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The Good Earth

The Good Earth

by Pearl S. Buck

The Good Earth Chapter 1 Summary

  • Wang Lung is getting married; he's pretty excited. It's a good day, because it's going to rain, and that will water Wang Lung's crops. 
  • Wang Lung is a farmer, and his life is centered on the earth. His kitchen is made of earth, his house is made of earth, and everything else is made of earth. 
  • Wang Lung is also super poor. He measures out every drop of water and every leaf of grass for fueling the oven. 
  • Since his mom died six years ago, Wang Lung has been taking care of his father. He's tired of that, but now a lady is coming to the house, so he doesn't have to work anymore. 
  • Plus, with a wife and children around, Wang Lung won't have to deal with his uncle pestering him to stay in his house anymore. 
  • Because he wants to look nice for his new wife, Wang Lung does something that he hasn't done since he was a little kid: he takes a bath. 
  • Wang Lung starts dreaming about his children and his wife, and he forgets all about the bath and his father. When Grandpa comes to see what's going on, Wang Lung is so excited that he gives him a cup of tea—which, by the way, is really fancy and expensive. 
  • Wang Lung's dad doesn't like all this fancy stuff that Wang Lung is doing, but Wang Lung is excited about the wedding day. 
  • After getting ready, Wang Lung heads out to the Street of the Barbers to get a haircut and to the market to buy food for his wedding feast. 
  • Wang Lung decides to buy incense for the earth gods that are outside of his home. 
  • On the way to the market, Wang Lung passes the House of Hwang, which is where his lady lives. Everyone says that it is a bad idea to marry somebody from the House of Hwang, but Wang Lung just wants someone to marry. 
  • It's bad enough that she's from the House of Hwang, but Wang Lung's dad says that this lady can't possibly be pretty either. If she is pretty, then she won't be a virgin, and she'll be too fancy to work on the fields. Wang Lung's kind of annoyed by this, but he realizes that his dad is right. 
  • Wang Lung finally makes it to the street of the barbers. He wants to get his braid cleaned up, but he falls into the hands of some jokesters who want to cut it straight off. 
  • Wang Lung makes it out of the barbershop with his braid intact and feeling pretty spiffy. He's spent a lot of money, but it's a special occasion. 
  • Wang Lung goes to buy all the fancy food and incense for his wedding feast. 
  • Then it's time to head to the House of Hwang to pick up the bride, but Wang Lung just can't do it. He chills out in a teashop until he gathers enough courage. 
  • The people at the House of Hwang can see that Wang Lung is a county bumpkin, and they make fun of him when he comes for his bride. The gatekeeper even forces him to dish out bribe money before he'll let him in. 
  • The House of Hwang turns out to be the fanciest thing that Wang Lung has ever seen. He could fit a billion of his houses in the inner courts here. 
  • The gatekeeper takes Wang Lung to meet the Old Mistress, but she barely even notices him because she is too busy with her opium. 
  • Finally the Old Mistress calls O-lan to come meet Wang Lung. She gives the two of them a long speech about how ugly and stupid O-lan is and kicks them out. 
  • Finally alone with his new wife, Wang Lung stares her down, and the description is not pretty. But, whatever, he's married now. 
  • Wang Lung gets his marriage started off right by talking gruffly to his blushing bride and making her do heavy labor. He's too embarrassed for all the people in the court to see him lugging all of her stuff, so they sneak though a back door. 
  • Even though he doesn't really seem nice, you can tell that Wang Lung is excited to be married, because he gives O-lan some peaches to eat. You can also tell that life in the court must have harder than it looked, because O-lan holds the peaches as if they were made of solid gold. 
  • On the way back to the farm, Wang Lung and O-lan pass the temple to the earth, which was made by Wang Lung's grandfather. The bride and groom light some sticks of incense together. It's their first act of marriage. Aww. 
  • When Wang Lung and O-lan get home, Wang Lung's dad is there waiting. But because it would be beneath him to notice O-lan, he pretends to ignore her and complains about all the money Wang Lung spent. Wang Lung ignores him and takes O-lan to the kitchen so she can cook her own wedding feast. 
  • Everybody is invited to the party: Wang Lung's uncle, his cousin, his neighbor, random dudes from the village—everyone. When Wang Lung asks O-lan to serve the guests, O-lan refuses to come out because it's not proper, and Wang Lung is proud that he has such a timid wife. (Yay?) Everyone is nomming on the food. 
  • When they complement the chef, Wang Lung is like, "Nah, it's nasty." But he's secretly proud. 
  • When the party's over, O-lan is still working, but Wang Lung takes her to their new bedroom. He’s shy, but he tries to act all manly. When they finally get into bed, he pretends to sleep at first, but then he jumps on her, and they consummate the marriage.

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