The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

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The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

I. Description.

The book I am reading is called "The Good Earth". It is written by the wonderful author Pearl S. Buck. The book is three hundred and fifty seven pages long.

The book is about Wang Lung who is a young and poor farmer who is living in China during the time signs of modernization are appearing but the Chinese culture is remaining deeply connected to ancient traditions and customs. When Wang Lung approaches age to be married his father. He approaches the local Hwang family to ask if they have a spare slave who could marry his son. The Hwangs agree to sell Wang a 20-year-old slave named O-lan. Wang and O-lan marry. They are pleased but they barley speak. Wang is disappointed that O-lan does not have bound feet.

Together, Wang Lung and O-lan grow a profitable harvest from their land. O-lan becomes pregnant, and there first child is a son. Meanwhile, the powerful Hwang family is falling apart. Wang Lung is able to purchase a piece of the Hwang family's rice land. He enjoys another profitable harvest. O-lan gives birth to there second son. Wang Lung's new wealth catches the attention of his uncle. Custom says that Wang Lung must show the utmost respect to the elderly especially relatives. So obligated he loans his uncle money despite knowing that the money will be wasted on drinking and gambling. The Hwang family's finances continue to fall apart, and the Hwangs sell another piece of land to Wang Lung.

O-lan then gives birth to a daughter. Then a terrible famine settles on the land. O-lan gives birth to another daughter during crisis so she strangles the second girl because there is not enough food to feed the baby and the rest of the family. Wang Lung is forced to take his family to a southern city for the winter. There, O-lan and the children beg while Wang Lung earns money by transporting people in a rented rickshaw. They earn just enough money to eat. He and O-lan briefly consider selling their surviving daughter as a slave. Eventually, a group of poor and desperate people ransacks a rich man's home, and Wang Lung and O-lan join them. Wang Lung steals a pile of gold coins. With this new wealth, he moves the family back home and purchases a new ox and some seeds. O-lan had stolen some jewels during the looting.

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The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck Essay

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Wang Lung allows her to keep two small pearls, but he takes the rest and hurries to buy three hundred acres of the Hwang's land. O-lan gives birth to twins shortly thereafter. The couple realizes that their oldest daughter is severely retarded, but Wang Lung still loves her.

Wang Lung hires laborers to plant and harvest his land. He enjoys several years of profitable harvests and becomes a rich man. Then a flood forces him to be idle. He begins to feel bored. He finds fault with O-lan's appearance and cruelly criticizes her for having big feet. He becomes obsessed with Lotus, a beautiful, delicate prostitute with bound feet. Eventually, he purchases Lotus to be his concubine. When O-lan becomes terminally ill, Wang Lung regrets his cruel words and comes to appreciate everything his wife has done for him. Meanwhile, to lessen the demands of his uncle and his uncle's wife, who have moved their family into his house and continued to exploit his wealth, he tricks them into becoming opium addicts. Eventually, Wang Lung buys the Hwangs' house and moves into it with his family, leaving his own house to his uncle's family.

After O-lan's death, Wang Lung's sons begin to rebel against his plans for their life. His first and second sons often argue over money, and their wives develop an intense animosity toward one another. In his old age, Wang Lung takes a young slave named Pear Blossom, as a concubine. She promises to care for his retarded daughter after his death. After a while Wang Lung is surrounded by grandchildren, but he is also surrounded by family arguments. By the end of the novel, despite Wang's passionate dissent, his sons plan to sell the family land and divide the money among them, signaling their final break with the land that made them wealthy.

II. Analysis

The author's objective is to inform us about human's relationship to the earth. Throughout the novel, a connection to the land is associated with moral piety, good sense, respect for nature, and a strong work ethic, while alienation from the land is associated with decadence and corruption. Buck's novel situates this universal theme within the context of traditional Chinese culture. Wang Lung has a relationship with the earth because he produces his harvest through his own labor. In contrast, the local Hwang family falls apart because their wealth and harvests are produced by hired labor. Buck suggests that Wang Lung's reverence for nature is responsible for his inner goodness, as well as for his increasing material success, and that the decadent, wasteful ways of the wealthy are due to their estrangement from the land. Buck also suggests throughout the book that while human success is transitory, the earth endures forever. These ideas about the earth give the novel its title.

One of the lessons you can learn is love and respect. She treasures the pearls as proof of her husband's regard for her because he let her keep them. When Wang Lung takes the pearls away from her and gives them to the prostitute Lotus, it is as though he is taking away his love and respect.

Another lesson that can be learned is that wealth can be a Destroyer of Traditional Values. A main consequence of Wang Lungs newly acquired wealth is the moral degeneration that follows. After moving south to Nanking, he takes a mistress (in effect ignoring his first wife all together), treats his family with contempt, and disrespects his wife. When a local doctor diagnoses O-Lan with a multitude of illnesses, Wang Lung comes to realize all that she had done for him. When Wang Lung hears his daughter (who is undergoing the foot binding process) say that if her feet are not bound, her husband will not love her, just as Wang Lung does not love O-Lan. Wang Lung is stung with guilt at these words. As O-Lan passes away, her last words are: "Beauty will not bear you sons". Wang Lung realizes how horrible he had treated his closest family members, and as a sign of change, he casts off his expensive robes and begins to work in the fields again.

As Wang Lung's sons grew, so did their rebellious tendencies. Both sons grew greedy and often fought over money and how it was to be spent. Before long, while Wang Lung is living his final days in bed, his sons discuss selling the family land. Despite Wang Lung's opposition, the sons still plan on selling the acreage. The selling of the land symbolizes the breaking of a bond between two generations, and leaves Wang Lung feeling betrayed.

III. Reflection

I like the book because it taught me to respect the earth we live in a little more. It showed me that you can get rewards from the earth and that the earth gives back to you the way you treat it. The book was missing spark. It wasn't the kind of book that people would pick up and read and never be able to put it down. Overall it was a good book.

IV. Themes of Geography

One of the five themes of geography that applies with the book is human/environment interaction. All places on Earth have advantages and disadvantages for human settlement. One person's advantage may be another person's disadvantage. In the book Wang Lung's life is a constant struggle to live a good life, while depending on his good earth.

After losing
his land to a seasonal drought, Wang Lung and his family fall into the hardships of poverty. His wife is forced to beg for food, his children steal and Wang Lung is made to work for meager wages as a rickshaw driver. When Wang Lung overhears a group of men talking about robbing a rich mans home, Wang Lung decides that it may be his families only chance at surviving and ever returning home to his land. Despite the guilt he faces, Wang Lung realizes that to resort to thievery is his only option for survival. Wang Lung is able to secure a large sum of gold coins in the raid, allowing him to travel back home and re-purchase his land. The land was food to him and he was depending on his land to give them money. Without the land we, humans, would have no food. Another theme that applies is place, location. In the place human characteristics apply. One of the characteristics is how women were treated in China. The image people have of a place is based on their experiences, both intellectual and emotional. People's descriptions of a place reveal their values, attitudes, and perceptions.
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