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Free Study Guide-The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck-Free Book Notes Summary
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CHAPTER 16

Summary

One night, Wang feels a hard lump hidden between O-Lan's breasts. It turns out to be a pouch filled with incredible jewels, which she has stolen from the great house in Kiangsu. When Wang declares that they should be sold to buy more land, O-Lan pleads with him to let her keep two white pearls for herself.

The next day, Wang goes to the great house, but finds only the old man and a female servant, Cuckoo, residing in the house. Wang does not wish to conduct business with a woman, so he leaves. While sitting in a teashop drinking tea, Wang learns how a gang of bandits had plundered the great house and taken away all their riches. Armed with this knowledge, Wang returns to the house and buys land from Cuckoo, paying with the jewels.


Notes

Once again, O-Lan's capabilities are shown when she reveals that she has stolen jewels from the great house in Kiangsu. Having lived in a great house as a servant, she was well aware of where they were hidden. It is significant to note that O-Lan does not tell her husband about the jewels, for she knows he will want to immediately trade them for land. When he discovers them on her person, she pleads to keep two pearls for herself. Though plain, hardy and faithful, O-Lan is still intrigued by the thought of owning such a treasure. She wants to look at them and feel them in her palms once in a while. Wang is astonished at this revelation of O-Lan's nature, but he agrees to let her keep the pearls.

The chapter also reveals the dilapidated state of the great house. It is significant that the House of Hwang, which Wang and his forefathers had always revered, is now falling to pieces, while his own stature is rapidly rising. Wang believes that the Hwang misfortune has occurred because their sons are wild and do not live close to the earth. As a result, Wang decides to have his own sons work the land much harder with him so they will learn the successful techniques of farming. Ironically, Wang's efforts will make no difference, for, despite their father's efforts, his sons never develop a love of the good earth.

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