I was in a complete daze after reading Pearl S. Buck’s remarkable novel,The Good Earth. It was somewhat hard not to stop what I was doingafterwards and try to put myself in the characters’ shoes and visualizeeverything that happened in the book. I was so taken by the plot that Iremember not wanting to put down the book till I knew what happened nextin one of the conflicts in the story. Considering my reaction to it when I firstgot the book and my reaction to it now, you would really think it’s ironic.
First of all I wasn’t quite happy when I found out about the reading we hadto do and obviously not looking forward to reading having to squeeze it in my hectic after school schedule. I remember when I was at the bookstoreand saw how thick of a book it was I thought to myself, “Great…here’sanother long boring book.” But after reading it I eventually proved myselfwrong and found out it was well worth reading it all the way through thelast page. Pearl S. Buck did an outstanding job on the book’s vividdescription of the characters, emphasizing the importance of Wang Lung’sland, and its sense of dramatic reality.
The way the characters are described in the book you can reallypicture in your mind who they are. It’s very important to be able to visualizethem because it helps you get to know them better as characters and have abetter understanding of the book. One vivid description is O-lan’s, WangLung’s wife. “Wang Lung turned to the woman and looked at her for thefirst time. She had a square, honest face, a short, broad nose with largeblack nostrils, and her mouth was wide as a gash in her face. Her eyes weresmall and of a dull black color, and were filled with some sadness that wasnot clearly expressed. It was a face that seemed habitually silent andunspeaking, as though it could not speak if it would.” (p.19) As I wasreading this I got the impression that O-lan would be a faithful wife toWang Lung and it turned out I was right. The fact that she wasn’t beautifuldidn’t matter at all. She served her family well. Another meaningfuldescription is Lotus’, Wang Lung’s first mistress, which has an irony to it ifyou compare it to O-lan’s. “If one had told him there were small hands likethese he would not have believed it, hands so small and bones so fine andfingers so pointed with long nails stained the color of lotus buds, deep androsy. And if one had told him that there could be feet like these, little feetthrust into pink satin shoes no longer than a man’s middle finger, andswinging childishly over the bed’s edge–if anyone had told him he wouldnot have believed it.” (p.181) This shows how delicate Lotus is physicallyand you would probably think she is decent and kind, but later on in thebook you would find out that her physical description doesn’t fit herpersonality at all. She is manipulative and greedy. She also complains all thetime. Comparing her to O-lan shows you that it’s not beauty that counts butit’s what on the inside that matters to be able to know a good person.
The importance of Wang lung’s land somewhat intrigued me. It’shard to imagine such love a man like Wang Lung has for his land. But thissame land was the one that fed them and made them rich. “And his wife, whohad been a slave in the kitchens of that proud family, would be wife to aman who owned a piece of land that for generations had made the House ofHwang great.” (p.53) This is an important turning point in Wang Lung’s lifebecause he finally came with a goal which helped him strive for a betterfuture for him and his family. “And again the slow smile spread over herface, the smile that never lightened the dullness of her narrow black eyes,and after a long time she said, “Last year this time I was slave in thathouse.”” (p.53) I was happy for O-lan at that moment because I knew thather life would get a little better once things worked out with the land theywould buy. The land foreshadows their good fortune which was not hard topredict. Another moment that shows Wang Lung’s love for his land is whenthey were starving and he still wouldn’t sell the land. “They cannot take theland from me. The labor of my body and the fruit of the fields I have put intothat which cannot be taken away. If I had the silver, they would have takenit. If I had bought with the silver to store it, they would have taken it all. Ihave the land still, and it is mine.” (p.75) This shows his wisdom anddetermination because he knows that the land would someday save themfrom this tragedy. Even at the end when Wang Lung was old and weak hewouldn’t let his sons sell the land. “No–no–we will never sell the land–It isthe end of the family–when they begin to sell the land. Out of the land wecame and into it we must go–and if you will hold your land you can live–noone can rob you of land. If you sell the land, it is the end.” (p.360) On thispassage Wang Lung tries to tell his sons that the land is part of their familyand it shows the strong family ties Wang Lung wants his family to havebecause he knows in his heart that the land is everything that will bind theirThe book’s sense of reality is another good part of the novel. It’sbasically about poverty and how they coped with it. Wang Lung and hisfamily were starving for a while. “If one had asked Wang Lung, “And howare you fed through the autumn?” he would have answered,”I do notknow–a little food here and there.” (p.71) This particular passage from thebook is somewhat touchy because we know that it really happens in real lifeand it made me wonder how I would ever survive if I were in that situation.
“When he would have put the cobs away for fuel, his wife spoke out.
“No–do not waste them in burning. I remember when I was a child inShantung when the years like this came, even the cobs we ground and ate. Itis better than grass.” (p.70-71) After reading this I realized how serious thesituation was for them. I felt sorry and shocked at the same time. At onetime they had to kill their ox just because they had nothing else to eat. Theyeven ate grass and even that didn’t last long. I think the hardship brings the“spice” to the novel because it makes us ponder about what they would doIf somebody asked me for an interesting book that wouldn’t borethem, I woud definitely recommed this one. I learned many things byreading it. It gave me a better understanding of Chinese life and thefascinating details kept me reading. This book made a lasting impressionand I would never forget it.Bibliography: