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What does O-lan's name in The Good Earth mean in English? All the other girls have...

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tokio-hotel-grl | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 6, 2009 at 7:47 AM via web

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What does O-lan's name in The Good Earth mean in English? All the other girls have names like Lotus and Pear Blossom but what does O-lan's name mean?

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cetaylorplfd | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 1, 2010 at 7:45 AM (Answer #1)

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The word "lan" in Chinese refers to "orchid."  So O-lan's name is likely a derivative of this idea (which would go along with Lotus and Pear Blossom referring to flowers).  It is ironic here that O-lan's name would relate to a flower that is highly regarded in Asia for it's delicacy and beauty.  In the novel, O-lan is outwardly portrayed as the direct opposite of an "orchid":  she is not pretty, her feet are not bound, and she works in the fields.  However, O-lan is an amazing character for the quiet intelligence and inner beauty that she possesses, and in these ways she is much like an "orchid."  O-lan is a woman to be desired for all the gifts that she holds, yet Wang Lung takes advantage of her graces and does not appreciate the true nature of O-lan's character.

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