My biggest critique with this book is that is set one general portray of Chinese people for a long time. It also may have been the cause of some racist ideas of Chinese people. That being said it was very monumental for it’s time in that not many Americans had any idea what China was like and what its people’s lives were like. It also helped raise awareness and somewhat less discrimination against Chinese people in America.
The book itself was an amazing story of life, wealth, family, and sacrifice. It also revealed some of the terrible practices of many Chinese people during that time. The author does a good job portraying Wang Lung’s life through his perspective and describing what he had to do in times of hardship and the difficult decisions he had to make in order to survive poverty. The social differences of wealthy vs poor people in China were also well shown with the way that the Hwang family looked down upon Wang Lung and other peasants. Poor had to treat them like gods and respect whatever they wished. For instance, when Wang Lung marries O-Lan he is expected to come back when she has her first child and show the child to the Lady of the Hwang family. The Lady of the house seems like she could care less that she is losing a slave because they have so so many.
The amount of reliance on the land for life is shown very well in the way that Wang Lung describes the circle of life. The man takes much from the land throughout his life but when he dies his body goes back into the soil. Also, Wang Lung’s perspective in his marriage to O-Lan is very well described and shows a very different way of viewing marriage than what it is like today. Since women where no more than property in China, it was almost like he just went out and bought himself a new horse when he purchased O-Lan for a wife. Despite this, he still wishes to please her and even talks about how self -conscious he feels about his actions towards her at some parts of their early marriage. This shows the human feelings of wanting companionship and acceptance were still there.
The book is a great example of what wealth/greed can do to a family. Wang Lung and his wife cultivate the land and then go through hard times but eventually, they steal money from a well to do family and buy more land and start successfully farming again. They eventually become so rich that Wang Lung doesn’t really have reason to grow anything and starts becoming idle. He finds faults in O-Lan and criticizes her despite all of the work she put into having children, working hard on and off the family land, and raising the children. This is just another example of how little women were thought of during this time in China. She becomes ill eventually dies and Wang Lung regrets the way he treated her. He still is much more greedy now that he is rich but he still believes in hard work and tries to encourage his sons to continue the tradition. They refuse because they have also become lazy with greed and sell the family land and split the money. The amount of trial and tribulation that Wang Lung and O-Lan went through is very in-depth and emotional. Despite the major cultural and historical differences of the setting of the book and now, the reader can still sympathize and relate to the story which makes it a timeless classic. It is a very realistic story too in that it doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending and it doesn’t leave out any of the hardships of the Wang Lung family.