Even in His Rise to Power, Wang Lung Respected and Loved the Earth
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In traditional Chinese culture, there has always been a strong connection with the earth. The earth gives life and helps to sustain it, and in the end the earth is where you return. For Wang Lung, this was a concept easily grasped. He loved the land, and even in his rise to power, his connection to it remained. When he was most at peace, he was working the land. The times he grew restless were those when he was unable to farm.
Often with the gain of monetary wealth, the decline of morality follows closely behind. This is magnified in the lives of Wang Lung’s three sons. The eldest son becomes obsessed with women and is eager to satisfy the desires of the flesh. For the rich, this is a common thing. Once you tire of the beautiful maid that has been given as your wife, once she grows fat and ugly from the children she bore you, it is acceptable if not admirable and encouraged to take on another. The middle son is an excellent business man. He is learned, unlike his father, and sent to be apprenticed as a grain merchant. Unlike his older brother, who is obsessed with keeping up appearances and seeming as a dignified scholar, this man would rather keep his money hoarded. As the eldest brother prepares a home befit for a dynasty, he complains that too much silver is being spent. While it is good to be frugal, greed is not an admirable trait.
For some time there was not much to be said about the youngest son. He was quiet and seemingly content to be working the land as his father did and the father before him. Only in the final chapters do we find that he too wishes to be a learned man like his brothers. It would be hard to blame him for wanting such a thing seeing what they have gained: women, power, and wealth. Only in the final mo...
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All of the silver and gold never brought Wang Lung happiness. These things provided security, but never true happiness or the peace that he so wished for. If he were to pick the happiest time in his life it would probably be when he was still in the old house and farming his land that was just bursting with good fruits and vegetation. In this moment he was content because he had just enough. He was able to feed his children well, provide for his father, and store and sell the food they did not need.
There are many great lessons to be learned from The Good Earth. When and if you rise to power and money, you must always remember, if only in the back of your mind how you came to that place. Wealth comes and goes but a hard worker will always make a good life for himself. And what better than the earth where life itself thrives than to give you a prosperous life?