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Free Study Guide-The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck-Free Book Notes Summary
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CHAPTER 4

Summary

Wang Lung proudly buys eggs; he also buys red paper to put in the water while boiling the eggs so that they become red. The red eggs will announce the birth of his first-born son. But Wang Lung is afraid to be too overjoyed; he fears that the malignant spirits of the earth may take away his happiness. To safeguard against them, he lights four incense sticks at the temple of the gods and prays for his family's well being.

O-Lan is soon back in the field, working as tirelessly as before. The child is placed on an old quilt, on the ground. Whenever he is hungry, she stops her work and nurses her son. When winter arrives, she and Wang are well prepared with enough food to last them throughout the cold weather. Wang also has managed to save a handful of silver. O-Lan cleverly hides the money in a hole in the inner wall of their room and then covers the hole with a clod of earth. Wang Lung, conscious of his increasing prosperity due to his hard work, grows more confident and at ease with others.

During the winter when the rains come, Wang's house is filled with warmth and well being. The contented couple stays at home and plans for the New Year. While Wang mends his farm implements, O-Lan cares for the household equipment. Though they seldom speak to one another, they rejoice in each other's company.

Notes

This chapter again develops the characters of Wang and O-Lan. He is the picture of pride and happiness as he colors the eggs to announce the birth of his first son. He is the picture of the conservative farmer, as he manages to save a handful of silver from his labors with the earth. With the knowledge of the money and the thought of escaping his poverty, he grows more confident with others.


O-Lan's resilience is amazing, for she is back at work in the field immediately after her delivery. She interrupts her labor only to tend to the baby. She is truly "the salt of the earth." As Wang Lung watches her and the child, who is "as brown as the soil," he thinks they are "like figures made from the earth. O-Lan's resourcefulness is also seen in the way she handles the handful of silver. She finds a hole in the wall in which to hide the money. She then covers up the hole with a handful of earth.

Together O-Lan and Wang are the picture of frugality. She makes their shoes and clothing, mends broken pots to use again, stretches the food to go a long way, gathers wood for fuel, and collects the dropping of animals to use as fertilizer on the fields. Wang makes and repairs his tools and mends his farm equipment. The couple can truly make a small amount of money go a long way.

It is important to notice the significance of the color red. In Chinese culture, red is significant and is the color of choice for all important ceremonies. It is also a symbol of good luck. Wang chooses to dye the eggs red, for he wants to celebrate the birth of his son. O-Lan dreams of dressing her son in red silk when she takes him to the great house, and in the next chapter she succeeds in doing so. Later in the book, red paper is used to decorate Wang's possessions for good luck and to make new clothes to please the gods. Red candles are burned to celebrate the New Year.

Wang Lung and his wife have toiled ceaselessly so that in winter their house is well stocked with food, including grains, dried onion, and garlic. Even pork and chicken have been hung to dry. Because of their preparations, they can feast on noodles, a symbol of long life, on their son's first month birthday. They have worked hard, lived sparingly, managed carefully, and saved some silver. The lifestyle of Wang's Uncle is in sharp contrast. In his uncle's house, there was no food in the pantry and nothing hanging to dry. This difference is introduced into the chapter as a foreshadowing of the Uncle's negative character and the evil he will cause to Wang and his wife.

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