Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Wang Lung, an ambitious farmer who sees in the land the only sure source of livelihood. At the end of his life, however, his third son has left the land to be a soldier, and his first and second sons callously plan to sell the land and go to the city as soon as Wang dies.
O-Lan, a slave bought by Wang’s father to marry Wang. She works hard in their small field with Wang; during the civil war, she loots in order to get money to buy more land. She dies in middle age of a stomach illness.
Nung En, their oldest son, who, when he covets his father’s concubine, Lotus Blossom, is married to the grain merchant Liu’s daughter.
Nung Wen, their second son, apprenticed to Liu.
The Fool, their retarded daughter.
Liu, a grain merchant in the town.
The Uncle, who brings his wife and shiftless son to live on Wang’s farm. Secretly a lieutenant of a robber band, he also brings protection.
Lotus Blossom, Wang Lung’s concubine, who is refused entrance into the house by O-Lan.
Ching, a neighbor hired by Wang Lung as overseer.
Pear Blossom, a pretty slave taken by Wang after the death of his wife.
(The entire section is 225 words.)
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Ching is a farmer and neighbor of Wang Lung. He is a small and quiet man with a face “like an ape’s.” Honest and decent, Ching is ashamed of the fact that during the famine he joined with the mob that went to Wang Lung’s house to steal. He took a handful of Wang Lung’s beans, but only because his child was starving. A short while later, Ching gives Wang Lung some dried red beans to atone for his actions. During the famine, Ching’s wife dies, and he is forced to sell his daughter to a soldier to save her life. When Wang Lung returns from the city, he helps Ching. He later buys Ching’s land and employs Ching to help him manage all his land. Ching becomes a loyal employee, and there is mutual respect between the two men. When Ching dies, Wang Lung grieves for him even more than he did for his father.
Cuckoo is a sharp-voiced, shrewd woman who for much of her life is a slave at the House of Hwang. But after the old mistress dies and the house is sacked by bandits, she becomes the mistress of the Old Master and manages his affairs. She also acts as intermediary for Wang Lung to meet Lotus. When Lotus moves to Wang Lung’s house, Cuckoo attends her as a servant. This arrangement causes friction in the house because O-lan dislikes Cuckoo and will not speak to her. As the years go by, Cuckoo and Lotus develop a more equal relationship and become friends. Cuckoo is very skilled at looking...
(The entire section is 2478 words.)