Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Village. Unnamed Chinese village west of a great city, in which the novel is set. The village has only one main street and a population of fewer than one hundred people, which suggests that it contains perhaps fifteen to twenty households. The village has one teahouse and several households that maintain small shops as a sideline activity. Except for those working in the shops, the inhabitants are farmers. Ling Tan has several male relatives in the village, but it is unclear if his family lineage is dominant. The novel mentions no temples, schools, or lineage halls in the village. The village is close enough to the great city for its residents to see the city walls and to walk there and return in one day. All the village families give some support to the anti-Japanese resistance.

Ling Tan’s house

Ling Tan’s house. Home of a village family headed by its patriarch, Ling Tan. The family includes five children, three boys and two girls. Ling Tan is a simple farmer who is happy to see his family well provided for through their collective labor. He owns a few cattle, pigs, and chickens. As in Pearl Buck’s other novels, The Dragon Seed emphasizes her protagonists’ deep attachment to their home and fields. The ten members of the Ling family live in a substantial eight-room house surrounded by a wall and secured by a strong gate.

At first, the Ling family members are not harmed as the...

(The entire section is 480 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Sometime after winning the Nobel Prize, Buck broke away from the objectivity she had formerly viewed as a sacred literary precept, and...

(The entire section is 119 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

As propaganda designed to enlist the sympathy of Americans for the plight of the Chinese at the hands of the Japanese, Dragon Seed...

(The entire section is 118 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

A sequel to Dragon Seed, The Promise, appeared in 1943. The sequel chronicles the Chinese campaign in Burma. Lao San, renamed Sheng,...

(The entire section is 90 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The 1944 movie adaptation of Dragon Seed was directed by Jack Conway and Harold S. Bucquet, and some critics conceded that it offered...

(The entire section is 102 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

“Bloody Ballet.” Review of Dragon Seed, by Pearl S. Buck. Time, January 26, 1942, 80, 82. Calls the novel the “strongest . . . most instructive story” about China during World War II, but criticizes the latter pages as artistically weak.

Buck, Pearl S. My Several Worlds. New York: John Day, 1954. Buck’s autobiography describes vividly her years in China and the impact these experiences had upon her life and work. Discusses her progressive ideas on social issues.

Buck, Pearl S. The Story of “Dragon Seed.” New York: John Day, 1944. This monograph explains how the author came to write the novel. Describes her personal contact with Chinese farming families living near Nanking and her learning of “the horrors of the Japanese invasion.”

Cavasco, G. A. “Pearl Buck and the Chinese Novel.” Asian Studies 5 (1967): 437-450. Praises Buck’s Chinese fiction, dividing her work into three categories. Argues that her novels about China are her best work and that they will always be popular because they adhere to the structure of Chinese fiction.

Doyle, Paul A. Pearl S. Buck. Rev. ed. Boston: Twayne, 1980. Analyzes the plot of Dragon Seed to show why the novel is not considered “an artistic success.” Compares the work to The Good Earth.