Posted by: Naomi | May 11, 2011

The Good Earth

I recently journeyed through the tradition-laden Chinese world recounted by Pearl S. Buck in The Good Earth. I found the tone and cadence of the book to bit a bit stilted and odd, almost as though I were listening to an older woman telling a story in Sunday School. The book spans the entire adult life of Wang Lung and his marriage and children, and ends shortly before his death. There are two sequels to this book, Sons and A House Divided, but I have not read these yet. Overall, though there are times of prosperity and happiness, the book presents a brutal and painful picture of the hard realities of life. There is war, famine, death, infanticide, murder, prostitution, hatred…the list goes on and on. As they grow, Wang Lung’s children develop their own personalities and ideologies, most of which do not agree with their father’s traditional mores. The moral that struck me most from this book is that before the famine, Wang Lung and his family were prosperous and content. During the famine, all they could think of was going back home and having things be as it were. When they go home wealthy and enjoy a time of prosperity, Wang Lung becomes discontented and brings a concubine to live with them, which seems to signal the end of life as they have come to know it. Wang Lung was not content to sit and enjoy what he had, nor thank his god for what had been returned to them, he had to take more than his share, and in pure selfishness make decisions that would ultimately tear his family apart. To me, this is a book of great sadness and longing, yet still rich and evocative in its descriptions and message, and leaves me with much to ponder.

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