The Good Earth

As O-lan dies, she bemoans her lack of beauty and says she is too ugly to be loved. Wang Lung feels guilty. What happens when she dies?

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O-lan dies slowly. As she stays in bed, Wang Lung realizes how crucial she had always been. Her absence creates confusion in the house for Wang Lung's father and children, who try to help but can't replace O-lan. Wang Lung stays by his wife's side while Ching oversees the harvests. He doesn't even visit Lotus, as thoughts of O-lan make it impossible for him to enjoy his time with her. At one point, seeing O-lan's suffering, Wang Lung says that if he could heal her he would give all his land. At this O-lan smiles and says that she must die, but the land will remain. Resigned to her fate, Wang Lung goes to buy O-lan a coffin. The shopkeeper talks him into buying two for a discount price, one for his father as well. O-lan is happy to hear that her husband has taken the time to prepare for her death.

As she dies, O-lan has nightmares. She speaks of her horrible time in the Great House. Wang Lung hears her with a complicated mix of pity and disgust -- she is a gruesome sight, and yet the mother of his children. One day O-lan requests that Cuckoo be brought to her room, and tells of how the Old Lord always considered Cuckoo beautiful and herself ugly. However, she says, O-lan, is now a successful man's wife and the mother of three sons, whereas Cuckoo is still a slave. Her insult enrages Cuckoo, but Wang Lung calms her by saying that O-lan is ill.

O-lan asks that her daughter-in-law, Liu's daughter, be brought to the house so that she can know her before she dies. The young woman appears obedient and correct in all she does, which pleases Wang Lung. Then O-lan asks that her eldest son come home to be married, after which she will die in peace. The son arrives and Cuckoo makes all the arrangements for the wedding feast. Upon seeing his son, now a man, Wang Lung forgets his past conflict and his heart swells with pride.

The day of the wedding, Wang Lung's aunt, Cuckoo and Lotus prepare the young maid for the ceremony. Wang Lung sees that his son is pleased with his choice of bride. They are wed and O-lan is happy. She tells her daughter-in-law that she must take care of her new husband, father and grandfather, and that she has no duty to anyone else in the house. Then, she falls into a fitful sleep and speaks again of her ugliness and her loyalty before dying.