In Confucian philosophy, filial piety is an important virtue and primary duty of respect for one's parents and ancestors. In Pearl S. Buck's novel, The Good Earth, the author implies that pre-Revolutionary Chinese people feel social obligations of filial piety. To the characters of the book, elders are first priority, the young have the obligation to remain silent and to follow their elders' orders without question, and honor the name of the families ancestors.
Wang Lung's obligations to his elders are first priority. During the famine, the rains, "withheld themselves,"(pg 70) and so the Wang family (except the old man), and the entire village starve. "The old man fared better than any, for if there was anything, he was given it" (pg. 74). Because of this, the children, whose bellies "were swollen out with empty wind," starve even more, because Wang Lung gives any remaining food to his father. Another example of filial piety is when the uncle returns. When his uncle comes to Wang Lung's house (which now stands rich from the jewels that O-lan steals during the raid) ,he "helped himself freely to rice and dried salt fish."(pg. 202). Then, the uncle has Wang Lung lead him to the father's bed, where he, "lifted the quilts and felt the good cloth.and.was asleep."(pg. 202) .Wang Lung cannot resist, even when the uncle says, "Now I will fetch my wife and my son" (pg, 203). The uncle demands money and food and does nothing in return, and has previously mistreated Wang Lung and been a disgrace to the family name. The hapless Wang Lung can say nothing but kind words as they eat the food and sleep in the beds that Wang Lung worked hard for. This situation could be difficult for Wang Lung to handle but he has already been taught not to let his tongue slip, like he did before the famine. " 'Now that,' he [the uncle] cried 'for speaking to your father's generation! Have you no religion, no morals, that you are so lacking in filial conduct? Have you not heard it said that in the Sacred Edicts it is commanded that a man is never to correct an elder!?" (pg.