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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The first half of the novel is set in Anhwei, a little farming village in China. The people living there are mostly peasants. Wang Lung lives in a small three-room house in this village and toils the land to earn his living. The only place to seek any kind of entertainment in the village is a small teahouse where people generally gather in the evening for tea and small talk.
In the second half of the novel the scene is shifted to Kiangsu, which is a city in the South of China. This is where Wang Lung and his family go after the famine in Anhwei. This city is large and overcrowded with rich men loitering around and visiting big teahouses and places of pleasure. Wang Lung stays in Kiangsu until the revolution breaks out. He then returns to his land in Anhwei.
LIST OF CHARACTERS
The protagonist and central character of the novel. He rises from the position of a humble Chinese farmer to a wealthy landowner. His love of the land sustains him through years of hardships.
Wang Lung's wife who is very resourceful. She is also the personification of a true Chinese lady.
The elderly father of Wang Lung who keeps a tight control over Wang Lung's actions. Being the head of the family, he demands attention and respect.
Wang Lung's neighbor. He looks after Wang Lung's lands and is very faithful to him.
Father Wang's younger brother. He is a devious man who brings evil to the House of Wang. Thoroughly disliked by Wang Lung, the uncle is responsible for plundering his house.
A fat woman and a gossip. She is the first to notice Wang Lung's desire for Lotus Flower and makes all the arrangements to bring her into his house as Wang Lung's concubine.
An evil character who introduces Wang Lung's eldest son to prostitution. He even tries his vile charms on Wang Lung's daughter.
Wang Lung's eldest son. He is educated by Wang Lung, but later disappoints his father by showing contempt for the earth that Wang Lung so much loves.
Wang Lung's second son. He uses his knowledge to increase the prosperity of the house of Wang.
The Third Son
A quiet boy. He surprises Wang Lung by joining the revolutionaries.
Wang Lung's eldest daughter that is mentally retarded. Because she is born right before the famine, she never develops.
Wang Lung's pretty daughter. She must be protected from Uncle's Son, who has an evil desire for her.
A prostitute. Wang Lung's lust for her makes him purchase her as his concubine.
A servant. She comes to the House of Wang to serve Lotus Flower.
A young slave. She prefers the company of older men.
Nun En's father-in-law who is a grain merchant. He also allows the marriage of his eldest son to Wang Lung's daughter.
A prostitute who is Nun En's consort.
Old Lord Hwang
A rich, old man who is fond of concubines. He represents the decadence of the wealthy.
Old Mistress Hwang
The wife of Lord Hwang. She is addicted to opium.