T H E   G O O D   E A R T H      by   Pearl S.Buck


                   'The Good Earth' was written by Pearl S. Buck, who was born in the United States of America, but since her early age she lived in China the most time of her life and also felt to be one of the Chinese.

In 1938 Pearl S. Buck was given the Nobel Price in Literature for 'The Good Earth'.


                       The book was published by Longman. It was first published in 1931.

Type of book:

                              It is a novel and the plot is not a thriller, nor a biography but a social chronicle.

There exist two versions of 'The Good Earth', the original and the simplified.

The simplified in the English Series is for learners because if they try to read the book in its original form, they have to turn frequently to the dictionary and so the reading fluency loses much of the pleasure that it ought to give.


                    In an almost pastoral style 'The Good Earth' describes the cycle of birth, marriage and death in a Chinese peasant family. It is the absorbing story of Wang Lung´s life until it is time for him to be claimed by the good earth.

The setting of the story is located in northern China in the early 20th century.


The most important persons are:

·      ) Wang Lung: he is a Chinese farmer

·     )O-Lan: was bought by Wang Lung as a slave woman,because he  

                 wanted to get married. So she is Wang Lung´s wife.

·     )Lotus: his concubine

·      )Cuckoo: a servant and slave

·      )Nung En: Wang Lung´s oldest son

·      )Nung Wen: Wang Lung´s second son.

·     )The Fool: Wang Lung´s first daughter

Plot synopsis:

                                   Wang Lung was the son of a poor farmer in China who lived alone with his father. He decided to get married and so he bought a slave girl named O-Lan from the house of Hwang, a girl who would keep the house clean, prepare the food, and not waste her time thinking about clothes.

On the morning he led her out through the gates of the big house, they stopped at a temple and burned incense. That was their marriage.

O-Lan was a good wife. She collected twigs and wood, so that they would not have to buy gas. She mended Wang Lung´s and his father´s winter clothes and cleaned the house. She worked in the fields beside her husband, even on the day she bore her first son.

The harvest was a good one that year. Wang Lung had a handful of silver money from the sale of his wheat and rice. He and O-Lan bought new clothes for the baby.

Together they went to pray their respects, with their child, to the home in which O-Lan had once been a slave. With some of the money Wang Lung bought a small field of rich land from the Hwangs.

The second child was born a year later. It was again a year of good harvest.

Wang Lung´s third baby was a girl. On the day of her birth, crows flew around the house,mocking Wang Lung with their cries.The farmer did not rejoice when his little daughter was born, because they raised her to serve the rich.The crows had been an evil omen. The child was born feeble-minded.

That summer was dry, and for months no rain fell. The harvest was poor. After the little rice and wheat had been eaten and the ox killed for food, there was nothing for the poor farmers to do but die or go south.

Wang Lung sold their furniture for a few pieces of silver. Before they went to the south, O-Lan first gave birth to their fourth child, a girl, but she strangled her at birth. The family went to their new home by train and they were lucky.

In the city they constructed a hut of mats against a wall, and while O-Lan and the two older children were begging, Wang Lung pulled a ricksha. In that way they spent the winter, each day earning enough to buy rice for the next day.

One day an exciting thing happened.There was to be a battle between soldiers in the town and an approaching enemy.The poor who lived so miserably, broke into the houses of the rich. By threatening one fat fellow who had been left behind, Wang Lung obtained enough money to take his family home.

O-Lan soon repaired the damage which the weather had done to their house during their absence. Then, with jewels,which his wife had managed to plunder during the looting in the city, Wang Lung bought more land from the house of Hwang. He allowed O-Lan to keep two small pearls which she fancied. Now Wang Lung had more land than one man could handle, and he took his best friend and neighbour, CHING, as overseer. Several years later, he had six men working for him.

O-Lan, who had born him twins, a boy and a girl, after their return from the south, no longer went out into the fields to work, but kept the new house he had built. Wang Lung´s two oldest sons were sent to school in the town.

When his land was flooded and work impossible until the water receeded, Wang Lung began to go regularly to a tea shop in the town. There he fell in love with a girl named LOTUS and brought her home to his farm to be his concubine. He also bought Cuckoo as a servant for Lotus and a slave for him.To keep peace at home, he built a seperate establishment for Lotus, to prevent that  O-Lan had anything to do with her.

When he found that his oldest son visited Lotus while he was away, Wang Lung arranged to have the boy marry the daughter of a grain merchant in the town.

The wedding took place shortly before O-Lan, still in the prime of life, died of a chronic stomach illness. To cement the bond between the farmer and the grain merchant, Wang Lung´s second son got an apprentice for the merchant LIN and his youngest daughter was betrothed to Lin´s young son.Soon after O-Lan´s death Wang Lung´s father folliowed her. They were buried near one another on a hill on his land.

When he grew wealthy, an uncle,his wife and his shiftless son came to live with Wang Lung. One year there was a great flood, and although his neighbour´s houses were pillaged by robbers during the confusion, Wang Lung was not bothered. Then he learned that his uncle was second to the chief of the robbers. From that time on he had to give way to his uncle´s family, for they were his insurance against robbery and perhaps murder.

At last Wang Lung coaxed his uncle and aunt to smoke opium, and so they became too involved in their dreams to bother him. But there was no way he could curb their son. When the boy began to annoy the wife of Wang Lung´s oldest son, the farmer rented the deserted house of the Hwang, and he, with his own family, moved into town.

The cousin left to join the soldiers. The uncle and aunt were left in the country with their pipes to console them.

After Wang Lung´s overseer had died, he did no more farming himself. From that time on he rented his land, hoping that his youngest son would work it after his death. But he was disappointed. When Wang Lung took a slave, young enough to be his granddaughter, the boy, who was in love with her, ran away from home and became a soldier.

When Wang Lung felt, that his death was near, Wang Lung went back to live on his land, taking with him only his slave, Cuckoo, his foolish-witted first daughter, and some servants.

One day as he accompanied his sons across the fields, he overheard them planning what they would do with their father´s property. Wang Lung cried out, protesting that they were never allowed to sell the land because only from it could they be sure of earning a living.

He did not know that they looked at each other over his head and smiled.


Ideas, opinions and comments:

Pearl S. Buck shows how the acquisition of wealth destroys the happiness of Wang Lung and how the family got divided.

Also the conflict between the generations is shown. The sons dissipate the wealth which has been acquired by the father with such difficulty. In the end, the land alone repairs its permanent value.

I think that Pearl S. Buck´s opinion during her lifetime was, that owning land was worthier than having just money. As you can see nowadays,in a time of rapid  money inflation, she was right. I think she tried to get her thoughts into her book.

I can recommend  that book because it is written so realistically that nothing could take your attention from it  when reading it.

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