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The Good Earth Essay, Research Paper

Pre-communist society was based on the teachings of Kung Fuzi (Confucius, 550-478 BC), whose main doctrine explained that inequality of the sexes in society was natural and necessary. He thought that everyone had his place- and a woman’s place was at the bottom of the hierarchy. Kung Fuzi stated ‘Women are human but lower than men’ and ‘It is the law of nature that woman should not be allowed any will of her own.’ In Daughters of the Dragon, by Christine Hall, she lists many beliefs and proverbs, said by Kung Fuzi, that followed reiterated the woman’s role in society: ‘Women have no voice, and their words carry no weight.’ ‘The woman’s right place is within and the man’s right place is without.’ ‘Man is like sun and woman is like moon who shines only in his light.’ ‘If you read a son, he belongs to you; if you read a daughter, she belongs to another family.’ ‘An educated woman is bound to cause trouble.’ In Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth and other book resources about China, women are exploited by society. The women of pre-revolutionary China were considered inferior and they were supposed obey her parents, be common housewives, and used as toys.

Because the Chinese culture believed that women were worthless, parents were brought up to neglect their daughters. For example, in Bound Feet and Western Dress, Chang describes a ceremony at birth where “when a boy [is] born to the house, the servants [save] his umbilical cord in a jar under Mama’s bed. When a girl [is] born, the servants [bury] her umbilical cord outside the house. A girl [leaves] her father’s house as soon as she [comes] of age, and there was no need to save the umbilical cord of a guest” (p. 6). The umbilical cord is what attaches a baby to her mother. By breaking the connection between mother and child, it is shown that a daughter did not have any significant value to a family. In addition, in The Good Earth, when O-lan, Wang Lung’s wife, gives birth to another girl, Wang Lung thinks about having to bed another mouth and says “It would be merciful if there were no breath and the he [hears] the feeble cry and there [is] no second cry” (p. 82) and then O-lan shows him a dead baby under the cover. O-lan knows they cannot provide for a baby girl, who will only be a burden to everyone. As a result, O-Lan quietly takes the baby’s life. Infanticide is the practice of killing newborn infants, a sin that she commits. Also, Wang Lung hears his youngest daughter crying about the painful foot binding process and wonders why she is weeping and she tells him “[her] mother said [she is] not to weep aloud because [he] is too kind and weak for pain and [he] might say to leave [her] as [she is], and then [her] husband would not love [her] even as [he does] not love her” (p. 252). O-lan teaches her daughter the message “Beauty is pain,” because she knows what being neglected feels like. She cares about her daughter’s looks because she does not want her to go through the hell that she did. Daughters were seen as a small happiness, because they eventually were sold or traded to become slaves, wives, or concubines.

Wives tried to make lives for men perfect with all luxuries possible, while they got nothing for themselves and were treated cruelly. For example, in Pang-Mei Natasha Chang’s Bound Feet and Western Dress, Chang starts the book off by reminding the reader “a woman is nothing. When she is born, she must obey her father. When she is married, she must obey her husband. And when she is widowed, she must obey her son” (p. 6). The filial responsibility of China is the idea of respecting elders, but women have to listen to men, despite their age. She has to obey her son, even though she gave birth to him. In The Good Earth, O-lan prepares the first big dinner for the family and “Wang Lung [feels] in him a great pride that this woman [is] his and did not fear to appear before him” (p. 23), but he tells his audience “it is poor stuff- it is badly prepared. But in his heart he [is] proud of the dishes” (p. 23). A proper housewife needs to know how to cook to impress her new family. Even though it is O-lan’s first day in Wang Lung’s home, she has to work very hard to make her dishes the best to make her first appearance look good. Wang Lung does not say anything about her dishes, because when men compliment women, it means they like them, and Wang Lung does not want O-lan to get that impression. Also, when O-lan is giving birth to their first son, Wang Lung just waits at the door, crying “Is it a man? Tell me at least this- is it a man?” (p. 37). One of the things women are good at is giving birth. If a wife cannot bear sons, she would be seen as a failure. In fact, women who only gave birth to daughters were often called “barren.” Housewives had to do a lot of things and at times were taken advantage of.

Sometimes daughters were sold as concubines and treated as objects, rather than humans. For example, in The Good Earth, when Wang Lung is at the teahouse, Cuckoo tells him to “come and say which one [he wished for]” (p. 180). The women’s pictures are just hanging on the wall like a menu at a restaurant, where one would just tell the waitress what he wanted to eat. Then Cuckoo brings them out and they are taken home, like to-go food. In addition, in Jung Chang’s Wild Swans, Yu-fang had bound feet like most concubines and “the sight of a women teetering on bound feet was supposed to have an erotic effect on men, partly because her vulnerability induced a feeling of protectiveness in the onlooker” (p.?). Bound feet showed high class and beauty. A girl with bound feet had a higher chance of being one’s concubine compared to one without bound feet, because she would just be used to farming, cleaning, and cooking. Thus, when finally married, General Xue stayed at the house he bought just for Yu-fang for 3 days, “so she kept quiet, just massaging his toes After a week, he suddenly told her he was leaving She had to wait six years” (p.?). Yu-fang was treated like a toy. General Xue played with her, and then he got sick of her, and left her on the shelf all alone. Concubines were not treated like humans at all, but instead, they were treated like things.

Women had a hard time in pre-revolutionary China. Before communism, there were no benefits to being a woman, but now, they can do practically anything a man can do. Women will always have a hard time, no matter what the time period may be. They will be a small happiness until the end of time.


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