Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
The entire novel is based upon the theme that the good earth is a permanent provider. It sustains man by providing food and shelter, it offers the possibility of wealth, it cannot be stolen away, and it receives a man's body at the end of his days. The protagonist of the novel, Wang Lung, understands that value of the good earth.
He is a simple farmer who ekes out his living by tilling the land and selling the produce grown on it. But he is also intrinsically related to his earth and because he loves and respects it, it produces great prosperity for him. Wang saves every cent that he can in order to buy more land. This he keeps on doing until he becomes a wealthy landowner.
Then, though he shifts his residence to the town, he still retains all his land, never selling any part of it. In his last days, he desperately clings to his land, returning to his earthen home to live his last days in peace. He knows the true value of the good earth and says that "out of the land we came and into it we must go-and if you will hold your land you can live-no one can rob you of land".
Along with this main theme, a number of secondary Themes are also developed. One of them is the value of respecting one's elders and relatives. Throughout the novel, it is pointed out that money and food must be shared with kith and kin and that disrespect to an elder is not permitted, no matter the circumstances. Knowing full well that his uncle is a no-gooder, with no interest in working, Wang still gives him money whenever he demands it and lets him live in his house for years.
Another underlying theme in the novel is that generations will change. The good earth, which is revered, idolized, and respected by Wang Lung, is taken for granted by his sons, who even consider the idea of selling it to gain more wealth.