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Free Study Guide-The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck-Free Book Notes Summary
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CHAPTER 19

Summary

Wang Lung returns to the teahouse to meet Lotus for the first time. He is not certain about his actions, for he has never been unfaithful to O-Lan. Before entering the teahouse, he stops and waits; perhaps he may have gone away, but Cuckoo appears and tempts him again. He is immediately mesmerized by Lotus Blossom; he particularly notices her delicate, white hands, her tiny, bound feet, and her ephemeral beauty, all characteristics that O-Lan lacks. He simply cannot get enough of Lotus and visits her every evening; it is "a sickness which is greater than any a man can have." Because of her, he does not even think about his land. He cuts off his hair at her bidding, spends hours bathing himself, buys new clothes to make himself more attractive, and gives her a gold pin for her hair. Finally, with total cruelty, he demands the two pearls from O-Lan and plans to give them to Lotus.

Notes

This chapter describes a very changed Wang Lung. The diligent farmer, who worshipped mother earth, has now been transformed into a idle rich man, filling his hours with grooming himself and spending his hard-earned money on a pretty geisha girl. Wang's behavior is now not very different than the behavior of the Hwang sons. O-Lan notices the changes and remarks, "There is that about you which makes me think of one of the Lords in the great house." The final insult to O-Lan is when her husband demands her pearls, saying that "pearls are for fair women." The pearls have been O- Lan's treasure, her one extravagance in life. Her giving them to her husband upon his demand is more than an act of submission; it states her utter acceptance of her husband's role in her life.


CHAPTER 20

Summary

One day Wang Lung's Uncle suddenly returns to his house. He partakes of their food, slumbers on his brother's bed, and calls his wife and son to stay with him in Wang's house. Wang is dismayed but cannot throw his relatives out because of Chinese custom. It is the uncle's wife who realizes that Wang is having an affair and informs O-Lan about it. She also suggests to Wang that with his wealth he can afford to buy Lotus Blossom and bring her into his house to live. This despicable woman even makes all the arrangements to purchase Lotus and Cuckoo.

Wang arranges for their arrival by building special rooms for them, buying delicate food for them to eat, and constructing fish ponds to beautify the house. Lotus finally arrives being carried on a chair. Since her feet are bound, she cannot walk for long. Her arrival is a total contrast to O-Lan's arrival many years earlier when she subserviently followed behind Wang, who had just purchased her.

Notes

Wang seems possessed with his love for Lotus. He cannot get enough of her and does not know what to do next. It is the uncle's wife who suggests to Wang that he purchase Lotus and bring her to his house to live as his concubine. She convinces Wang that because he is so wealthy, he is deserving of owning her.

The contrast between O-Lan and Lotus is obvious. O-Lan is common looking, strong, and resourceful; Lotus is slender, delicate, and beautiful. O-Lan is the salt of the earth that constantly worked beside her husband in the fields and contributed to the family's prosperity; Lotus is much too weak to work at anything; with her bound feet she cannot even stand without tottering and leaning upon Cuckoo for support. The tragic irony of the situation is that without O-Lan's help and resourcefulness, Wang would never have been wealthy enough to afford his own concubine.

When Lotus first enters the house, Wang feels a pang of remorse, bordering on fear. He asks himself, "What am I taking into my house?" This uneasiness foreshadows the problems that Lotus will cause later in the book. O-Lan accepts the arrival of Lotus in silence; she knows if she makes a fuss, she may lose her own place in the house.

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