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Free Study Guide-The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck-Free Book Notes Summary
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CHAPTER 5

Summary

When the new year approaches, Wang Lung buys squares of red paper which he pastes on each of his possessions so that the new year brings him luck. O-Lan prepares rich cakes to carry to the great house. On the second day of the New Year, O-Lan dresses her son in a red coat, tiger-faced shoes, and a crownless red hat decorated with a gilt Buddha. She too dresses up carefully in a new black coat. The entire family, with the cakes in a basket, goes to the great house.

Wang's reception at the gate to the great house is far different than his earlier one. Dressed in nice clothes, Wang is treated with more respect. While he waits in a room, O-Lan goes with the child to the inner room. When his wife returns, Wang is impatient to know what has transpired. With her usual slowness of thought and words, O-Lan relates that the house is no longer as prosperous as before, and the Hwangs plan to sell some of their land. Wang Lung knows he is in a position to buy some of this land; he is pleased and feels that his son has brought him luck. At the same time, he fears the evil spirits; he pretends to curse his child, making it seem as if the baby was an ugly girl, for the spirits will not be interested in a girl child.

When Wang Lung tells his wife that he plans to buy land from the Hwangs, she resists at first; later O-Lan agrees and remarks with amazement, "Last year at this time I was slave in that house."


Notes

For the Chinese, the celebration of the New Year is especially important. This chapter opens with both Wang and O-Lan busily preparing for the New Year festivities. He pastes squares of red paper on his possessions to bring good luck. She is busy making cakes to take to the New Year celebration at the great house. It is obvious that O-Lan is anxious about returning to the house where she has been a slave. She wants to show how happy, content, and prosperous she is now that she is away from the place. She also wants to show off her son and dresses him in a red silk outfit.

The gatekeeper at the great house is impressed with the appearance of this family, which now reflects some prosperity; therefore, Wang is treated much more courteous than when he was at the house to purchase O-Lan. Before the gatekeeper made fun of Wang; now he invites him inside and offers him tea, which Wang scorns as not being good enough. Wang feels confident in his success and in his new black suit. As a result, he is more at ease with himself and with others.

It is important to note that even though Wang Lung has become more prosperous, he is still very superstitious. First he pastes the red squares for good luck. Then he views his son as a good luck charm for him. When he fears the evil spirits may take away his good luck, he pretends his child is a girl, so the spirits will not want "her".

Wang's idea of buying land owned by the great house again shows the importance he gives to the earth. He has earned his silver from the earth, and now he wants to spend his savings on purchasing more of the earth. Wang also shows his competitive nature. He wants to own more land so he can be equal to the people in the great, wasteful house. He clearly understands that land ownership is the way to wealth and acceptance. At first, O-Lan is uncertain about possessing anything associated with the House of Hwang, for the house brings back sad memories for her. She, however, quickly assents and expresses her amazement at her good fortune; a year ago she was a slave in the House of Hwang, and soon her family will own some of their land.

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