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4.3 out of 5 stars
The Good Earth
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2004
Having heard that Ms. Buck spent most of her life in China, I began reading The Good Earth expecting an authentic, albeit fictional, portrayal of life in China in the early 1900s. The first half of the story begins in this way. Protagonist Wang Lung, in his early years of marriage and family life, represents the honest, hard-working farming peasant immersed in a man vs. nature struggle for existence and, to a lesser extent, a man vs. society challenge of social positioning. Through Wang and his wife, O-lan's, courage and strife, we see a society of contrasts: simplicity of rural life vs. luxury of city life in turn-of-the-century China, years of abundant harvests vs. occasions of widespread famine, traditional roles favoring men over women, rich landowning "great houses" vs. poor laborers and slaves, Confucian work ethic vs. idleness.
About halfway through the novel, there is a transition in both literary style and thematic content. Once Wang Lung rises to wealth, his problems become more complex. Behind the story's events, the grand themes of literature rapidly unfold: inner turmoil in relationships between men and women, husband and wife, and father, sons and grandchildren; one's destiny and duty vs. the sense of freedom that wealth and achievement bring; emotional and generational conflicts resulting from changing social values in a modernizing world; lifelong friendship and the loneliness in old age. By the end of the novel, with traditional Wang ever so fervently tied to his land while his forward-looking sons devise to sell it, the simple story about a Chinese peasant's life has fully blossomed into an epic tale about real people having truly universal appeal.
What I find most remarkable about the book is the author's presentation of the human predicament in an artistic, literary way through the ebb and flow of events in the life of our protagonist, without pausing to probe deliberately into his psychology, motivations and emotions. The character's actions and events in the novel speak for themselves and display both the author's keen understanding of human nature and her exceptional talent in painting with words a beautiful, realistic picture of human feelings and relationships.
One caveat concerning the novel is its controversial believability as a true depiction of life in China a century ago. I come away from the book certain that I have learned something about China and its culture but sensing that literary license has played a larger role in the book's creation than the author would readily acknowledge or even be aware of. In this sense, I judge the work to be more a masterpiece of realistic world fiction than a firmly grounded Chinese historical novel.
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on February 17, 2004
¡§The Good Earth¡¨ is a classic book people definitely from all ages have to read. The language isn¡¦t too complicated to understand, but Pearl Buck uses vivid details and descriptions to inform the reader the entire life of the main character, Wang Lung. Through this book, Pearl Buck takes you into another dimension, back in time while China was encountering the Boxers Rebellion. She reveals to you the pain and agony the majority of the population were experiencing. The book portrays the life of Wang Lung, the protagonist of the book. He is a peasant farmer, who goes through the stages of affluence and property. From a well-off farmer with a few properties, to being forced to leave his hometown with nothing but his cow and family. Forced to start a new living in another area, he strives to support his children and wife with a new job. The family worked together to rebuild their lives, as they gradually found prosperity through the pre-revolutionary China in the 1920s. In the end, Wang Lung buys more property from the house of Hwang, where his loyal wife, O-lan used to work in. Their family has finally come back on track, and climbed all the way to the top, with children well educated, and wealthy.
Reading this book allows me to feel very relaxed because it doesn¡¦t make me feel as if it is another school-required, tedious, book; with incomprehensible language that always requires a dictionary at hand. It allows the reader to comprehend a different culture people hundreds of years ago lived like. I enjoyed this book greatly, and recommend to all readers who are patient enough for one excellent detailed story. In addition, readers who long for a meaningful, relaxing, educational, detailed, and exciting book to read.
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on January 8, 2004
"The Good Earth" is justly called a classic. Its straightforward language makes it a breezy read, while its scope remains broad, telling more or less an entire life story. The story is notable for its painstaking, flat realism; its tone remains almost the same whether its protagonist Wang Lung, a peasant farmer, is in good times of prosperity or harsh times of near-starvation, whether he expresses his good side (honesty, hard work, kindness) or his bad side (indulgence, anger, thoughtlessness). For all his faults, we end up caring about the main character. In this the book is a very human, and apparently realistic, view of turn-of-the century China. The cyclical and ever-changing fortunes of its characters mirror the cycles of the land for which the book is named. Somehow the story remains engrossing as it rambles on for page after page about matters both large and small in one man's life. Despite a few inconsistencies (at one point it says "many years later" and proceeds to describe something that is happening in the very same year), loose ends (why did Pear Blossom hate men so?) and frequent stylistic repetitions ("of this and of that," "well, and..."), the book holds up as sturdily in the long run as the land itself.
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on January 14, 2003
After reading this book for our fifth grade study of China I realized that this is the best book I could have read. It is very interesting in the way that it tells a story that shows the pros and cons of the old Chinese way of life. You will read how Wang Lung the farmer struggles through his complex life to a rewarding end. This book is rather alarming in some places but that is needed to show the whole picture of life in mid and pre-revolutionary China. You will read how hard he struggled with his wife on his land, and how he struggles to return to it pulling a rickshaw in a southern city. You will also share in his feelings of confusion and pride as he and his wife rise out of poverty to amazing wealth.
I liked this book because of how it told about every aspect of Wang Lungs life, good and bad. I like the way that it explains the problems with life in old China instead of just glorifying it. This book is full of emotion as it follows the ups and downs of the life of a Chinese farmer during the revolution.
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on June 27, 2002
THE GOOD EARTH was, for me, different from anything I had ever read; but I was glad I read it. This is the story of the humble and honest Chinese farmer, Wang Lung. It is the story of a hard-working and determined man who amasses great wealth even at the most overwhelming of odds. He and his wife, O-lan, climb their way out of the dirt of famine and poverty into the great and respected House of Wang.
Pearl Buck's story shows the cycle of life going full-circle from the time when Wang Lung takes O-lan for a wife to the time of his death at the end of the book. In the beginning, Wang Lung is the poor farmer walking into the House of Hwang wanting a wife, prepared to accept the ugly slave woman no one else wanted. In the end, he is the lord of a house as great as was the fallen House of Hwang (indeed, the makings of his House took into it the ruins of its predecessor) giving away a slave to another poor farmer.
Wang Lung's love of the land is the most unifying aspect of the book. He refuses to sell the land even when his family is near-starvation. He will sell everything else he owns before he sells the land. And as soon as he earns a little bit of money, that money will go to the buying more land. In the end of the book, when his sons talk of selling land, Wang Lung as terrified at the thought, for he feels that the destruction of a great house is near when they begin to sell the land.
Pearl Buck shows brilliantly the change that comes over people as they amass more wealth and are exalted into a higher class. Wang Lung and his father and their family were all honest farmers, true to one wife throughout their lives. But when Wang Lung becomes a rich man, he turns to taking concubines as is accepted for a man of his stature.
The difference between Chinese culture and American culture is striking; indeed, it is sometimes difficult for an American to understand some of the Chinese customs. The taking of concubines is not only accepted but is encouraged. Young girls have their feet painfully bound so that they will be small. But Pearl Buck presents an excellent representation of a culture that is becoming more and more important in our world today.
This is a good read -- it isn't very difficult, but it is worthwhile. Pearl Buck demonstrates quite a talent for storytelling, and she clearly portrays an important culture. For anyone interested in Chinese culture -- and indeed for anyone else who might like to expand their interests -- this is a great book to read.
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on March 24, 2002
I really like The Good Earth because I am Chinese and I wanted to know some history about China. At first I didn't really like the book, but as I kept on reading it got more interesting. I actually felt like I was standing in the scene watching every single thing the book was talking about. Every time I stopped I always wondered what would happen next. On some of the parts of the book I didn't really understand, but when I was finished with the chapter there was some clues to help me understand. I also thought the book was really descriptive.
I recommend this book to anybody that likes to know more history about China. This book will keep you entertained like it did to me. It talks about a man named Wang Lung. In the middle of the book he became poor so he moved to the south. One day he stole a lot of gold from a really rich and ran with his family back to his old home and lived there as a really rich man.
My favorite part in this book is when Wang Lung steals all the gold from the rich man. He runs back to his old home as a really rich man.
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on March 24, 2002
I really like The Good Earth because I am Chinese and I wanted to know some history about China. At first I didn't really like the book, but as I kept on reading it got more interesting. I actually felt like I was standing in the scene watching every single thing the book was talking about. Every time I stopped I always wondered what will happen next. On some of the parts of the book I didn't really understand, but when I was finished with the chapter there was some clues to help me understand. I also thought the book was really descriptive.
I recommend this book to anybody that likes to know more history about China. This book will keep you entertained like it did to me. It talks about a man named Wang Lung. In the middle of the book he became poor so he moved to the south. One day he stole a lot of gold from a really rich and ran with his family back to his old home and lived there as a really rich man.
My favorite part in this book is when Wang Lung steals all the gold from the rich man. He runs back to his old home as a really rich man.
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on July 19, 2001
Although Pearl Buck's story was written seventy years ago, the lessons about mankind are timeless and especially applicable in today's society. The culture of China presented in the story is always quite interesting.
The story is very captivating, as the life of Wang Lung is traced from his youth to old age. As Wang Lung grows older, he becomes richer and richer through his hard work, and this in turn is amazing to read how he changes. It implies the concept that Lord Acton speaks of when he says, "All power corrupts and absolute powers corrupts completely." Buck is able to show the innate and natural quality of man to always want more. This concept of greed comes full circle at the end of the book, when Wang Lung's sons have become exactly what brought Wang Lung wealth -- greedy lords that do not remember the value of the land.
This idea has deep implications in our own life -- how much do we really need to survive? Oftentimes, as portrayed in the story, it is so easy to want things, but really all we need in a day's wage is enough to put food on the table and shelter over our heads. Buck does a wonderful job in the Pulitzer price winning work of threading this idea into a story set in historic China.
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on March 12, 2001
Wang Lung starts out as a likebale character. As the book proceeds, he becomes a more of a...let's say..."non-likeable" man. In other words, he was a PIG...yes a pig...a P-I-G - PIG! O-lan on the other hand, was a very respectable woman who did everything she could to help her family...with the exception of killing her daughter, but that's not the point, is it? Moving on with the story, Wang Lung has a...well..."interesting" uncle who decides that since he is starving to death, it would protocol to eat 3 of his daughters, I mean they were just girls right? Well when the drought comes along and Wang Lung, O-lan, Wang Lung's grandfather, and their children must move south. They take the "firewagon" (a.k.a- A TRAIN) and arrive there with their few belongings. They then build a hut out of mats. They have...well...no money. So, Wang Lung earned his "living" by pulling jinrickshas while his wife, grandfather, and children beg for money and food. Later in the book...well since we are only about halfway through now...we'll be sure to get back to you when we find out what happens next...
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on March 12, 2001
Wang Lung starts out as a likebale character. As the book proceeds, he becomes a more of a...let's say..."non-likeable" man. In other words, he was a PIG...yes a pig...a P-I-G - PIG! O-lan on the other hand, was a very respectable woman who did everything she could to help her family...with the exception of killing her daughter, but that's not the point, is it? Moving on with the story, Wang Lung has a...well..."interesting" uncle who decides that since he is starving to death, it would protocol to eat 3 of his daughters, I mean they were just girls right? Well when the drought comes along and Wang Lung, O-lan, Wang Lung's grandfather, and their children must move south. They take the "firewagon" (a.k.a- A TRAIN) and arrive there with their few belongings. They then build a hut out of mats. They have...well...no money. So, Wang Lung earned his "living" by pulling jinrickshas while his wife, grandfather, and children beg for money and food. Later in the book...well since we are only about halfway through now...we'll be sure to get back to you when we find out what happens next...
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