Wang Lung - “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck

A Comprehensive Analysis of Literary Protagonists - Sykalo Evgen 2023

Wang Lung - “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck

Wang Lung in "The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck: A Dynamic Journey of Transformation

"The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck is a timeless classic that delves into the life of its protagonist, Wang Lung. Set against the backdrop of rural China, the novel explores themes of wealth, power, and the cyclical nature of life. Wang Lung's character serves as the lens through which these themes are explored, and his journey is one of significant transformation. In this analysis, we will delve into Wang Lung's character, examining his type, role, background, personality traits, relationships, actions, conflicts, growth, and overall significance in the story.

Identify the Character Type

Wang Lung is a dynamic character, undergoing a profound transformation throughout the novel. At the beginning, he is a poor, hardworking farmer deeply connected to the land. As the story progresses, he experiences the effects of wealth, power, and societal changes, which shape his character and values. Wang Lung's evolution from a humble farmer to a wealthy landowner mirrors the broader societal changes occurring in China during the time period.

Analyze the Character's Role in the Story

Wang Lung serves as the protagonist in "The Good Earth." His life and experiences are central to the narrative, and the story revolves around his journey. As the protagonist, Wang Lung's actions and decisions propel the plot forward, and readers witness the world through his perspective. His struggles and triumphs become emblematic of the larger societal shifts occurring in China.

Examine the Character's Background

Wang Lung's background is rooted in the rural, agrarian lifestyle of pre-revolutionary China. Born to a family of poor farmers, he inherits the values of hard work, perseverance, and a deep connection to the land. This background significantly influences Wang Lung's worldview, shaping his initial priorities and aspirations.

Analyze the Character's Personality Traits:

Wang Lung is characterized by a complex interplay of positive and negative traits. Initially, he is hardworking, humble, and deeply connected to the land. However, as he gains wealth and power, he also exhibits traits of pride, greed, and a disconnect from his agrarian roots. These traits make Wang Lung a multi-dimensional character whose internal conflicts drive the narrative forward.

Evaluate the Character's Relationships

Wang Lung's relationships with other characters are instrumental in his development. His marriage to O-Lan, a slave from the great house, is a pivotal relationship that reflects both the challenges and strengths of their partnership. Additionally, his relationships with his children, particularly his sons, highlight generational conflicts and changing societal norms.

Analyze the Character's Actions

Wang Lung's actions form a crucial aspect of his character analysis. His decision to marry O-Lan, his struggles during famine, and his gradual accumulation of wealth showcase his resilience and determination. However, as he gains wealth, his actions also reveal a darker side — his treatment of O-Lan and his descent into moral ambiguity.

Identify the Character's Conflicts

Wang Lung faces both internal and external conflicts throughout the narrative. The external conflicts include natural disasters, political upheavals, and societal changes that challenge his way of life. Internally, Wang Lung grapples with his evolving values, the moral implications of his actions, and the tension between tradition and modernity.

Assess the Character's Growth or Change

Wang Lung undergoes significant growth and change over the course of the novel. His transformation from a poor farmer to a wealthy landowner is accompanied by shifts in his values and priorities. While initially grounded in the land, he becomes increasingly entangled in the pursuit of wealth and social status. This evolution, however, is not entirely positive, and Wang Lung grapples with the consequences of his choices.

Support Your Analysis with Evidence

To support the analysis, we can draw on specific examples from the text. For instance, Wang Lung's early struggles during the famine are exemplified by the quote, "And Wang Lung struggled to his feet, pushing the cart before him, and he went all that day and all that night and all the next day, and when it was evening again he lay exhausted by the cart and his wife lay dead." This highlights his resilience and determination.

Similarly, his changing attitudes towards the land can be illustrated by passages such as, "Now, evil and good were all one to him, and riches and degradation and rising up and dust all one." This showcases the internal conflict and moral ambiguity that Wang Lung experiences.

Draw Conclusions about the Character's Significance

Wang Lung's significance in "The Good Earth" extends beyond being a mere protagonist. His journey mirrors the broader societal changes in China during the time period. Through Wang Lung, Pearl S. Buck explores the impact of wealth and power on individuals and the erosion of traditional values. Wang Lung's character serves as a microcosm of a changing China, making his story a powerful commentary on the human condition.

In conclusion, Wang Lung's character in "The Good Earth" is a dynamic and multi-faceted individual whose journey serves as a powerful exploration of societal changes, moral dilemmas, and the complexities of human nature. Through a thorough analysis of his character type, role, background, personality traits, relationships, actions, conflicts, and growth, we gain a deeper understanding of the novel's themes and messages. Wang Lung's significance lies not only in his personal development but also in his representation of a changing China and the universal struggles of humanity.