Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 23, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 161

The Good Earth was a phenomenal best-seller, eagerly celebrated by a Western world in which knowledge about daily life and social turmoil in China had been quite limited. It was the second of Pearl S. Buck’s thirty-five novels, including her screenplay Satan Never Sleeps (1962), and must be acknowledged as...

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The Good Earth was a phenomenal best-seller, eagerly celebrated by a Western world in which knowledge about daily life and social turmoil in China had been quite limited. It was the second of Pearl S. Buck’s thirty-five novels, including her screenplay Satan Never Sleeps (1962), and must be acknowledged as her masterpiece. Her life’s literary mission, opening the world of China to the world of the West, is entirely realized in this novel, the aesthetic greatness of which was obscured by critics either favorably disposed to her exposition of Chinese life or, as in the case of Asian intellectuals and elitists, captious about her inaccuracies and misconceptions. The author answered the latter convincingly and well, reinforcing her argument with personal experience and irrefutably accurate observation. The true companion piece to The Good Earth is The Mother (1934), a universalization of motherhood as the cycle of life, which, in its interdependence of positiveness and negativeness, is the mythic personification of the earth.

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