Character Analysis Wang Lung


From the first time that we encounter Wang Lung until our final view of him, his main concern is the "good earth" and the sustenance that it gives. When we first meet him, preparing for his wedding day, he takes his bath water and returns it to the good earth. We also discover that his house and his gods are both made from the good earth. He is presented as a simple peasant farmer, one who is so frightened in front of the Ancient Mistress of the House of Hwang that he cannot speak. Even in the fields, he is a very silent person, and we seldom get to know little of what he is thinking inwardly. Thus our knowledge of him comes from the author's journalistic style.

In the early parts of the book, Wang Lung is quiet; he is content to eat no more than some garlic wrapped around some unleavened bread, but by the end of the book, when he has established his family as one of the great families, he prefers more "dainty foods" and is able to pick and choose among his foods.

Throughout the novel, Wang Lung is never able to escape the fact or belief that all good things come from the good earth and that all things are ultimately returned to it. Whenever he has a piece of silver, he knows that the silver can be stolen from him, but if he is able to invest the silver into good land, then no one can steal the land from him. This belief in the land is illustrated when he has to go South during a period of great famine; when he returns, his land is still there, even though all other things, even the hinges on his door, are stolen.

As soon as he discovers that O-lan has the costly jewels, he wants immediately to invest them in good land. With the deaths of various members of his family, he knows that they are returning to the land from whence they came. When it comes time for him to die, he goes back to the "earth house" where he was born and has his coffin delivered to the earth house, where he will wait to return to the "good earth."