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A Difference in Values
The House of Wang Lung rose in one generation from a family of poor farmers to a wealthy respected house in the novel The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. The dramatic change in social status causes the sons of Wang Lung to have different views and values from their father. His different treatment of each son also shapes each character. Although part of the same family the charachters demonstrate a difference in values. The father values the land, the youngest son values regognition, the middle son values wealth, and the eldest son values respect.
As a result of his impoverished upbringing, Wang Lung values the land more than anything else. His obsession with the land causes him to neglect his family. The youngest son receives no attention and Wang Lung's plan to have him work the land disturbs him and makes him feel like a peasant. He feels that he has to prove that he is as great as his brothers and leaves the family to join the army. The middle son watches as his inheritance passes from his father's hand into the hand of his eldest son, and complains that his share is always too small. He wants to save the families money. The eldest son receives more attention and is given more than the other two sons and wants to be respected as a great family.
The eldest son receives more attention and is given more than the other two sons and wants to be respected as a great family.
Wang Lung is proud of his first born son, Nung En, and gives him more than his other two sons. One example is when Wang Lung becomes distressed because he cannot read the contracts he is signing and does not want to sign a bad deal. He hopes that sending the elder son to school to learn how to read will solve this problem. The elder son is no longer needed in the fields, because Wang Lung can now afford men to work the land. However, he ignores sending his other children to school until later.
The eldest son's greatest desire is to have his family viewed as a great house. His wife, the daughter of the grain merchant Lui,
grew up in a rich house, she is accustomed to wealth and respect from others, and contributes to her husband's desire. He takes Wang Lung's silver bit by bit to mend up the old House of Hwang.
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Wang Lung never becomes angry with his eldest son, but rather tries to find the root of his problems. The son becomes restless and begins drinking and socializing with women. The father talks to O-lan, Wang Lungs wife, to find out the source of his son's unhappiness. "When I was a lad I had no such melancholy and no such weepings and tempers, and no slaves, either." (221) O-lan explains to him that the eldest son does not have to work the land and has more free time to pursue his ambitions than Wang Lung did when he was a child. This shows a difference between the childhood's of Wang Lung and his eldest son.
The middle son, Nung Wen, is always concerned with his inheritance. He feels that his father gives the eldest son too much and that his share is never enough. When Wang Lung sent the eldest son to school the younger son argues, "it is not fair that my brother can sit at leisure and learn something and I must work like a hind." (164) The middle son stops his elder brother's spending and
is stingy with money even though they are a wealthy family.
"Now this second son seemed more strange to Wang than any of his sons, for even at the wedding day he was careful of the money spent on meats and on wines." (317) This shows another difference between Wang Lung and his middle son. On the wedding day of Wang Lung, he spent almost all his money, which he had very little, on a barber cut, good meat, incense, and other things that are usually expensive and needless accessories. The money he spent was all his family had. The middle son spent very little money on his wedding day, even though his family had an abundance of it.
Wang Lung plans for his youngest son to work the land to keep a connection between the his family and the land after he died, but his youngest son becomes distressed. He feels he is lower than his two older brothers because he works the land and they go to school to become scholars. The family can buy more than enough workers for the land so why should he have to work it. The youngest son is often ignored, "his youngest son had been so quiet a lad that none thought of him except as a slender youth." (338) When the soldiers stay at their house, he hears tales of victorious soldiers gaining glory and respect. He decides to become a soldier and gain his fathers respect. Wang Lung forbids this but the youngest son runs away to fight in the revolution. This shows how Wang Lung was never active in any social or political areas, he had kept much to himself and his family, while his son went out to explore the world and become a great general.
The difference in social standing of Wang Lung's early life and that of his sons creates separate values and views for each character. The different treatment of each son by Wang Lung gives each a unique character. Values differ from the land, respect, money, and glory. This proves that a difference in life experiences shapes a person's values.