O-lan of the Good Earth

Its only a few days since I read “The Good Earth”. However, lots has happened since then and hence, there is every chance of me losing myself in thinking about a myriad things. Despite a heap of things playing inside my mind, someone kept coming in to my thoughts again and again. Not that, this “someone” was really a “someone”. To a large extent, this “someone” is so commonly seen that you can’t pick a face and say – this is it. Hence, our “someone” is faceless. Yes, our “someone” is the most ignored and hence, people will imagine that “someone” is soul less too. Obviously, since you can’t pick one person, “someone” is nameless too.However, for better understanding’s sake, I will cut short this blabber and tell about someone who epitomizes my “someone” : it is the wife of Wang Lung, the lead character in “The Good Earth” by Pearl S.Buck. Her name is O-lan.

The more I think about her, the more I am left wondering about her. Well, she is not a “heroine”. She is not a “miracle maker”. Then, why am I thinking about her so much? Despite the fact that “hero” of the novel is Wang Lung, Olan is the character that interested me the most.

May be, these are my reasons:

1. All through, her role is so underplayed. She is potrayed almost like a non-entity though nothing in that story, which is a “significant development” would have happened without her.

2. Her endurance. Her ability to fight most of the things alone. Had the story been told in O-lan’s perspective, it would have been a wonderful thing, although I doubt if that would have sold this much.

3. Everyone who read the novel can understand the fact that Wang Lung would have been a normal struggling peasant, if not for O-lan. Whether she did a right thing or not, is a matter of different discussion. The outcome of that discussion does not alter the fact that O-lan is responsible for Wang Lung’s prosperity. But, not once.. not once did she try to take advantage of the fact. Not once did Wang Lung acknowledge her openly and whole heartedly. Yet, she did not complain. Great patience!!

4. At no point of time was there are an indication that Wang Lung cared for his wife’s feelings. Yet, there is not a single instance when O-lan expressed any sorrow about that. Ofcourse, story is told with Wang Lung as a hero and O-Lan’s feelings may not be of significance. But then, it is more closer to real life, rite? How many husbands, even today, give wives their due? How many really care for the wife’s internal strife? (Ok…poor attempt at rhyming..)

5. For that matter, Olan never got any moral/mental support from the rest of the family either – atleast so far as the narration goes. Again, I was thinking about the traditional house wife. How many children actually attempt at doing that?
If your morning coffee is delayed, how many of us will go ask our mom – “shall i make it today?” or “shall we go out for break fast today?” or “are you fine?” or “you make coffee, i make breakfast?” and, how many of us shout at her for delaying our morning coffee?

-Despite the fact that the theme is about the Rural china of 1920s, in certain aspects, nothing changed. Even now, I see those under recognised wives in a lot of families here – in India. (Its a personal opinion).

Nothing might change too. May be, change does not change so much as I imagined it to be.

Published in: on September 17, 2009 at 10:46 am  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. firstly, let me thank you for bringing back the memories of this nice book, which I read 6 years back during my graduation. I bought this in old-book stall in Vizag.

    Yes, truly without O-Lan, there is nothing significant that’s achieved by Wang Lung, our so called here of the story. May be the author was trying to portray how people strive at the start, and succumb to comforts and laziness once they cross the threshold.

    Secondly, as you rightly pointed out she has great patience. People say patience is a virtue. Let’s add tolerance too. I also agree that many times people (not necessarily only husbands… it can be either partner) forget to acknowledge the efforts by the concerned. Sadly, it happens so often. But, I think everybody does soul search at some point in life and realize the importance of his/her partner.

    Once again, thanks a lot for this nice post.

    Once again

  2. SOWMYA,
    I SUGGEST THAT YOU READ THIS BOOK AGAIN-THIS BOOK IS A PORTRAYAL OF O LAN.SHE IS THE HERO OF THIS BOOK.READ IT AGAIN AND LOOK AT THE CHARACTERS-NOT THE FLOW OF THE STORY

    SITA

  3. Cannot say I deny the fact that a lot of wives, not just house wives do not get their due and there might be varied reasons for it. But, I think, we, are not taught the art of expression and those select few who tend to express are too shy to say it to their face!🙂. As every other aspect, even caring, nurturing, loving, tolerance – should be learnt and cannot be learnt overnight too…

    The book, as much as ur narration, seems quite interesting. Perhaps will pick it up one of these days🙂.

  4. I have read this book so long ago that I don’t remember anything except the good feeling that I had read a good book. I was wondering about your story, pedavi daatanivi. Not speaking some feelings is a cultural value in the Orient. That goes for men as well as women, I suppose.

  5. If you ask mom for coffee in the morning youre really unappreciative. Although o-lan dies with the knowledge that her husband did truely appreciated her it was not enough.


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