The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
In her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck tells the story of Wang Lung, a diligent farmer living in pre-revolutionary China. The novel begins with Wang Lung’s visit to the powerful House of Hwang to collect one of the house’s slaves, a woman named O-lan, to be his wife; O-lan proves herself to be a plain, yet dutiful and competent wife over the next few years, producing three sons and a daughter and keeping her new family well fed. Wang Lung’s land thrives, increasing Wang Lung’s wealth and social status and enabling Wang Lung and O-lan to return to the House of Hwang to flaunt their prosperous life and healthy boys in front of O-lan’s old masters. Soon, however, hard times befall the House of Hwang and Wang Lung’s town; Wang Lung and his family flee to the south to evade the drought suffocating his farm and the bands of thieves pillaging the land. Throughout all the difficulties he faces, Wang Lung never considers selling his beloved land; the land represents his livelihood and his life’s purpose, and it is the thought of his land waiting for him that helps Wang Lung persevere through difficulty and hunger in the south. After the drought, Wang Lung and his family return home; Wang Lung purchases the remaining land of the now-ruined Hwang family, ascends into a position of power, and channels the attitude of the Hwang family in his manipulative, lavish lifestyle and profound sense of arrogance towards lowly farmers. Despite his glamorous life, Wang Lung falls into a sense of profound dissatisfaction and unhappiness: his sons demand more and more money from him, his father and O-lan die, and he hires hands to work the fields he used to tend so that he never sees the land that brings him joy and fulfillment. Through Wang Lung’s story, Buck develops the theme that power and fame cause disconnect with the land and a malicious cycle of dissatisfaction, often ending in a fall to poverty and despair;...
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