The Lives of Pearl Buck Critical Essays

Irvin Block


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Block’s approach is aimed directly at young adult readers through an emphasis on the personalities that surrounded Buck as a child and young woman. The author portrays the varying roles that Buck assumed in her life, both in China and in the United States. Block’s approach suggests that life has many possible pathways, and he illustrates this point by describing how, despite seeming set in a life much like her own mother’s—as wife and mother in a missionary family in China—Buck took up writing to become a world-famous novelist.

Buck’s parents are depicted as proud, cultured, but sharply different individuals. Her father, Absalom, was so devoted to the work of converting the Chinese people to Protestant Christianity that he had little time for family life. Her mother, Caroline, is described as a strong, stern wife and mother who came to believe that it was a mistake to have spent her life in China. Buck’s own development is shown through her desire to absorb Chinese life and language as a child and to become an avid reader of fiction, all while watching her mother struggle with raising a family in remote Chinese mission stations.

Unfortunately, Block does not convey the great transformation in personal and economic terms that occurred when Buck left the plain, modest life among American missionaries in China to become a wealthy and famous woman in the United States. He also leaves out her close friendship with many prominent...

(The entire section is 461 words.)