Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Good Earth, Pearl S Buck

I believe this was my first book by Pearl S. Buck that I've read, except for maybe a short story here or there in high school. Her writing style was nice and I could feel the cultural implications very well, although the narrator, Wang Lung is a Chinese male, neither of which describe the author. I guess this posed some controversy back in the day, but it didn't bother me.

This novel starts with Wang Lung as the young man son of a widowed farmer, the only surviving child of his father. They have a farm and he respects the land, loves the land and lives by the land. It follows this man, Wang Lung through trial and error, friendship and betrayal, feast and famine, rags and riches through his life until upon his death bed. I have very mixed feelings about aspects of the story, but it is only because I don't like the way women were once viewed and treated-and still are in some places today. That any female child born was automatically called a "slave" because all she would be good for is either being sold as a slave, sold to prostitution, or to become a wife and bear sons. Wang Lung has moments where he would defy the cultural expectations, for he does have a good heart, but he also falls victim to pride of how things "should be" and that angered me even though I fully understand it within the cultural and time period frame work. It outlines what my religion has dubbed the "pride cycle". Those who work hard to rise above their estate and have good fortune sometimes forget their times of hardship, and most importantly do not pass on this insight to their posterity. And so things come full circle. History when forgotten repeats itself. My favorite character of this book is Wang Lung's faithful wife, O-Lan. Many moments of incredulity were over the merits of her character, but she was far from perfect, but given her upbringing, she turned out remarkably well. Only one act of hers I find extremely hard to forgive, again, though, understandable in context, still broke my heart.

I couldn't put this book down. It wasn't a heart pounding page turning type pull, but a "what will he possibly do next?" pull. This is the first book in awhile that I've read within two weeks time.

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