June 12, 2005

Good Earth [Essay]

The book, The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck is centered around the basic idea that history repeats itself. All of the events in this book are connected to form an ever shifting pattern of gain, and loss, repeating not only on an individual basis, but as a society as well. By observing not only Wang Lung and his family, but others, such as Wang Lung’s uncle, and the house of Hwang, it can be seen that the same repetition is found in all of the homes, just on a varying scale. These repetitions can be caused by somewhat different things, but the result is always the same. During the story every family is prosperous and happy for some time but as they become less caring of how they spend their money, the family falls into trouble, whether it’s debt, family or personal matters or loosing everything. No matter what the ending result is, the pattern always appears to be the same. At first they earn money and goods, they are prosperous for some time, then they begin to be careless allowing themselves to get into trouble.
This pattern can be observed in its simplest form while looking at the life of Wang Lung’s uncle and his uncle’s family. His uncle’s family was frivolous in their actions. They weren’t hard workers and they did not take good care of the things that are considered important in their society. For instance, they allowed their daughter to be wild, bringing dishonor to themselves and their extended family. Their family also spent money carelessly. While they lived happily for some time, when the drought came they were among the first to starve and turn against Wang Lung. When Lung returned to the city their family was still in ruins and they only became happy again when they moved in with Wang Lung and his family. The pattern seen here is based on the same principal that history repeats itself through a series of successes and failures, allowing the participants to learn from their mistakes, only to slightly alter the equation, and create slightly different problems.
The House of Hwang has the same simple pattern, only with different circumstances. The Hwang family had, at one time, been hard workers. They had much land and lots of money earned by the farms. As they became more prosperous they began hiring servants, giving them more free time to do as they pleased. By not focusing on their work they became addicted to lifestyles that led to their destruction. With the constant costs of drugs and jewels, even when there was a drought, the family became broke and eventually died out. Later as Wang Lung looked on the lifestyles of the House of Hwang he made decisions about how to lead his own life, learning from past history what works and what doesn’t. His observations helped him decide to send his sons to school, and save his crops for a time when they may be needed. He also taught his son the value of work as “He remembered also the idle young lords of the fallen great house as he worked on the land he had bought from the House of Hwang, and he bade his two sons sharply each morning to come into the fields with him.” However, despite his learning from the past, he was still susceptible to making his own mistakes and coming to the same fate as the other families.
Wang Lung faces the exact same repetition as all of the other families, only with slightly different circumstances. While he is always a hard worker, he was not always careful of his money before the drought. After he was married and became more prosperous, he became less frugal of his money, leading him to not be as prepared for the drought as he could have been. After the drought and working in the city he returned home to rebuild his farm. He quickly became successful and lived happily for a long while, teaching his sons the value of work. Slowly he began to fall into the pattern that the house of Hwang participated in. He began hiring servants and purchasing slaves and concubines. He began to be less caring for his farm and family leading their family unit to destruction, by ruining his relationship with his sons and wife. Without going through the same circumstances he still managed to fail, through an unstoppable pattern.
Whether the families don’t care or are too preoccupied with other things to work, the families all still reached the same failing conclusion, yet in some cases were able to rebuild themselves to be what they once were, only to fall again. This is what The Good Earth continuously models, a rising and falling of power in a natural cycle.

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