Themes of The Good Earth

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Themes of The Good Earth

The theme of this novel is not a complicated one. The author is trying

to show how a family can rise from poverty to a position of wealth. However,

the rise in itself is not the crucial element; the background against which

this rise takes place is more important. Wang Lung lives in an era of change.

China has been a backward country in many respects. Her principal fault,

however, was the existence of two distinct classes of people - the rich and

the poor. The rich led a pseudo-cultural existence unconcerned with the

realities of the country. The poor in between fighting plagues, floods and

famines, were taxed as well. On the fringe of these two groups were the

robbers bands who plundered wherever they could.

The old aristocracy of China was rotting away as the result of its own

greed. Waiting for their chance was a group of young intellectuals who claimed

that they were going to bring about many reforms. However, since the time that

The Good Earth was written in 1931, history has shown that these

revolutionaries only intended to replace the old aristocracy with a new one.

They had little intention of doing anything constructive for the poor people.

As a result, when the Communists came after World War II, they were able to

take over China very easily.

Where does Wang Lung fit into this picture? He is a poor man who knows

nothing besides the value of land. Therefore, he spends his entire life

building up a large estate. However, he builds according to the old system.

As he becomes richer, he separates himself from his own people and he allows

himself and his family to fall into the same faults that the other rich had.

Then he allows his sons to separate themselves from the land - that which had

given them their wealth. Although the author does not carry the story

through, the reader knows that this family is destined to fall.

The earth-theme is predominant throughout. As a man pours his energies

into his land he reaps great benefits-survival and self-respect. Miss Buck

appears to be saying that the only thing that can truly save China is the

honest toil of her people who must be allowed to claim the rewards of their
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