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Free Study Guide-The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck-Free Book Notes Summary
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CHAPTER 26

Summary

O-Lan dies a slow death. She lives for many months, lying on her bed and moaning about her past. Her sickness affects the whole family. The old father misses her company, the domestic chores are ignored, and Wang must tend to "poor fool" by himself. Wang fully sees her value now and declares that he would sell all of his land to make her well. O-Lan, however, has prepared herself for death. She points out to her husband that the land must never be sold, for it is more permanent than human existence.

One day, O-Lan wakes up and insists that her elder son is married before she dies. As always, O-Lan is worried about her family. She wants to make certain that there is a female family member around to take charge of the domestic tasks and she wants her son settled down. As a result, her son is summoned from the South, and with great festivity, the marriage takes place. Immediately after the wedding, O-Lan passes away. Wang has already purchased two expensive coffins, one for his wife and one for his aged father. He lays her body in one and buries her in traditional Chinese style on his own land. Within a few days, Wang's father also dies and is similarly buried.


Notes

This chapter emphasizes the last days and burial of O-Lan. Although sick and in pain, she still worries about her family. She wants her son to me married before her death; then she will know that there is a woman in the family to supervise the domestic routine and that her son has a helpmate in life. She also forbids that Lotus or Cuckoo enter her room after she dies; her resentment of them is obviously still deep rooted.

The Chinese customs surrounding death and burial are also shown in the chapter. Coffins are purchased prior to the death of the loved one, and the coffin is placed in the presence of the dying person. In Chinese custom, the person on a "death-bed" needs to see the coffin to know and understand where his/her body will be placed. Knowing that the coffin has been purchased and seeing it, gives contentment to the dying; if the coffin is expensive and of good quality, there is greater contentment. O-Lan is very proud of the coffin that Wang has purchased for her.

Wang wants to buy a fine coffin of good quality for O-Lan. At the same time, Wang does some negotiating as well; he buys two coffins with a discount. Wang also wants O-Lan to rest eternally in his good earth. He chooses a special spot for her body at the head of the land. After her death, he goes to both the Buddhist and the Taoist temples. He also makes certain that Chinese customs are followed at the funeral; there are black clothes and white shoes, as required.

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