The Metamorphosis of Wang Lung in The Good Earth
Many times, changes in wealth and family can alter one’s attitude completely. In The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, the main character, Wang Lung displays a perfect example of this change. Between his first visit to the House of Hwang (when he went to receive O-lan) and his second visit at New Year’s (when he brings O-lan and the child to visit), Wang Lung changes from a modest, apprehensive farmer into a proud, rich man. Wang Lung’s family, his family’s increased wealth, and the House of Hwang’s diminishing wealth are all responsible for the changes in Wang Lung’s attitude between his first and second visits to the House of Hwang.
On his first visit to the House of Hwang, Wang Lung does not have a wife or son. He journeys alone to receive O-lan as his wife. A few months after Wang Lung and O-lan gets married, O-lan finds out that she is pregnant. When O-lan delivered their first child, Wang Lung waits anxiously for the announcement of the newborn’s gender. After O-lan shares the news of their son’s birth, ” `It is a man child!’ he called triumphantly. `You are grandfather and I am father!’ “(37).
Wang Lung is relieved when O-lan tells him that she has given birth to a “man child” for two specific reasons. First, he is proud because sons carry on the family name. Second, when the son grows up, he can help work in the fields. Thus, Wang Lung feels pride that his first son is male. When he travels to the House of Hwang on the second occasion he is proud to bear a son, consistent with the Old Mistress’ request at their first meeting to see their first-born child. Wang Lung also takes pride in his family because of his wife, O-lan.
On the first visit, when Wang Lung goes to the House of Hwang for the first time to receive O-lan, her position in the great house is considered that of a slave. However, on the second visit she is a guest and visitor. Looking back at her past as a servant, O-lan recalls, “Last year this time I was slave in that house.” (53). O-lan is happy at the fact that she has an opportunity to change her life completely from a slave to a financially stable. Because of this, Wang Lung is proud that he is able to allow this change in O-lan’s social background.
In conclusion, Wang Lung’s attitude is affected by a newfound pride in his family.
Wealth is another factor in Wang Lung’s attitude changes. At the beginning of the story Wang Lung is a poor, parsimonious peasant who always thinks thoroughly about how he spends his money. Even on the day of his marriage Wang Lung is still concerned about the amount of money he spends. “And Wang Lung, to his horror, found there was nothing to do but to produce from his girdle yet another penny. `It is robbery,’ he muttered, unwilling.
” (13). Wang Lung’s frugality determines his financial dealings, and he is not prone to indulge. Because of his status as a poor farmer, Wang Lung is intimidated when he first approaches the House of Hwang. Conversely, on his second visit, Wang Lung is already prospering from his crops and is hiding a secret stash of silver coins in his wall. An obvious display of his newly gained wealth is the new clothes that Wang Lung, O-lan, and their son wear, as well as the moon cakes that O-lan made. This wealth makes him prideful.
An example of this pride on his second visit occurs when he waits for O-lan and his son in the gateman’s room. While he is there, the gateman’s wife offers him tea as if he were one of the nobles, “She presented to him and he set it before him and did not drink of it, as though it were not good enough in quality of tea leaves for him.” (49). This behavior is in contrast to the beginning of the plot, .