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Free Study Guide-The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck-Free Book Notes Summary
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CHAPTER 18

The floods arrive and sweep over the region. Wang Lung, however, is untouched by their fury. He has enough harvest stored to last through the floods, and his house is in no danger since it is built high on a hill. Since he cannot work his land during the floods, Wang is idle and restless. For the first time, he notices that O-Lan has very common looks and criticizes her sharply for her plain appearance. He is especially ugly about her large, unbound feet. Later, Wang feels somewhat repentant about his behavior towards his wife.

Still a bit irritated, Wang goes to the teashop, where men spend money on gambling and women. The first day he just drinks his tea and leaves. Each time he returns to the teahouse, however, he stays longer and longer. One day at the teahouse, he meets Cuckoo, the woman with whom he has conducted business at the Hwang's house. She teases him for having only tea while exotic wines are available. She then entices him with the pictures of the women on the wall and asks him to select one. After looking hard, Wang chooses the most beautiful, slender girl, holding a lotus flower.


Notes

As inevitable, the floods arrive after seven years of good harvest. Wang is prepared, for his house is built high and his storehouse is filled. He, however, is bored with the freedom from work that the floods have caused. In his idleness he strikes out at O-Lan and criticizes her commonness. He seems to have forgotten her kindness, hard work, and resourcefulness during his times of need. This streak of meanness in Wang has never been seen before, and it surprises the reader as much as it hurts O-Lan. The reader sympathizes with O-Lan, who has devoted her entire life to helping her husband achieve prosperity. The reference to her unbound feet is a sensitive topic for any Chinese woman, and O-Lan shamefully "thrusts them yet further under the bench" when Wang criticizes them. The really sad thing is that even after so many years of living with her husband, O-Lan still looks at Wang with fearful eyes.

Wang has been too busy cultivating his land and fighting off poverty to have time for leisure; but with the floods keeping him away from the fields, he begins to visit the teahouse, first just to enjoy a cup of tea and conversation. As he goes more often, he finds himself staying longer. When Cuckoo approaches him and tempts him with a woman, Wang does not resist. He selects a beautiful and slender woman name Lotus Blossom.

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