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.