The Good Earth



Although Pearl S. Buck was born in Hillsboro, West Virginia, her parents were Christian missionaries who served a mission to China beginning when Buck was just three months old. Born Pearl Sydenstricker, Buck was also known by her Chinese name, Sai Zhenzhu. She spent her formative years in China, where she was raised to be bilingual. Buck received academic instruction in both English and Chinese. Despite their position as American Christian missionaries, the Bucks refused to see themselves as more prominent or superior than the Chinese citizens they encountered on a daily basis. This sense of equity is often represented in Buck’s portrayals of Chinese natives in her novels. However, the Boxer Rebellion caused tension for the Buck family. Most of their Chinese friends refused to stay in contact with the family, and they no longer received visits from Westerners. Buck’s father stayed behind as his family traveled to Shanghai for safety.
In 1911, Buck returned to America to attend college. However, she found the country of her birth strange and unfamiliar. Despite feeling like a foreigner in America, Buck thrived academically and was able to make friends. After graduation, Buck became a Christian missionary. However, Buck abandoned mission work when she realized that her viewpoint on religion had changed. Once she left mission work, Buck returned to China, where she met her first husband, John Lossing Buck. They moved to Suzhou, Anhui Province, which served as the inspiration for the setting of The Good Earth. Buck gave birth to a daughter, Carol, who was diagnosed with what is now known as phenylketonuria. The disorder caused Carol to experience severe problems with mental development. Directly after giving birth, Buck had to undergo a hysterectomy because of a tumor found in her uterus. Around this time, her mother also died. Although she did not have any more biological children, Buck and her husband adopted a baby girl named Janice. However, the tragic events did not bode well for her marriage, and she and John Lossing...
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