Masterplots II: Women’s Literature Series The Good Earth Analysis
Pearl S. Buck was the daughter of West Virginia Presbyterian missionaries who chose to serve in China. Her first husband, the distinguished agricultural expert Lossing Buck, was himself a China missionary. American China missions therefore accounted for Pearl Buck’s language—as a child she learned Mandarin Chinese as she learned English—and the ambience, the substance, and the experiences upon which her most enduring novels were premised, none more so than The Good Earth.
As her second novel (East Wind: West Wind, published in 1930, was the first), The Good Earth brilliantly reflects Buck’s intimate comprehension of Chinese traditions and of Chinese life that she acquired during the first three decades of the twentieth century and renewed frequently thereafter. Combining the stark simplicity of Chinese peasant life as she knew it with the tones and rhythms of the King James version of the Bible (the basis of Protestant missionary teachings), she superbly adapted her prose to her subject. Accordingly, The Good Earth unfolds, much like Old Testament stories, as a chronological narrative. Its tenor suggests an objectivity expected in documentaries, recounting straightforwardly what happened during Wang Lung’s life, how he perceived himself, and how others perceived him. As observer, the author maintains a certain distance from the characters that she has evoked and from the events that she has set in motion....
(The entire section is 545 words.)
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