The Good Earth | Teen Ink

The Good Earth

September 10, 2008
By arielc524 GOLD, Montvale, New Jersey
arielc524 GOLD, Montvale, New Jersey
10 articles 0 photos 0 comments

In The Good Earth, Pearl Buck implies that the Chinese family attitude towards elders is that they are highly respected. This attitude is seen clearly by the way Wang Lung treats his father and Uncle with respect. Wang Lung did not question his father and Uncle. Wang Lung openly took whatever bride his father chose; he did not oppose his father’s wishes. Also in the beginning of the novel, Wang Lung tended to his father. Wang Lung married O-lan, a stoic slave, and together they lived through many different times. First there was a drought and they had to move south, and survive by begging, stealing, and poor paying jobs. Together they overcame their poverty and returned to the land rich, and they lived in prosperity for years on end. The elders’ decisions are meant to be taken seriously and without question. The elders have absolute power over the family, but like everything, there are good effects and bad ones. Some good traits of having the elders’ the head of the family are: preparing the family for their lives, keeping the family strong, and containing advice for other members of the family. Negative effects of the elders’ reign are: manipulation of youth, greed of material possessions, and not being questioned.

Wang Lung father intended for his son to marry O-lan because she was all that poor farmers could afford. It is intended in the Chinese Culture that elders are respected because they have lived and seen more than the other members of the family. The elders help prepare the younger members of the family for life by teaching the ones of youth the ways of the family, in Wang Lung’s case, farming. They also have a ton of advice that they can share with the other members of the family, like what to do when there is a drought. The elders being the head of the family also keep the family strong as well as close. The idea is for helping the family, they set up everything so the name of the family retains honor and is intact.

In most instances, adhering to the commands of an elder kept the family strong, but in some cases, the elders use their power to manipulate those of the younger generations. The elders can easily tell the young people a lie, and because the elders’ powers are unquestioned, the youth would perform the elders’ “dirty businesses” for them. The elders can also receive their every desire, within monetary bounds, and not be questioned for their desire in material possessions. An example of this in the novel was the Uncle and his family. They would take and take from Wang Lung’s family, and because Uncle was an elder, Wang Lung had to agree to the requests. In cases like this, the elders are usually rich and corrupt, like the Great House of Hwang.

Although the youth complying to corrupted elders was not what was in mind when the culture was created, elders are still the center of the family. The general function of the elders is to maintain and upkeep the name of the family, even though there may be some cases in which the elders are corrupted.

The author's comments:
This piece is an essay about Wang Lung's behavior towards his elders.

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