A poignant tale about life of a poor farmer Wang-Lung, in agrarian pre-revolutionary China highlighting Chinese cultural practices from those times and a well-known fact “Money is the root of all evils ”.
Wang-Lung, a poor farmer for who even a hot bath and tea in the morning is luxuries that he cannot afford rises to money and power when he marries an ordinary looking slave O-Lan. Together, he and his nondescript looking wife toil their land, enduring back-breaking effort and pain and make a comfortable Life for themselves.
Wang-Lung gets too comfortable with his newly acquired status in the society and in the face of wealth, idleness; greed for more land and lust for a beautiful woman he lets it corrupt his innocence. He very easily forgets O-Lan’s contribution to the comforts of his Life and brings a mistress home thereby insulting O-Lan’s devotion to him.
He considers sons to be good fortune whereas daughters are none but liabilities born to him that would bring nothing to his family forgetting the very fact of his own Life that it is his wife, the slave that he bought who is the sole reason of his acquisition of land and without her he would have still been nothing but a crass, poor village fool.
The ruthless objectivity of women by binding their feet so that they remain small and a cattle like evaluation of their looks makes you cringe at the blatant portrayal of unspoken torment tolerated by generations of women.
The book even though written in the early nineties depicts all the facts that hold true still:
-A man values the hard-work put by his wife only till she is of use to him, once he is successful enough he is like any ordinary male preferring the transience of beauty over everlasting character.
-Money is the root of all evils, the more you have it the more you want it and the more is your diminishing sense of corruption rising through it.
-Sons through prided and still preferred upon in some societies can still make Life hell not even understanding and valuing their Parents who are the origin of their sustenance, whereas daughters who Wang-Lung in the book refers as ‘slaves’ and ‘fools’ would still be there comforting and sharing sorrows.
On the whole the book is a general depiction of society where even when a person is decent or good-hearted can still be influenced with money,greed and lust.
Realisation finally comes when Life turns full circle and power,lust and too-much-importance-to-looks are nothing but vices that mar every little thing that makes Life beautiful draining all the peace and beauty from it, leaving it with nothing but lessons that better be learned before it’s too late.