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Max Brighton has commented on (1) product.

Good Earth by Pearl S Buck
Good Earth

Max Brighton, May 14, 2011

Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth is a synopsis of a hard-working farmer’s life and how he faces obstacles, but is successful in overcoming them. Throughout this novel, Buck emphasizes how one should not fall prey to material obsessions, but rather work hard toward accomplishment. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book because of my previous trip to China and being able to learn more about the country’s expansive, yet unique culture and history. By exemplifying the lifestyle and full life cycle of China in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Buck has created an influential novel that will continue to impact the lives of many for years to come.
Pearl Sydenstricker Buck was brought to China when she was three months old by her parents’ missionary work. She stayed there for most of the next 40 years with a brief hiatus as she attended Randolph-Macon Women’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia. By growing up in China, Buck felt life an outsider in her own birth country during this educational period. She married John Lossing Buck in 1917 and had her only child in 1921, who turned out to be a severely retarded daughter. The Good Earth is based heavily on Pearl Buck’s personal knowledge garnered throughout her Chinese upbringing. Its publishing in 1931 drew great fame around the world and led to her winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1932.
The material distractions that Buck focuses on are opium, foods, and clothes, but she also stresses the importance of a foundation through her descriptions of land and religion. Buck writes, “And he looked at his uncle and he saw that he grew thin as he smoked his opium and his skin yellow with opium and he was bent and old and he spat blood when he coughed” to demonstrate how opium destroys a person’s existence(292). She also describes how expensive delicacies and silks can change people through the following quotes, “Cuckoo bathed and perfumed her again and put on her fresh clothes, soft white silk against her flesh and peach-colored silk outside, the silken garments that Wang Lung had given, and upon her feet Cuckoo put small embroidered shoes” (201) and “And going hither and thither were the vendors of sweets and fruits and nuts and of hot delicacies of sweet potatoes browned in sweet oils” (111). Land and religion remain central throughout the entire novel. Buck displays their significance as the protagonist’s fundamentals by writing, “It is the end of a family-when they begin to sell the land” (360) and “These were the god himself and his lady. They wore robes of red and gilt paper, and the god had a scant, drooping moustache of red hair. Each year at the New Year, Wang Lung’s father bought sheets of red paper and carefully cut and pasted new robes for the pair”(21). These topics combine in the work to accentuate how one’s roots provide the support needed to overcome life’s distractions and obstacles.
Buck’s novel effectively displays Chinese culture and tradition while teaching lessons on simplicity in life and morality. While it focuses on Chinese customs and history, it fails to mention the impact of foreigners on China. The novel only describes how they paid rickshaw drivers well when a rickshaw driver says, “A foreigner- a female from America- you are rich” (109) and stood out like a sore thumb in the southern city where Wang had migrated to during the famine when Buck writes, “Then Wang Lung knew that this was indeed a foreigner and more foreign yet than he was in this city” (109). Another novel that I believe addresses similar aspects of life and of China is Rob Gifford’s China Road. Both books portray China’s existence and background, but Gifford’s novel provides more detail on the country as a whole because of his trans-china journey and unification with the Chinese people.
Pearl s. Buck’s The Good Earth highlights the importance of sticking to one’s foundations. She incorporates a history lesson on China’s cultural revolutions, traditions, and customs. Buck wants her readers to realize that success is best achieved through hard work, determination, and perseverance and celebrated by thanking supporters and living life simply.
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