What do the pearls signify in The Good Earth?Chapter 15-16.

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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When Wang Lung discovers Olan's stolen pearls and jewels, he makes her give all of them to him so he can buy more land.  Even though he takes the jewels from her, Wang allows Olan to keep two of the precious, perfect pearls for herself in a moment of compassion; in a moment of understanding, he empathizes with Olan, understanding that she has worked hard and faithfully for him for many years without reward.  In this moment, the pearls symbolize Wang Lung's affection and admiration for Olan and her contributions.  The pearls are a visual symbol of his honest caring for his wife's happiness.

In later chapters, Wang Lung will take the pearls away from Olan to give to his mistress Lotus.  This offensive move not only reflects the transference of Wang's affections from Olan to Lotus, but also reveals Wang Lung's extremely selfish, thoughtless attitude.