The Good Earth: the Oppression of Women in Pre-Revolutionary China
It is no secret that Chinese women have long been prevented from experiencing many of the freedoms women in the west generally have; even during the time periods western women would say their freedoms were limited, at best. Women truly were and perhaps still are treated as second class citizens in China but The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck, may have been one of the first published works to convey the plight they faced. Through Buck’s character, O-lan, the wife of a simple farmer, the reader learns a great deal about what was expected of women during this time and the emotions they felt. Foot-bonding, infanticide, and slavery were just a few of the injustices they had to endure. Surprisingly though, many of the reasons for this mistreatment stem from legitimate concerns, considering the situation of the poor Chinese citizens of the time, albeit misguided and often immoral. There are certain factors which could lead a society, any society, to oppress a marginalized group of individuals, such as women, if they culminate ‘just right.’ A common belief that divorce is immoral could lead to the use of prostitutes/concubines. Or widespread poverty could force parents to sell off or kill their daughters to eliminate a mouth to feed that is not contributing to the food on the table. These examples and more are used by Buck to depict the attitude towards women in pre-revolutionary China and, more importantly, what caused such treatment. The Middle East currently serves as an example that this is not isolated to China. The oppression of women has been around as long as slavery, to varying degrees, and in most instances is caused by a unique combinations of factors or a single, overwhelming factor; such as the strict religious adherence observed in most Muslim nations.
O-lan was, unfortunately like many other daughters of Chinese peasants, doomed to live a subservient life from the beginning. Born into a poor family, her fate was to either be sold into slavery or
Cited: Buck, Pearl S. The Good Earth. New York: Pocket Books, 1994. 1-360. Print.