The Good Earth

Talk about the way Wang lung thinks about and treats her sons. how do you feel this shows either cultural or generational differences? Do you feel his sons deserve the treatment they got?

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"Now, evil, idle sons—sell the land! . . . It is the end of a family—when they begin to sell the land . . . Out of the land we came and into it we must go—and if you will hold your land you can live—no one can rob you of land. . . . If you sell the land, it is the end.

Wang Lung makes this speech in Chapter 34, at the end of the novel. He pleads with his sons not to sell his land, and although they assure him they will not, they smile over his head, silently amused at their own deception. Wang Lung’s speech is a final plea to honor man’s relationship with the land. He attempts with one last speech to make up for the damage his wealth and decadence have done to his sons’ perception of the earth’s importance. Wang emphasizes again the earth’s permanence and its place of central importance in human affairs, but by this point the reader knows his sons will never listen, so that Wang’s final words, “If you sell the land, it is the end,” grimly and clearly predict the impending downfall of the family Wang’s hard work and piety has made rich."

Wang Lung's relationship with his son, for instance, captures the mix of pride and shame he feels at his family's newfound luxary. His son is not a man of the soil -- he is soft, white and elegant, whereas Wang Lung looks like a peasant. Wang Lung is proud of his son's erudition, and even secretly thrilled that his son has a rich boy's privilege to be moody and melancholic. But his son does not balance these tendencies the way that Wang Lung does. He doesn't have a drive to work that off-sets this self-indulgence. Is there any wonder that Lotus, who has only known indulgent ways, feels more comfortable with the son than with the garlic-breathed father?

The son's decline into drunkenness and prostitution thus represents a generational change that seems inevitable if Wang Lung's success continues. His sons will never develop the work ethic that he inherited from his ancestors (notice that even the ancestral gods have receded in this section, taken-for-granted rather than honored). They live more like the spoiled lords of the Great House.


Wang Lung is troubled by another son. The youngest son wants to go away and be a soldier. He has apparently talked with all the soldiers quartered in the house and has heard how they are fighting to free the land. Even though Pearl Buck never says it, all the implications are that these soldiers are part of the Communist forces. Wang Lung has been horrified to hear his youngest son talk in such a way about the land which has always been so sacred to him. But now that he is rich, he offers his son the choice of schools in the South or even the choice of one of the slaves as his mistress. This second offer shows how far Wang Lung has departed from his old ways as a farmer, when he condemned young lords for taking any slave at their whim. Now Wang Lung is doing the same thing until the youngest son maintains that none of the slaves are even worth looking at — unless it is Pear Blossom. A sudden jealousy is aroused in Wang Lung and he is left confused.