Pearl Sydenstricker Buck referred to herself as “mentally bifocal” with respect to her American and Chinese ways of looking at things. The daughter of American missionaries in China, Buck came to know that country better than any other, for she spent her early formative years there, and during that extremely significant time many of her ideas, viewpoints, and philosophy developed. She attended schools both in China and in the United States and made several trips back and forth, some unwillingly, as when she and her parents were expelled from China during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.
As a girl in China, Buck began to write articles and short stories. There is no doubt that she had a gift for making the strange, unknown, and distant appear familiar. Until the time of her first published success, East Wind: West Wind (1930), very little had been written about the life of the simple Chinese, although China was of increasing interest to businessmen, diplomats, and missionaries. Nevertheless, the general public did not think of the Chinese as people with whom they could easily identify. Buck’s feeling for the fundamental truths of life transcended the preconceived notions of the reading public about China because she portrayed her characters as understandable human beings struggling for happiness and success.
The Good Earth was published in 1931 and became Buck’s most popular and widely read novel. It depicts a life cycle...
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