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The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
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The Good Earth

by Pearl S. Buck

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The House of Earth: Trilogy (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
11,507226380 (4.04)608
"This Pulitzer Prize-winning classic tells the poignant tale of a Chinese farmer and his family in old agrarian China. The humble Wang Lung glories in the soil he works, nurturing the land as it nurtures him and his family. Nearby, the nobles of the House of Hwang consider themselves above the land and its workers; but they will soon meet their own downfall. Hard times come upon Wang Lung and his family when flood and drought force them to seek work in the city. The working people riot, breaking into the homes of the rich and forcing them to flee. When Wang Lung shows mercy to one noble and is rewarded, he begins to rise in the world, even as the House of Hwang falls" -- from publisher's web site.… (more)
  1. 80
    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Both are well-written novels set in late 19th/early 20th century China.
  2. 71
    The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (John_Vaughan)
  3. 51
    East of Eden by John Steinbeck (John_Vaughan)
  4. 30
    Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Ellen_Elizabeth)
    Ellen_Elizabeth: Another classic, historical fiction novel that explores a traditional culture through the story of one man and his family. Both were written in English and illustrate the author's perceived strengths and weaknesses of the subject culture in a way that is accessible to western readers.… (more)
  5. 42
    Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang (ominogue)
  6. 20
    Dragon Seed by Pearl S. Buck (deeyes)
    deeyes: Dragon seed is similar but better pearl buck book
  7. 10
    The Pearl by John Steinbeck (Authoress)
    Authoress: Families who go through times of both wealth and poverty are featured in both works
  8. 21
    The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P'ing Mei: Vol. 1, The Gathering by Lanling Xiaoxiao Sheng (orangewords)
  9. 11
    The City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre (orangewords)
  10. 11
    Satan in Goray by Isaac Bashevis Singer (SanctiSpiritus)
  11. 12
    The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh (ominogue)
  12. 12
    Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun (thatguyzero)
  13. 23
    Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (jennyl.keen)
1930s (17)
Asia (15)
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» See also 608 mentions

English (214)  German (4)  Spanish (3)  Finnish (2)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (225)
Showing 1-5 of 214 (next | show all)
I'm not altogether sure how I feel about The Good Earth. As storytelling goes, it's effective, quite wonderful actually. It keeps you turning the pages. And it does reveal something of the author's belief in the infinity of time and the processes of life. But I'll bet its affinity for "blood and soil" makes at least a few people nervous. Still that might be looking too much through our filtered lens of living in the present, because the fact is that Buck's account of the Chinese peasantry is not all that different from depictions of the rural life among, for example, the Nashville Agrarians.

On another point, much often is made over Buck's use of "Biblical language." That alludes to her own statements concerning the King James Version of the Bible and its influence on her. But I would not agree that it is the vocabulary that is "Biblical." Instead, it's the meter, the rhythm, and the cadence. The America of the 1930s, when The Good Earth was published, was still a predominantly Christian Protestant country. And there would have been more than a few people whose only source of reading and learning to read was the KJV. Small wonder that The Good Earth found such resonance among its readership.

Then, there is Pearl Buck herself. The daughter of missionaries and later the spouse of one, Buck came to criticize foreign missionaries and their work in China, especially their ignorance and arrogance towards Chinese culture. But the truth is that Buck never stopped being a missionary. It's a peculiar tendency in the Anglo-Saxon world (especially the US and UK before World War II) to think that the world needs saving from itself. Either in terms of religion or, these days, in American defined values of human rights and cultural assimilation. Buck was no different, turning from religion to issues of race, women's rights, and equality--all dependent on what Americans saw these terms as meaning. That is all there, too, in The Good Earth. And it makes it more than a little sanctimonious at times. ( )
  PaulCornelius | Apr 12, 2020 |
I loved Buck's novel Imperial Woman, but I didn't really love this one. I found it really tedious, and Wang Lung becomes such a wiener I was just fed up with him by the end of the book. ( )
  Sonya_W | Feb 5, 2020 |
Its obvious why this book is such a classic. Well-written, thoughtful, while sparse. Almost biblical in its scope and language. ( )
  Gittel | Jan 7, 2020 |
There is a reason this is a classic as it captures the story of basic humanity. Wang Lung is the son of a peasant farmer who is going a claim a wife from the slaves at a nearby landowners house. When he sees O-lan, he is pleased that she is not terribly ugly and seems to be a serviceable wife. Eventually two sons are born to Lung and O-lan and then a severe famine occurs which leads them to go to the city in the South taking with them Lung's aging father. Here they do whatever they can to survive. O-lan is pregnant again and a child is delivered but due to the lack of nutrition, she is never right, but she does survive. Lung pulls a rickshaw and life is unbelievably harsh. When Lung comes upon some money the family is able to move back to their home.

The plot eventually makes Lung a land-owner himself and times become prosperous. However, the troubles of some kind or the other continue. There is jealously, greed, hard-work, but also devotion to the family (especially to Lung's father) and O-lan to her husband as the culture dictates.

The writing in this book has a Biblical feel about it. One learns to hate Lung, feel sorry for him, admire him, and struggle with him as he raises his family including his little fool (the daughter). Lung takes another wife, buys more land, deals with his malicious uncle, and still life goes on. There is so much in this book that is still applicable today. There is much to say about extreme poverty and extreme wealth. It is hard to conceive of the family devotion to the elders but that so shapes the story.

Loved this story; one of my all time favorites. ( )
  maryreinert | Nov 12, 2019 |
A very good tale of growing up poor, becoming wealthy and seeing the trend start to reverse itself. ( )
  Jamieb82 | Oct 22, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 214 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (59 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pearl S. Buckprimary authorall editionscalculated
Heald, AnthonyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malling, LivTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mendes, OscarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mulder de Dauner, ElisabethTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zody, BepTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
...This was what Vinteuil had done for the little phrase. Swann felt that the composer had been content (with the instruments at his disposal) to draw aside its veil, to make it visible, following and respecting its outlines with a hand so loving, so prudent, so delicate and so sure, that the sound altered at every moment, blunting itself to indicate a shadow, springing back into life when it must follow the curve of some more bold projection. And one proof that Swann was not mistaken when believed in the real existence of this phrase was that anyone with an ear at all delicate for music would have at once detected the imposture had Vinteuil, endowed with less power to see and to render its forms, sought to dissemble (by adding a line, here and there, of his own invention) the dimness of his vision or the feebleness of his hand.
— Swann's Way, by Marcel Proust
Dedication
First words
It was Wang Lung's marriage day.
Quotations
He had no articulate thought of anything; there was only this perfect sympathy of movement, of turning this earth of theirs over and over to the sun, this earth which formed their home and fed their bodies and made their gods. The earth lay rich and dark, and fell apart lightly under the points of their hoes, Sometimes they turned up a bit of brick, a splinter of wood. It was nothing. Sometimes, in some age, bodies of men and women had been buried there, houses had stood there, had fallen, and gone back into the earth. So would also their house, sometime, return into the earth, their bodies also. Each had his turn at this earth. They worked on, moving together — together — producing the fruit of this earth — speechless in their movement together.
…he said nothing still, she looked at him piteously and sadly out of her strange dumb eyes that were like a beast’s eyes that cannot speak, and then she went away, creeping and feeling for the door because of her tears that blinded her.

Wang Lung watched her as she went and he was glad to be alone, but still he was ashamed and he was still angry that he was ashamed, and he said to himself, and he muttered the words aloud and restlessly, as though he quarreled with someone, “Well, and other men are so and I have been good enough to her, and there are men worse than I.” And he said at last that O-lan must bear it.
My house and my land it is, and if it were not for the land we should all starve as the others did, and you could not walk about in your dainty robes idle as a scholar. It is the good land that has made you something better than a farmer’s lad.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is the book; do not combine with the film.
Film ISBNs: 0792803825, 0790793083
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