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The Good Earth Essay, Research Paper
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 doing
afterwards and try to put myself in the characters’ shoes and visualize
everything that happened in the book. I was so taken by the plot that I
remember not wanting to put down the book till I knew what happened next
in one of the conflicts in the story. Considering my reaction to it when I first
got 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 had
to 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 bookstore
and saw how thick of a book it was I thought to myself, “Great…here’s
another long boring book.” But after reading it I eventually proved myself
wrong and found out it was well worth reading it all the way through the
last page. Pearl S. Buck did an outstanding job on the book’s vivid
description of the characters, emphasizing the importance of Wang Lung’s
land, and its sense of dramatic reality.
The way the characters are described in the book you can really
picture in your mind who they are. It’s very important to be able to visualize
them because it helps you get to know them better as characters and have a
better understanding of the book. One vivid description is O-lan’s, Wang
Lung’s wife. “Wang Lung turned to the woman and looked at her for the
first time. She had a square, honest face, a short, broad nose with large
black nostrils, and her mouth was wide as a gash in her face. Her eyes were
small and of a dull black color, and were filled with some sadness that was
not clearly expressed. It was a face that seemed habitually silent and
unspeaking, as though it could not speak if it would.” (p.19) As I was
reading this I got the impression that O-lan would be a faithful wife to
Wang Lung and it turned out I was right. The fact that she wasn’t beautiful
didn’t matter at all. She served her family well. Another meaningful
description is Lotus’, Wang Lung’s first mistress, which has an irony to it if
you compare it to O-lan’s. “If one had told him there were small hands like
these he would not have believed it, hands so small and bones so fine and
fingers so pointed with long nails stained the color of lotus buds, deep and
rosy. And if one had told him that there could be feet like these, little feet
thrust into pink satin shoes no longer than a man’s middle finger, and
swinging childishly over the bed’s edge–if anyone had told him he would
not have believed it.” (p.181) This shows how delicate Lotus is physically
and you would probably think she is decent and kind, but later on in the
book you would find out that her physical description doesn’t fit her
personality at all. She is manipulative and greedy. She also complains all the
time. Comparing her to O-lan shows you that it’s not beauty that counts but
it’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’s
hard to imagine such love a man like Wang Lung has for his land. But this
same land was the one that fed them and made them rich. “And his wife, who
had been a slave in the kitchens of that proud family, would be wife to a
man who owned a piece of land that for generations had made the House of
Hwang great.” (p.53) This is an important turning point in Wang Lung’s life
because he finally came with a goal which helped him strive for a better
future for him and his family. “And again the slow smile spread over her
face, 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 that
house.”” (p.53) I was happy for O-lan at that moment because I knew that
her life would get a little better once things worked out with the land they
would buy. The land foreshadows their good fortune which was not hard to
predict. Another moment that shows Wang Lung’s love for his land is when
they were starving and he still wouldn’t sell the land. “They cannot take the
land from me. The labor of my body and the fruit of the fields I have put into
that which cannot be taken away. If I had the silver, they would have taken
it. If I had bought with the silver to store it, they would have taken it all. I
have the land still, and it is mine.” (p.75) This shows his wisdom and
determination because he knows that the land would someday save them
from this tragedy. Even at the end when Wang Lung was old and weak he
wouldn’t let his sons sell the land. “No–no–we will never sell the land–It is
the end of the family–when they begin to sell the land. Out of the land we
came and into it we must go–and if you will hold your land you can live–no
one can rob you of land. If you sell the land, it is the end.” (p.360) On this
passage Wang Lung tries to tell his sons that the land is part of their family
and it shows the strong family ties Wang Lung wants his family to have
because he knows in his heart that the land is everything that will bind their
The book’s sense of reality is another good part of the novel. It’s
basically about poverty and how they coped with it. Wang Lung and his
family were starving for a while. “If one had asked Wang Lung, “And how
are you fed through the autumn?” he would have answered,”I do not
know–a little food here and there.” (p.71) This particular passage from the
book is somewhat touchy because we know that it really happens in real life
and 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 in
Shantung when the years like this came, even the cobs we ground and ate. It
is better than grass.” (p.70-71) After reading this I realized how serious the
situation was for them. I felt sorry and shocked at the same time. At one
time they had to kill their ox just because they had nothing else to eat. They
even 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 do
to get out of that situation.
If somebody asked me for an interesting book that wouldn’t bore
them, I woud definitely recommed this one. I learned many things by
reading it. It gave me a better understanding of Chinese life and the
fascinating details kept me reading. This book made a lasting impression
and I would never forget it.
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