The Good Earth

The Good Earth

Infobox Book |
name = The Good Earth
title_orig = The Good Earth
translator =

image_caption =
author = Pearl S. Buck
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series = None
genre = Historical fiction
publisher = John Day Publishing Co.
release_date = March 2, 1931
media_type = Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
pages = 375 pp (first edition, hardback)
isbn = ISBN 0-381-98033-2 (first edition, hardback)
preceded_by =
followed_by = Sons

"The Good Earth" is a novel by Pearl S. Buck published in 1931 and awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1932. It is the first book in a trilogy that includes "Sons" (1932) and "A House Divided" (1935).

The novel of family life in village China became a best-seller upon publication and has been a steady favorite ever since. In 2004, the book was returned to the best seller list when chosen by the television host Oprah Winfrey for Oprah's Book Club. [ [ "The Good Earth" at Oprah's Book Club website] ] The novel described Chinese culture in detail and helped prepare Americans of the 1930s to consider Chinese as allies in the coming war with Japan.

The 1937 film, "The Good Earth", was based on this novel.

Plot summary

The story begins on Wang Lung's wedding day and follows the rise and fall of his fortunes. The House of Hwang, a family of wealthy landowners, lives in the nearby town. As the House of Hwang slowly declines due to opium use, frequent spending, and uncontrolled borrowing, Wang Lung, through his own hard work and the skill of his wife, O-Lan, slowly earns enough to buy land from the Hwang family. O-lan delivers three sons, but a girl baby becomes mentally retarded as a result of severe malnutrition brought on by famine. Her father greatly pities her and calls her "Poor Fool," However, when a devastating drought arrives, the family must flee to the Southern City to find work. Wang Lung's malignant uncle offers Wang Lung silver for his possessions, including his land, but significantly less than their value. They sell their newly-bought possessions, but refuse to sell the land. Wang Lung then faces the long journey south, contemplating which of his starving children will die, when he discovers that the "Fire Wagon", a newly-built train in the village, takes people south for a fee.

While in the city, O-Lan and the children turn to begging while Wang Lung pulls a rickshaw. Wang Lung's father refuses to beg, and sits appreciating the sights of the city instead. They find themselves aliens among their more metropolitan countrymen who look different and speak in a fast accent. They no longer starve, due to the one-cent charitable meals of rice gruel, but still live in abject poverty. Wang Lung longs to return to his land. He can only work at night shift, at a fraction of his former pay, for fear of being conscripted. When a food riot erupts, a mob breaks into the house of a fat and fearful rich man who offers Wang Lung gold in exchange for his life.

Upon returning home, Wang Lung buys an ox, farm tools, and even hires servants to help him work the land. He is eventually able to send his sons to school to avoid the fate of the Hwang family. Using jewels O-Lan looted from the house in the city, they buy the House of Hwang's remaining land. As Wang Lung becomes more prosperous, he buys a concubine named Lotus. O-Lan dies, but not before witnessing her first son's wedding. Wang Lung and his family move into town and buy the old House of Hwang. Wang Lung, now an old man, wants peace, but there are always disputes, especially between his first and second sons. Wang Lung's third son runs away. At the end of the novel, Wang Lung overhears his sons planning to sell the land and tries to dissuade them. They say that they will do as he wishes, but smile knowingly at each other.


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