Taoist Stories Taoists often use anecdotes to describe and present lessons of life. For example, The Missing Axe teaches that people see only what they want to see. Another important Taoist story, The Lost Horse, proves the falseness of first impressions. Similarly, Pearl Buck expresses this idea of false impressions in The Good Earth. When Wang Lung makes judgments about other characters throughout the novel, Buck shows how ones first impressions of others can be wrong.
One of Wang Lungs first impressions of O-lan is that she is worthless, but after their marriage, O-lan proves his judgment to be incorrect. When he first meets her in the House of Hwang, he immediately receives a negative impression when he saw with an instants disappointment that her feet were not bound (13). This negative impact increases when he does not find beauty of any kind in her face (14). Judging only on her physical appearance, Wang Lung incorrectly decides that she will play an unimportant role in his life. Despite Wang Lungs negative impressions of her, O-lan turns out to be one of the most helpful people in his life. Without her, Wang Lung would not survive through the hardships of the drought nor the move to the South. He would not have had sons carry on his name after his death.
In spite of the fact that women were considered inferior to men, Wang Lung later realizes the important role she played in his life, causing him to weep at her funeral. By the way Wang Lung changes the way he sees her, O-lan displays how first impressions one receives from another can be contrary to their true self. Where the Poor Fool is born, she is called an evil omen (47), but in the later years of Wang Lungs life, he values her. Since the Confucian philosophy of men being superior to women dominates his society, Wang Lung considers the Poor Fools birth a disgrace, and did not even stop to see the face of this small, new creature (46). As years pass by and as Wang Lung ages, he realizes his negative impression of the Poor Fool at her birth were wrong. He finds out that instead of being a disgrace, he finds great pleasure in spending time with her and Pear Blossom and he wished only to sit in his court near these two (255). Like Poor Fool, Pear Blossom proves Wang Lungs belief of her being useless, incorrect.
When Pear Blossoms father offers her as a slave for Wang Lung, he is reluctant to buy her for she appears to be a delicate maid that is small and weak (205) and not likely to do much work. For the same reasons, Lotus favors her. To avoid an argument with Lotus, Wang Lung unwillingly buys her. As years pass, their love for each other increases and grows into the love between father and daughter. She becomes the closest person Wang Lung has and it was a comfort to him now when he saw Pear Blossom was faithful (253).
Wang Lungs initial impression of Pear Blossom proves false when she provides company during later years and eliminates his worries for Poor Fool. This change from seeing both the Poor Fool and Pear Blossom negatively to growing fond of them, once again shows that first impressions are not reliable. Pearl Buck successfully conveys the theme that ones first impressions can be incorrect. Not only does this lesson apply to Wang Lungs life but that this concept is relevant to us, for we may miss the opportunity to meet friends. Like the American saying, Dont judge a book by its cover, people should not jump to conclusions and decide whether people are bad or good from first impressions.