Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

This book was first published in 1931, yet it still retains the qualities for readers today that made it a worldwide best seller for so many years. Pearl Buck was born in the United States but raised in China by missionary parents, so she identified with the Chinese and spoke the language fluently.

The story concerns Wang Lung the farmer, and traces his life from early marriage on, encompassing his rise to prosperity through hard work and trusting in the land, the source of his livelihood. He lives through famine and times of social upheaval. We are with him throughout his struggles, sympathizing with his willingness to endure as long as he has his connection with the earth, with the rhythm of its seasons and harvests. Events encountered later have more to do with his family and their relationships. Buck’s portrayal of these situations is both skillful and sparing, letting the reader imagine what is left unsaid from his or her own life experience.

Pearl Buck won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1938, and this award caused some controversy. Some critics of the award citied the author's tendency to give too much prominence to her message, which often resulted in a more superficial treatment of her characters. She wrote profusely, producing two or three books a year. Many of these are not memorable, but some of them are, and The Good Earth is one of her best efforts.

No comments: