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For other uses, see The Good Earth (disambiguation).
The Good Earth
Author(s)Pearl S. Buck
Original titleThe Good Earth
Publication dateMarch 2, 1931
Preceded byEast Wind: West Wind
The Good Earth is a novel by Pearl S. Buck published in 1931 and awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1932. The best-selling novel in the United States in both 1931 and 1932, it was an influential factor in Buck's winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938. It is the first book in a trilogy that includes Sons (1932) and A House Divided (1935). The novel of family life in a Chinese village before World War II has been a steady favorite ever since. In 2004, the book was returned to the bestseller list when chosen by the television host Oprah Winfrey for Oprah's Book Club. The novel helped prepare Americans of the 1930s to consider Chinese as allies in the coming war with Japan. A Broadway stage adaptation was produced by the Theatre Guild in 1932, written by the father and son playwriting team of Owen and Donald Davis, but it was poorly received by the critics, and ran only 56 performances. However, the 1937 film, The Good Earth, which was based on the stage version, was more successful. Contents [hide]
1 Plot summary
4 Political Influence
5 Further reading
6 External links
The story begins on Wang Lung's wedding day and follows the rise and fall of his fortunes. The House of Hwang, a family of wealthy landowners, lives in the nearby town, where Wang Lung's future wife, O-Lan, lives as a slave. As the House of Hwang slowly declines due to opium use, frequent spending, and uncontrolled borrowing, Wang Lung, through his own hard work and the skill of his wife, O-Lan, slowly earns enough money to buy land from the Hwang family. O-Lan delivers three sons and three daughters; the first daughter becomes mentally handicapped as a result of severe malnutrition brought on by famine. Her father greatly pities her and calls her "Poor Fool," a name by which she is addressed throughout her life. O-Lan kills her second daughter at birth to spare her the misery of growing up in these hard times, and to give the remaining family a better chance to survive. During the devastating famine and drought, the family must flee to a large city in the south to find work. Wang Lung's malignant uncle offers to buy his possessions and land, but for significantly less than their value. The family sells everything except the land and the house. Wang Lung then faces the long journey south, contemplating how the family will survive walking, when he discovers that the "firewagon" (the Chinese word for the newly-built train) takes people south for a fee. In the city, O-Lan and the children beg while Wang Lung pulls a rickshaw. Wang Lung's father begs but does not earn any money, and sits looking at the city instead. They find themselves aliens among their more metropolitan countrymen who look different and speak in a fast accent. They no longer starve, due to the one-cent charitable meals of congee, but still live in abject poverty. Wang Lung longs to return to his land. When armies approach the city he can only work at night hauling merchandise out of fear of being conscripted. One time, his son brings home stolen meat. Furious, Wang Lung throws the meat on the ground, not wanting his sons to grow up as thieves. O-Lan, however, calmly picks up the meat and cooks it. When a food riot erupts, Wang Lung unwillingly joins a mob that is looting a rich man's house and corners the man himself, who fears for his life and gives Wang Lung all his money in order to buy his safety. Meanwhile, his wife finds jewels in a hiding place in another house, hiding them between her breasts. Wang Lung uses...