Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Good Earth

This is perhaps Pearl S. Buck's most critically acclaimed and famous novel. The story is centered around Wang Lung, a dirt poor farmer and his transition into a wealthy land owner. There are many aspects of Chinese culture explored in the book - arranged marriages, caring for extended family, and more. It is set in the transitional period between the old Chinese traditions and the movement toward Communism. The family is untouched by most of it because of their rural location and necessary industry.

(spoiler alert)

Where Pavilion of Women was a love story, I would describe this story as a story of pride. Wang Lung recognizes that by investing his money in land, he could grow his wealth. As Wang Lung slowly expands his farms and survives drought, the current wealthy landowners, Hwang's, falter because of their excessive lifestyles. Wang Lung is able to take advantage of their failure and buy their land.

Even though Wang Lung works hard, along side his wife, the pride in his heart grows. As his wealth increases, he receives the respect, admiration, and fear of the locals. His appearance changes with wealthy clothes. He frequents expensive tea houses and flower houses. Under pressure from his prideful son, his family moves into the Hwang's estate and they become the wealthy landowner's he had once feared.

Late in life, Wang Lung is unhappy. He sees where his pride has taken him and his family. His family is split with family battle lines and selfish pursuits. He realizes that by moving away from the land and not working it as he has previously done, he has lost his connection to the earth - the good earth which had sustained him.

I have not seen the 1937 movie based on the book. It has received many positive reviews.

Book Rating: 5 Stars

Up next: Elvis in the Morning by William F. Buckley Jr.

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