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Free Study Guide-The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck-Free Book Notes Summary
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CHAPTER 21

Summary

This chapter describes the domestic disharmony that creeps into the house of Wang. O-Lan quickly realizes that Lotus Blossom is only a pretty body and resents her presence. She sarcastically says to Wang, "to that one you gave my two pearls." Ironically, it is not Lotus that she most resents, but Cuckoo. O-Lan and Cuckoo did not get along when they both lived in the House of Hwang. Cuckoo had acted superior and bossed O-Lan around when they were both slaves. Now that Cuckoo resides in her house, O-Lan cannot hide her feelings of resentment and hatred. The women are constantly bickering, and the usually quiet O-Lan absolutely refuses to boil water for Cuckoo. To appease all the women, Wang makes a separate kitchen for Lotus, but O-Lan still resents that Cuckoo spends too much money buying exotic food.

Now that Lotus is under his roof, Wang begins to feel less passionate about her; she is no longer seen as "absorbing utterly his mind and his body." Wang resents the fact that Lotus becomes friends with uncle's wife and is angry when she sends him away because the uncle's wife's is visiting with her. Wang becomes openly angry at Lotus when she curses his children and calls his 'poor fool' an idiot. His retarded daughter holds a special place in his heart, and he will not allow anyone, even Lotus, to treat her cruelly.

Finally, Wang is embarrassed by his father's reaction to Lotus Blossom. When the old man sees her for the first time, he recognizes her for what she is and announces in horror that there is a "harlot in the house." Wang is beginning to feel a little guilty about Lotus' presence in his home; until the end of the novel, he will battle his conscience over his relationship with Lotus, even though it was an acceptable one for a man in Wang's position.


At the end of the chapter, Wang begins to recapture some of the sense that Lotus has previously stolen away. One day, he notices the fine weather and realizes that the floodwaters have all receded. He calls to Ching and announces his decision to come and work in the field. It will be the good earth that succeeds in healing Wang Lung.

Notes

As to be expected, Lotus and Cuckoo's arrival at the House of Wang causes problems. O-Lan resents Lotus' presence. Ironically, Cuckoo bothers her even more as when they were both slaves together at the House of Hwang, Cuckoo had treated her poorly and O-Lan began to hate her. Now she cannot tolerate Cuckoo's presence in her home, and constantly bickers with the woman. Wang is forced to build a second kitchen in order to keep the women apart. Wang also has his problems with Lotus. When he owns her and sees her regularly and in close quarters, Lotus loses some of her charm. Now Wang notices her tantrums, her shrieks, and her wasteful expenditures rather than her delicate hands and tiny feet. He resents her friendship with uncle's wife and refuses to tolerate her rudeness to his children, especially "poor fool." He is also feeling some small guilt about his cruelty to O-Lan in bringing Lotus and Cuckoo to the House of Wang to live.

Wang Lung's announcement that he is going to work in the fields again shows that he has begun to recover from his obsessive love for Lotus. The earth's power to heal and transform is strongly suggested at the end of the chapter.

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