is described as a pretty child with an almond-colored face and thin red lips. Her feet were bound and she often complained about the pain. She was betrothed to a merchant's son at 13 due to the harassment of Wang Lung's nephew.
  • Nung En (Eldest Son) – he was a fat, goodly, respectful boy who Wang Lung was very proud of. He grew up as a scholar and went through a rebellious phase before Wang Lung sent him south for three years to complete his education. He grows up to be a large and handsome man, and he marries the daughter of the local grain merchant, Liu. As his father's position continues to rise, Nung En becomes increasingly enamored with wealth and he wants to live a showy and rich life.
  • Nung Wen (Middle Son) – Wang Lung's responsible son. He has a shrewd mind for business but he's against his father's traditional ethics. He is described as crafty, thin, and clever, and he's far more thrifty than Wang Lung's eldest son. He becomes a merchant and weds a village daughter.
  • Youngest Son – Put in charge of the fields while the middle and eldest sons go to school. He grows up to be a demanding person and runs away to become a soldier, against his father's wishes.
  • Eldest Son's Wife – Daughter of a grain merchant and a city woman who hates the middle son's wife. She is brought to the house before O-Lan's death and is deemed proper and fit by the dying woman. Her first child is a boy.
  • Middle Son's Wife – A jolly rural woman. Hates the first son's wife. Her first child is a girl.
  • Wang Lung's Uncle – A sly, lazy man who is secretly one of the leaders of a band of thieves known as the Redbeards. He caused trouble for Wang Lung and others in the household for many years, until eventually Wang Lung gives him enough opium to keep him in a harmless stupor for the rest of his life. He is described as skinny, gaunt, and very self-defensive. He takes advantage of the tradition that requires younger generations to care for their elders, but completely disregards any moral obligation on himself.
  • Uncle's Wife – becomes a friend of Lotus; also becomes addicted to opium. Very fat, greedy and lazy.
  • Uncle's Son – Wild and lazy, leads Nung En into trouble and eventually leaves to become a soldier. Disrespectful and visits many concubines. Can be described as a sexual predator.
  • Ching – Wang Lung's faithful friend and neighbor. Dies from an accident in the fields because he was showing a fellow farmer how to work the fields. He is buried near the entrance to the family graveyard. Wang Lung plans to be buried nearest to him, but still on the family hill in the graveyard.
  • Lotus Flower – Much-spoiled concubine and former prostitute. Eventually becomes old, fat, and less pretty from the tobacco and fattening foods. Helps arrange the eldest son's and youngest daughter's marriages.
  • Cuckoo – Formerly a slave in the house of Hwang. Becomes madame of the "tea house", eventually becomes servant to Lotus. Hated by O-Lan because she was cruel to her in the Hwang House.
  • Pear Blossom – Bought as a young girl, she serves as a slave to Lotus. At the end of the novel she becomes Wang Lung's concubine because she says she prefers the quiet devotion of old men to the fiery passions of young men.

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