All That Glitters Isn’t Gold

By Katie Z., 8th Grade

December 2015

In Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, O’lan steals a handful of jewels from a once wealthy family.  Although the jewels bring comfort, ultimately, they cause the family to fall apart. The jewels offer comfort to Wang Lung’s family because they allow Wang Lung to buy land and feel secure. When a flood washes over the land, Wang Lung is not afraid of poverty and starvation because he is owed money and has plenty of excess food. The jewels allow him to purchase land, which ensures his well-being. The jewels also comfort O’lan. ‘I could hold them in my hands sometimes,’ she added, as if she thought to herself.” The pearls, unlike everything else in her life, are wholly her own. O’lan considers them as beautiful and permanent in her life, offering a comfort she can’t find anywhere else.

Coincidentally, while wealth allows the family to have comfort and security, it also provides a life of leisure in which the family no longer works together. Whereas in the past, O’lan and Wang Lung share an understanding, once Wang Lung has money and free time, he wants something more. As a poor farmer, Wang Lung could care less about the size of his wife’s feet. As a wealthy landowner, he’s now  irritated by their size and by O’lan’s unkempt appearance. Looking for beauty, he finds Lotus and forces O’lan to give him the jewels by saying,  “There is no use in keeping pearls for nothing”(68). The jewels, once a comfort to O’lan, are taken away from her by Wang Lung, one of the only people she trusts. When Wang Lung is going to buy Lotus. He screams,”’Silver, then! Silver and gold! Anything to the very price of my land!’” O’lan and the land are no longer special to him because of the new status he holds. With his money, he can buy whatever he wants, including a concubine. The once close bond between O’lan and Wang Lung is shattered by the jewels.  Just as the wealth destroys Wang Lung and O’lan’s relationship, it also divides Wang Lung from his sons. Unlike Wang Lung, who had to live during tough times without money, allowing him to spend more time with his family, the brothers don’t care about the land and don’t necessarily care about their father as well, only about money. In the end, one brother says to the other, “‘This field we will sell and this one, and we will divide the money between us evenly{…}’” Because of the jewels and everything they have, the brothers will never understand the importance of land and family. The land, that their father put his life’s work in, is, in their eyes, just a piece of dirt that can be sold for money. The jewels ultimately tear apart the Lung family.

Buck’s novel illustrates that work brings people together while wealth weakens the bond. At school, I have seen people who always want the fanciest phones, even though they already have an iphone. They always complain that their parents didn’t get the phone, and they see that their parents as ATM’s rather than family. Similarly, in The Good Earth, the sons have everything they need and see their father as someone whose death will grant them even more wealth. However, in the days before fancy gadgets and instant communication, families used to be comrades as they worked together. Whether it was washing the car or raking the leaves, children viewed their parents in a different light. They saw them as companions rather than servants who granted their wishes. Even though our lives are much easier and luxurious than they ever were before, they lack the meaning that struggle can create.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *