One reviewer wrote of The Good Earth:
Nobel Prize winner Pearl S. Buck traces the whlo cycle of life: its terror, its passions, its ambition and rewards. Her brilliant novel--beloved by millions of readers--is a universal tale of the destiny of man.
In his essay, "Religious Beliefs of the Society Depicted in The Good Earth," Brian Aubrey writes of the progression of Wang Lung's beliefs in the narrative of Pearl S. Buck. Aubrey points to the peasant's simple faith in two gods to whom he offers incense when he first brings his new wife home. But, with the experiences of Wang Lung, his beliefs, too, change.
When, for instance, Wang Lung and his wife and children experience the Great Famine, Wang Lung loses his faith in anything, much like Job in the Bible. he accuses "the Old Man in Heaven" of being wicked. When he goes to a temple, Wang Lung spits in the face of the icons. And, after Wang Lung and his family finally return from the life in the city during the Great Famine, Wang Lung believes in only one thing: the power of the land. Because he has retained some property, he is able to become successful again. And, he can buy more land. However, as he grows older, Wang Lung finds again some faith in the gods. As his grandchild is about to be born, Wang Lung visits a temple to pray that he will have grandson and tries to barter with the gods.
Ironically, his life runs parallel to his religious beliefs. When he has faith in his land, it produces for him, and he lives well. After the Famine, Wang Lung loses his faith, like Job. Finally, in the end, he seeks to bargain with the gods; however, in so doing, he errs as his sons have this same bargaining attitude about the land. They feel it, too, can be bartered, and they talk of selling one field and another. It is then that Wang Lung understands. He calls to the sons, entreating them to never sell the land, for it will be the "end of a family." His sons hold him and assure him they will not, but over him "they look at each other and smile."
Truly, then, Wang Lung's life has been a parable with its moral lession that one must live one's beliefs or no child will undertake them.