"The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck (Quotes)

This is a novel set in pre-revolutionary China about a poor farmer named Wang Lung and what happened to his life after he married a slave named O-Lan. The book is full of wise (and sometimes not-so-wise) quotes that are mostly about women. And as I am somehow drawn to women studies and feminist stuff, this book was a good read for me. I was a bit teary in some parts since it also features the struggles of old age which made me feel bad for my aging parents who are bit by bit becoming dependent on their children. Anyway, these are the quotes from the novel that I have found interesting:

The 1937 movie of The Good Earth

“Every morning for these six years the old man had waited for his son to bring in hot water to ease him of his morning coughing. Now father and son could rest. There was a woman coming to the house.”

“Wang Lung had suffered that she must not be pretty. It would be something to have a pretty wife that other men would congratulate him upon having.”

“And what will we do with a pretty woman? We must have a woman who will tend the house and bear children as she works in the fields, and will a pretty woman do these things? She will be forever thinking about clothes to go with her face! No, not a pretty woman in our house. We are farmers. Moreover, who has heard of a pretty slave who was virgin in a wealthy house? All the young lords have had their fill of her. It is better to be first with an ugly woman that the hundredth with a beauty. Do you imagine a pretty woman will think your farmer’s hands as pleasing as the soft hands of a rich man’s son, and your sunblack face as beautiful as the golden skin of the others who have had her for their pleasure?”

“She is not beautiful but that you do not need. Only men of leisure have the need for beautiful women to divert them.”

“Wang Lung felt in him a great pride that this woman was his and did not fear to appear before him, but would not before other men.”

“The wife would not stir herself to sweep the floor of their hut, nor did the children trouble to wash the food from their faces. It was a disgrace that as the girls grew older and even to marriageable age they still ran about the village and left uncombed their rough sunbrowned hair, and sometimes even talked to men.”

“It is better that a girl be married away while she is yet virgin, and whoever heard of a bitch dog who was allowed on the streets who did not give birth to a litter?”

“And then he thought of that new mouth come that day into his house and it struck him, with heaviness, that the birth of daughters had begun for him, daughters who do not belong to their parents, but are born and reared for other families.”

“This child of the slave, who was not more than sixteen, he now saw with his fresh lust, for as he grew old and infirm and heavy with flesh he seemed to desire more and more women who were slight and young, even to childhood, so that there was no slaking his lust.”

“He could not comprehend the words ‘no money,’ who all his life had but to reach out his hand and fill it as often as he would.”

“Heaven will strike you if you take more.”

“The dead man is yourselves, and the murderous one who stabs you when you are dead are the rich and the capitalists, who would stab you even after you are dead. You are poor and downtrodden and it is because the rich seize everything.”

“Hunger makes thief of any man.”

“He began to perceive what this was, a woman who clung to an old and dying man because of what last thing she might get from him.”

“If one had told him there were small hands like these he would not have believed it, hands so small and bones so fine and fingers so pointed with long nails stained the color of lotus buds, deep and rosy. And if one had told him that there could be feet like these, little feet thrust into pink satin shoes no longer than a man’s middle finger, and swinging childishly over the bed’s edge – if anyone had told him he would not have believed it.”

“Well, and I have seen many a man, and when one smooths his hair and buys new clothes and will have his shoes velvet all of a sudden, then there is a new woman and that is sure.”

“And it is not to be thought, poor fool, that one woman is enough for any man, and if it is a weary hard-working woman who has worn away her flesh working for him, it is less than enough for him. His fancy runs elsewhere the more quickly, and you, poor fool, have never been fit for a man’s fancy and litter better than an ox for his labor. And it is not for you to repine when he has money and buys himself another to bring her to his house, for all men are so, and would my old do-nothing also, except the poor wretch has never had enough silver in his life to feed himself even.”

“It was not to be supposed that the coming of this one called Lotus and of her serving woman Cuckoo into Wang Lung’s house could be accomplished altogether without stir and discord of some sort, since more than one woman under one roof is not for peace.”

“So these two women took their place in his house: Lotus for his toy and his pleasure and to satisfy his delight in beauty and in smallness and in the joy of her pure sex, and O-Lan for his woman of work and the mother who has borne his sons and who kept his house and fed him and his father and his children. And it was a pride to Wang Lung in the village that men mentioned with envy the woman in his inner court; it was as though men spoke of a rare jewel or an expensive toy that was useless except that it was a sign and symbol of a man who had passed beyond the necessity of caring only to be fed and clothed and could spend his money on his joy if he wished.”

“He did not want a rich daughter-in-law lest she be haughty and disobedient and cry for this and that of food and clothes and turn aside his son’s heart from his parents.”

“Now why have you wept?”
Then she hung her head and toyed with a button on her coat and said, shy and half-murmuring,
“Because my mother binds a cloth about my feet more tightly every day and I cannot sleep at night.”
“Now I have not heard you weep,” he said wondering.
“No,” she said simply, “and my mother said I was not to weep aloud because you are too kind and weak for pain and you might say to leave me as I am, and then my husband would not love me even as you do not love her.”

“All through the long months of winter she lay dying and upon her bed, and for the first time Wang Lung and his children knew what she had been in the house, and how she made comfort for them all and they had not known it.”

“Well, and if I am ugly, still I have borne a son; although I am but a slave there is a son in my house. How can that one feed him and care for him as I do? Beauty will not bear a man sons!”

“The man child is born, my father, and now we must find a woman to nurse him with her breasts, for I will not have my wife’s beauty spoiled with the nursing and her strength sapped with it. None of the women of position in the town do so.”

“And it was a matter of joy to Wang Lung that this slave gave birth only to a girl, for if it had been a boy she would have been proud and have claimed a place in the family, but being a girl it was only slave bearing a slave, and she was no more than before.”

“Then as autumn flares with the false heat of summer before it dies into the winter, so with the quick love Wang Lung had for Pear Blossom. The brief heat of it passed and passion died out of him; he was fond of her, but passionless.”


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