Synopses & Reviews
ENDURING LITERATURE ILLUMINATED
BY PRACTICAL SCHOLARSHIP
A poignant tale about the life and labors of a Chinese farmer during the sweeping reign of the country¹s last emperor.
EACH ENRICHED CLASSIC EDITION INCLUDES:
A concise introduction that gives readers important background information
A chronology of the author's life and work
A timeline of significant events that provides the book's historical context
An outline of key themes and plot points to help readers form their own interpretations
Detailed explanatory notes
Critical analysis, including contemporary and modern perspectives on the work
Discussion questions to promote lively classroom and book group interaction
A list of recommended related books and films to broaden the reader's experience
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SERIES EDITED BY CYNTHIA BRANTLEY JOHNSON
"The Good Earth has style, power, coherence and a pervasive sense of dramatic reality." New York Times Book Review
"To read this story of Wang Lung is to be slowly and deeply purified; and when the last page is finished it is as if some significant part of one's own days were over." Bookman
Though more than sixty years have passed since this remarkable novel won the Pulitzer Prize, it has retained its popularity and become one of the great modern classics. "I can only write what I know, and I know nothing but China, having always lived there," wrote Pearl Buck. In The Good Earth
she presents a graphic view of a China when the last emperor reigned and the vast political and social upheavals of the twentieth century were but distant rumblings for the ordinary people. This moving, classic story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife O-lan is must reading for those who would fully appreciate the sweeping changes that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese people during this century.
Nobel Prize winner Pearl S. Buck traces the whole cycle of life: its terrors, its passions, its ambitions and rewards. Her brilliant novel beloved by millions of readers is a universal tale of the destiny of man.
Pearl S. Buck's epic
Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of a China that was
-- now in a Contemporary Classics
Though more than sixty years have passed
since this remarkable novel won the Pulitzer
Prize, it has retained its popularity and become
one of the great modern classics. "I can only
write what I know, and I know nothing but China,
having always lived there," wrote Pearl Buck. In
The Good Earth she presents a graphic
view of a China when the last emperor reigned
and the vast political and social upheavals of
the twentieth century were but distant rumblings
for the ordinary people. This moving, classic
story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his
selfless wife O-lan is must reading for those
who would fully appreciate the sweeping changes
that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese
people during this century.
Nobel Prize winner Pearl S. Buck traces the
whole cycle of life: its terrors, its passions,
its ambitions and rewards. Her brilliant novel
-- beloved by millions of readers -- is a
universal tale of the destiny of man.
About the Author
Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker
was born on June 26, 1892, in Hillsboro, West Virginia. Her parents were Southern Presbyterian missionaries, most often stationed in China, and from childhood, Pearl spoke both English and Chinese. She returned to China shortly after graduation from Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1914, and the following year, she met a young agricultural economist named John Lossing Buck. They married in 1917, and immediately moved to Nanhsuchou in rural Anhwei province. In this impoverished community, Pearl Buck gathered the material that she would later use in The Good Earth
and other stories of China.
Pearl began to publish stories and essays in the 1920s, in magazines such as The Nation, The Chinese Recorder, Asia, and The Atlantic Monthly. Her first novel, East Wind, West Wind, was published by the John Day Company in 1930. John Day's publisher, Richard Walsh, would eventually become Pearl's second husband, in 1935, after both received divorces.
In 1931, John Day published Pearl's second novel, The Good Earth. This became the bestselling book of both 1931 and 1932, won the Pulitzer Prize and the Howells Medal in 1935, and would be adapted as a major MGM film in 1937. Other novels and books of nonfiction quickly followed. In 1938, less than a decade after her first book had appeared, Pearl won the Nobel Prize in literature, the first American woman to do so. By the time of her death in 1973, Pearl had published more than seventy books: novels, collections of stories, biography and autobiography, poetry, drama, children's literature, and translations from the Chinese. She is buried at Green Hills Farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Reading Group Guide
1. The novel begins with Wang Lung's expectation of rain, the daily boiling of water for his father, and his bathing for his wedding. What might this water imagery foreshadow?
2. Why does Wang Lung feel compelled to purchase the rice field from the House of Hwang? Why does he at first regret it?
3. "And so this parcel of land became to Wang Lung a sign and a symbol." What does the author mean by this?
4. Wang Lung considers the birth of his daughter to be a bad omen. How does he come to regard this girl, who grows up to become a fool?
5. As the family works and begs in the city, what do they think of the foreigners they encounter? What purpose does the author serve in including these descriptions?
6. The abundance of food in the city contrasts with the characters impoverished lives. Discuss the emotionally complex relationship Wang Lung develops with the city.
7. The poor laborers in the city lack knowledge even of what they look like, a fact illustrated by the man who mocks himself in a mirror. How does a new self-awareness come to manifest itself?
8. When Wang Lung becomes swept up with the mob and enters the rich man's house, is the gold he receives there a curse or a blessing? Do you feel any pity for the rich man? What do you think the author intended you to feel?
9. After O-lan steals the jewels, do they function as a bad omen or good luck? Why does O-lan want to keep the two pearls? Why is Wang Lung so astonished by this? What do the pearls signify?
10. As O-lan dies, she bemoans her lack of beauty and says she is too ugly to be loved. Wang Lung feels guilty, but still cannot love her as he did Lotus. Neither woman can control destiny. Lotus was an orphan who had been sold into prostitution because she was beautiful, and O-lan had been sold as a kitchen slave because she was plain. For whom do you feel sympathy? Why?
11. Toward the end of the novel we encounter the belief that things will change "when the poor become too poor and the rich are too rich." Discuss the ambivalence of this statement -- a mixture of both hope and despair -- and how it reflects upon the whole of The Good Earth.
12. Pearl Buck wrote a first-person novel from the point of view of a Chinese man, which was controversial because she was of a different culture. What are some of the challenges of this undertaking? How might this book have been different had it been written by a Chinese person? Compare Buck's novel to other books written by authors striving to transcend culture or gender (e.g.: Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha, James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone).
The New York Times A comment upon the meaning and tragedy of life as it is lived in any age in any quarter of the globe. Pittsburgh Post Gazette One of the most important and revealing novels of our time. Boston Transcript One need never have lived in China or know anything about the Chinese to understand it or respond to its appeal.