Monday, May 28, 2007
The Good Earth
Perhaps it's a little backwards, but I'm doing a little research on Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth, having finished it early this morning, sitting on a sunny front porch, coffee mug resting on the bistro table beside me. What I did know: The Good Earth won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932, a year after it's publication (it's printed on the front and back cover of every copy of this book I've ever seen!) and that Buck won the Nobel Prize for literature. What I didn't know is that this novel is the first in a trilogy--although that makes sense, based on its ending. I was also amazed to read her biography; what a truly inspirational humanitarian! I also didn't know that it was an Oprah's Book Club pick in 2004. Well, Lyndsay's Book Club recommends it, too.
The Good Earth tells the story of the familial, moral and economic cycles of Wang Lung, a Chinese farmer, pre-revolution. The fact that it's written by a white woman (granted, a white woman who was raised in China by missionary parents) forces you to read the story with a certain amount of criticism, but Buck's storytelling skills are good enough--and her attention to cultural details is fine enough--that quite often, any problem of narration disappears.
A repeating theme in the book is what happens when "the poor get too poor and the rich get too rich." (General idea: there's a shift in who holds the power--the poor become ambitious and the rich become careless and lazy.) It's a really interesting way to look at the world, although slightly depressing, since Buck's message seems to be that material wealth and idleness leads to inevitable corruption.