How are women thought of and treated in the first two chapters of The Good Earth?

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teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the first chapter of The Good Earth, Wang Lung prepares for his marriage to O-lan.  He has gone to the House of Hwang to buy one of the servant girls to wed.  He says that he does not want a pretty woman, but one who can work and help him tend to his home and fields.  When he sees O-lan, he thinks that she is ugly, but her body is strong, and he is pleased by this.  Wang Lung's regard for his new wife suggests that at the time, women were regarded as components of the household.  Notions of romantic love did not create marriages--a woman's intended role in home did.  Wang Lung needs O-lan to do "women's work" around the home such as cooking, cleaning, mending, and tending to his older, ailing father.  Also, Wang Lung realizes that he is a poor farmer and thinks that a pretty woman would want a richer existence than the one he can provide. 

sas09 | Student

The first two chapters of this novel give an insight into how women were perceived in the culture at the time. For instance, the practice of foot-binding is mentioned several times, indicating that small feet were considered attractive and desirable in females, despite the pain and discomfort that the women endured. Little thought was given to a woman's feelings or desires as she was thought of as a commodity - a property, whose sole purpose was to serve and please her husband.

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The Good Earth

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