A Chinese peasant overcomes the forces of nature and the frailties of human nature to become a wealthy landowner.
Pearl Buck (1892-1973) wrote THE GOOD EARTH in three months, based on her observations of Chinese life and culture while she lived in China as the daughter of American missionaries. In the novel, Buck tells the story of a simple, traditional small-farmer, Wang Lung, whose highest priority is the land he farms himself with his wife, O-lan. Throughout, Wang Lung's family is contrasted to the wealthy and decadent Huangs, whose tie to the precious land has long been cut: they hire outsiders to do their farming and devote themselves to luxury. As the years go by, Wang Lung prospers as the corrupt Huangs decline--but by novel's end, he has become more like them, and his own children fall into the traps that wealth sets: leisure, opium, and a lack of respect for the good earth. Through Wang Lung and his family, Buck depicts the changes that were taking place in Chinese culture in the early 20th century. One interesting element of the novel is her attitude toward missionaries which, despite her background, is highly critical of their detachment from the people they are there to serve. Another is the description of foot-binding, a torturous practice indulged in mainly by the wealthy. Buck understands its origins and its importance to the Chinese, but it is clear that when O-lan, herself risen from poverty and therefore with unbound feet, decides to bind the feet of her daughter, the family has truly succumbed to the debased values of the wealthy. THE GOOD EARTH won the Pulitzer Prize when it was published, and Buck received the Nobel Prize in 1938, largely on the strength of this powerful novel.
- Fiction + Literature Themes, Fiction + Literature Genres
- Literary Genres + Types of Novels, Conflicts + Dualities, Family + Friendship, Work + the Workplace, Peoples + Cultures, Types of Characters, Society + Social Issues, Classics
- September 15, 2004
- September 15, 2004
- Pearl S. Buck