The Tiananmen Square Protest
(and how the themes relate with The Good Earth)
The Chinese government at the time of the Tiananmen Square protest was a communist dictatorship that was beginning to adopt capitalist economics. The government ruled by fear. Many of their politicians were corrupt. There are some types of issues that the Tiananmen Square protest has in common with The Good Earth. In both, there are instances where one person changes something that matters. When the protesters were being shot by tanks and men with guns, one man stood in front of a row of moving tanks, daring them to run over him. The tanks did not run over him and by stopping them he may have saved hundreds of lives. In The Good Earth, a man gives up his last food to Wang Lung so that he can feed his children and keep them from starving to death.
Hu Yaobang was general secretary in China until he "overstepped" his bounds and was forced to retire. Near his death he was public about his opinion that China should be a democracy. When he died, thousands of students gathered to show that they agreed and that they wanted China to be a democracy. They began a protest to demand the rights they thought they and the people of China were entitled to. They demanded guarantees of human rights, mainly freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly.
The students said that a less corrupt government was necessary and that the civil war between mainland China and Taiwan must end and be no more than friendly competition. Revision of the constitution to remove everything that supported dictatorship by relying on the basis of class struggle was also a necessity. They also said that their leaders needed to be held accountable for their actions. The leaders of the Chinese Communist Party were less than happy at the thought of these changes because they eliminated most of their power and made them more vulnerable.
The first few days of the Tiananman Square protest had an almost carnival like atmosphere. Workers would show up with their friends the minute their shift was over. There were thousands of people shouting and carrying banners, which gave the first days the rather carefree feeling of organized chaos. Students from the University of Communications even formed a metaphorical roller coaster by linking hands and forming what they called a "moving democracy wall".
When the world heard what was happening in Tiananmen Square, many people could not sit quietly and take no action. One sixty-seven year old man said that when he saw how the students were suffering for their cause, it was too "pitiful" to watch and he decided to go join them, bringing the message that both young and old wanted China to change. Many of the world's people supported the Tiananman Square protest by helping the protesters' families and sending money and other support. However, there were also many people who scorned the students and workers who were protesting because they were causing chaos.
The book The Good Earth and the Tiananman Square protest have many similar themes going on due to the fact that they both took place at times when the structure of China was changing. Actually, a theme that played a prominent role in both was change in status. Wang Lung's status changed when he is able to buy land from the Huang family because they had been so powerful and rich. Throughout the book he not only gains status by buying their land, Wang Lung and his family eventually replace the Huang family in their position of power. In China, just a few years before the Tiananman Square protest, the Red Guard persecuted the formerly rich (no one was really rich) and the educated. Most of the formerly rich and educated became poor while some of the poor people became richer. In both The Good Earth and the Tiananmen Square protest dealt with power struggle in the society.
In The Good Earth Wang Lung owns private land and works very hard to make it grow food. Around the time of the Tiananmen Square protest, the possibility of owning private property was just returning to China. For about 40 years all land had belonged to the community and since everyone got an equal share of what the land grew and of the harvest, almost no one worked very hard.
The Tiananmen Square protest turned into a massacre when the Chinese Communist Party brought tanks and guns into Tiananmen Square and fired. Thousands of lives were lost. The quality of life in China improved for some, but none of the demands of the protesters have been met. In China, both at Tiananmen Square and in The Good Earth, though many people die, life goes on. It is almost as if history is repeating its self. In both The Good Earth and in China at the time of the Tiananmen Square protest, social class is an issue. In The Good Earth the social class of a person may change very dramatically very quickly, while China the time of the Tiananmen Square protest tried to eliminate social status all together.