“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
The Good Earth by Pearl.S.Buck is an amazing novel. A novel of simple beauty, The Good Earth is above all a glimpse into the life of Chinese peasants and the social changes that affect their traditions. The starting was a bit disappointing but it soon became interesting….
The novel opens on Wang Lung’s wedding day. Wang is a Chinese peasant farmer who lives with his father; his mother who died six years ago. His intended bride, O-lan, is a slave in the House of Hwang. Wang walks to the House of Hwang, where he is embarrassed by his shabby appearance, and collects O-lan after appearing before the Ancient Mistress of the House. Over the next few months following their marriage, she delivers a son and soon joins Wang in working the fields. The harvest is prosperous, and Wang and O-lan are able to hide silver from the harvest in their house. O-lan delivers a second son. Along with this second son comes another prosperous harvest. O-lan delivers yet another child, a girl. Times grow bad for Wang and the other farmers, but he continues to buy land from the House of Hwang.Wang’s uncle spread false rumors on him as the food got scarce. Wang decides to move his family in hopes of finding a job. Wang and his family take a train south.
Arriving in a city in the south, Wang and his family support themselves by O-lan and the children begging for food and Wang hiring himself out as an auto driver. Soon, armed soldiers regularly appeared in the city, for there was talk of war. A mob of people including Wang break into one of these abandoned houses. With the gold, Wang and his family return to their land and once again establish themselves as prosperous farmers. Wang learns from O-lan that while in the southern city she stole a cache of jewels from the house where Wang stole the gold. With this newfound prosperity, Wang buys up all of the remaining land of the House of Hwang.
Seven years pass of increased fortune, but in that seventh year a great flood comes and covers the fields. With idle time on his hands, Wang begins visiting the town’s teashop. He is introduced to a woman named Lotus Flower and takes her for his concubine, moving her and her servant into his house. In the meanwhile, Wang’s sons marry and they and their families live in the house. It is during this time that O-lan and Wang’s elderly father both die and are buried. Wang and his whole family moves to the House of Hwang.As Wang grows older, he becomes less attracted to Lotus Flower and finds that his affection for a slave named Pear Blossom increases. Ultimately, he takes Pear Blossom as his new concubine. His passion for her soon wanes, but he remains fond of her. He, Pear Blossom, and his first daughter return to the house on the land. His two eldest sons promise him that they will never sell the land, but it is clear that they are lying, and that they eventually will sell the land once Wang dies.
“When the earth suffers, women suffer. When women suffer the earth suffers. ”
I think this is what Buck captured so beautifully in her book.
“The rich are always afraid.”
Reviewed by Neha Tharakan