Pearl S. Buck - A Modern Day Hero
A friend of mine gave me a copy of The Good Earth as a birthday gift. Until then, I had never heard of the literary masterpiece or the author, Pearl S. Buck. The story captivated me. I found myself engrossed in the story of the poor farmer Wang Lung whose love for his land allowed him to overcome many odds including famine, flood and a revolution. Through hard work and dedication, Wang Lung became one of the wealthiest landowners in the Anweih province of China. Sadly, Wang Lung's two sons did not share his passion for "the good earth" and cared only for their bequest. Wang Lung was still on his death bed when the two sons decided that as soon as their father died, they would sell the land and split their inheritance (Buck, P.S., 1931). The Good Earth instantly became one of my favorite books and Pearl S. Buck, one of my favorite authors. Peter Conn wrote the introduction of the book in the form of a short biography of the author. I usually do not read the introductions until after I read the story because I never want other people's review to influence my own opinion of the book. So, I saved the introductory pages for last. It wasn't until I read of Pearl S. Buck's memoirs that I began to truly admire her, not only for her writing but for her humanitarian and altruistic contributions. Who is Pearl S. Buck?
Pearl Sydenstricker was born in Hillsboro, West Virginia in 1892. Her missionary parents, Absalom and Carrie Sydenstricker brought her to China when she was three months old. By the time she was four, she spoke and wrote Chinese as well as English (Conn, NDA). She was at first educated by her mother and tutored by a Chinese Confucian Scholar (Author's Calendar, 2002). While her parents carried out their Christian mission all over the Chinkiang province of China, Pearl was left under the care of her "amah" or governess. It was her amah that fascinated her with Chinese folklores and mythical tales of ancient magic, fairies and dragons (Conn, NDA). Growing up, Pearl spent hours wandering the streets of Chinkiang observing how the people lived. She became familiar with their rituals, practices, and traditions. Her first hand experience with the Chinese culture led her to write many novels, including her most critically acclaimed book, The Good Earth. Her intimate knowledge of the Chinese culture was evident in the way she wrote. In the novel, Pearl gave detailed account of Chinese traditions such as the making of moon cakes during New Year celebrations and wearing of white robes at funerals. She also described how ordinary Chinese people lived. She wrote about women sewing shoes out of layers of paper, water carriers running to and fro, and of men transporting passengers throughout the city on a ricksha (Conn, NDA). A ricksha is a two-wheeled chair transport, usually born on the shoulders by the men who pulled them (Merriam-Webster, NDA). The Boxer Rebellion happened in 1900 when Chinese nationalists started an uprising in order to drive out Western intruders. They attacked Western settlements, killing men, women, and children. For safety, the Sydenstrickers evacuated to Shanghai and from there, sailed to San Francisco. This was Pearl's first time returning to the United States since she was a baby (Conn, NDA). In 1902, the Sydenstrickers returned to China to continue their mission. At the age of seventeen, Pearl was enrolled at Miss Jewel's, a distinguished English boarding school in Shanghai, then the largest city in Asia. She moved back to Virginia in 1910 where she attended Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg to study Psychology. After her graduation, Pearl returned to China in 1914 when her mother became seriously ill. There, she started her career as an English teacher for the Presbyterian Board of Missions (Conn, NDA). During a summer retreat for missionary workers at Kuling in the Nanking province, Pearl met John...
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