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The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

The Good Earth

by Pearl S. Buck

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The House of Earth: Trilogy (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
10,770214372 (4.05)568
  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. 61
    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. 20
    Dragon Seed by Pearl S. Buck (deeyes)
    deeyes: Dragon seed is similar but better pearl buck book
  6. 43
    Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang (ominogue)
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    The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P'ing Mei: Vol. 1, The Gathering by Lanling Xiaoxiao Sheng (orangewords)
  8. 11
    Satan in Goray by Isaac Bashevis Singer (SanctiSpiritus)
  9. 11
    The Pearl by John Steinbeck (Authoress)
    Authoress: Families who go through times of both wealth and poverty are featured in both works
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    The City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre (orangewords)
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  13. 13
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1930s (24)
Asia (12)

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English (204)  German (4)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (2)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (214)
Showing 1-5 of 204 (next | show all)
I read this book for the first time in 7th grade and just finished rereading it and experience reading the book couldn't be more different. What I remembered about the book before rereading it was that it was about a man and his land with his wife and how they struggled then changed when they had money. Rereading it, it was more sad and I hated the main character in the 2nd half of the book. I also didn't remember anything after O'lan dies, I suspect in 7th grade we read a slimmed down version. I didn't enjoy the book as much after O'lan dies it felt like the rest of the book was about waiting for Wang Lung to die as well even though he wasn't that old, he just kept preparing for it. I liked the foreshadowing from the beginning about the old house, I was glad to see that the end didn't exactly copy the fall of the old house but lead you to believe it was leading that way considering the sons wanted to sell the land. The ending was well done, but felt very rushed and random the last few chapters.This is a great book to read, lots of interesting characters and it's about their lifetime and it does the time really well. ( )
  wellreadcatlady | Jul 9, 2018 |
This is the story of Wang Lung, a Chinese farmer who makes his way from a simple agrarian life to a life of wealth and the warnings about what such a life can mean. We see Wang's life in contrast to that of the House of Hwang, the wealthy, but worthless, rich men of his town. Wang begins, a moral man who is tied to his land and appreciates the life he makes through his labors. He marries a good, but simple, woman O-Lan, who helps him work the fields and produces his children. He begins with an appreciation for this woman and values her contributions to his life. Then a turn of events leave him with money and as "the love of money is the root of all evil", Wang begins to change, until he morphs into the same corrupt man as the Hwang's whose place he assumes.

As a daughter of missionaries, I think Buck was intentionally writing a cautionary moral tale. She means us to see that Wang's wealth, which he comes to by stealing it from another person, removes him from what is important and good in his life. He loses his connection to the land, and in doing so loses all his happiness, peace and purpose. O-Lan, who might serve as a moral compass for Wang, is tossed aside for someone prettier, but whose outer beauty masks nothing but greed and indifference to Wang's welfare. In Wang's children we can see how deep the deterioration has gone and in the last pages of the book they are already looking toward selling the land, an act which will plant the seeds for their own downfall.

I cannot profess to like Buck's characters, with the exception of O-Lan, who is so unjustly mistreated and unloved that one feels despair for her sake. I do not see this, as some do, as a portrait of China. Even in this time, China and the Chinese may well have varied greatly from Buck's view of them. She was an outsider looking in, and from a view she would have held to be superior, I suppose. What I do see here is a very accurate portrait of what unearned wealth can produce in a man, what separation from nature and the natural order can do to man, and a rule that still holds true so much of the time...greed and corruption ultimately destroy. The happier man is the Wang who goes to take O-Lan for his bride and toils in the earth during the day and revels in the birth of his sons and the taking care of his elderly father. The man in the end is just a shell. He has no peace from his greedy children, his wealth is squandered on superficial material things, and he wants desperately to go plant his feet in the rich soil but cannot because it would be "unseemly" for a rich man to do so. ( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
I read this book about 40 years ago and it made an impression on me, so I thought it was time for a reread.
It opens with Wang Lung, a young farmer on his marriage day. It is an arranged marriage to a slave girl, Olan, who is plain, but strong and hardworking. Their combined hard work over the years brings them a comfortable living and more land. They and their growing family survive famine, floods and plague until they are very wealthy.
On my second read I found that the story read like a parable and what also stood out for me was the treatment of women as second class citizens or slaves. As this was written in the 1930's, I suspect that the writer was indeed endeavouring to inform the western world of the struggle of Chinese women. ( )
  HelenBaker | Jun 5, 2018 |
A must read of reflection on life. Very spare in prose, the book despite being set some 100 (?) years ago, has a modern feel. It visits so many ideas - the position of women in society, poverty, families, politics, nature and so much more. ( )
  kate_author | Jun 2, 2018 |
Once upon a time, many if not most people lived a predominantly agrarian lifestyle. You were born on a farm, you lived on a farm, you died on a farm, and while you were alive you ate the food you grew. Money for things you couldn't grow came from selling the things that did. And then the Industrial Revolution happened, and cities boomed, and no matter how much presidential candidates like to say the opposite when they're spending time in Iowa at the beginning of the campaign cycle, the era of the small family farm is effectively over and it's never coming back. That's not to say that no one in America lives on a family farm anymore, obviously, but the numbers are small and declining every year.

Besides Iowa, why is it that we romanticize those days so much? For my money, there's a very profound appeal of a time when it seemed like life was so much simpler, when you worked with your hands to get what you needed. Especially in this day and age, where I'm sitting at a desk typing this into a computer, but the sentimental attachment to that time seems to have been around for quite a while, because when Pearl Buck won the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Good Earth, the Dust Bowl hadn't even happened yet.

The Good Earth takes place in China in the early 1900s, and tells the story of the rise and subsequent decline of Wang Lung. A peasant farmer, the book opens with his marriage to O-Lan, a former slave for the Hwang family (the wealthiest landowners in the town close to where Wang Lung lives). O-Lan is not beautiful or clever, but she's just as hard of a worker as Wang Lung himself, and together the two of them manage to run his farm well enough that they are able to buy some of the Hwang's lands. They have two sons, but just after their first daughter is born, a terrible famine strikes. When there is no longer anything to eat and the countryside is turning to cannibalism to survive, the family sells most of their possessions (but Wang Lung refuses to sell their land) and moves south to survive through cheap labor and begging in the city. When a peasant uprising happens, Wang Lung and O-Lan grab money and jewels and return north. Having learned a powerful lesson about having reserves, the family buys the rest of the Hwang land and farms diligently, to the point where Wang Lung is wealthy and can send his children to school instead of keeping them in the fields. Indeed, soon Wang Lung himself doesn't need to be in the fields, and that's when the problems start.

The book is not subtle about its equation of land and manual labor with virtue...the farther removed Wang Lung and his family get from the labor of their own hands on the earth they own, the farther they morally decline. Wang Lung becomes infatuated with a spoiled young prostitute and buys her for a concubine, putting aside his faithful wife. His school-educated sons marry petty women and have no interest in farming or running their father's holdings...like the once-wealthy and powerful Hwangs in the beginning, they just want to get rid of the land and seeking their fortunes elsewhere. It's actually pretty socialist in its depiction of money as evil and corrupting and the glorification of the proletariat lifestyle.

At the end of the day, I just didn't like it very much. The characters aren't people, they're symbols who are used to illustrate Buck's parable. And they're not even particularly compelling symbols: Wang Lung is never all that sympathetic, O-Lan is a doormat, the sketchy uncle and his wife are terrible and gross right from the start. If reading all that Joseph Campbell recently taught me anything, it's that symbols done right can be incredibly powerful (for instance, Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, and I'm specifically referring here to the great film rather than the mediocre book, tells a similar story about a man who becomes what he once despised in a much more interesting and emotionally resonant way). Not so here for me. The writing is solid, but not anything special enough to drive interest in the lack of a good story and characters. This particular piece of classic literature (which is a genre I've been exploring over the past few years) doesn't do it for me. ( )
  500books | May 22, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 204 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (96 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
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...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
First words
It was Wang Lung's marriage day.
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.
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This is the book; do not combine with the film.
Film ISBNs: 0792803825, 0790793083
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743272935, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:23 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Pearl S. Buck's epic Pulitzer prize-winning novel of a China that was now in a contemporary classics edition. 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. Enduring literature illuminated by practical scholarship a poignant tale about the life and labors of a Chinese farmer during the sweeping reign of the country s 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, a 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. Enriched Classics offer readers affordable editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and insightful commentary. The scholarship provided in Enriched Classics enables readers to appreciate, understand, and enjoy the world's finest books to their full potential. Pulitzer Prize fiction, 1932.… (more)

» see all 18 descriptions

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