What an unexpected gem this was. There is certainly no wondering why this is considered one of the best novels of the 20th century. My one disappointment was the abrupt and anticlimactic ending
In lates 1800’s China, a poor farmer struggles with class conflicts, mother nature and culture clashes. He weds the slave of a wealthy family that he both envies and disdains. Land is what he values more than anything and delivers him into prosperity, however, it is what ironically takes him further away from the actual earth.
The book’s central character, Wang Lung, puts all hope into land and is eventually rewarded for his hard work, however, his social ambitions blind him to his eroding morals. He ventures to a tea house/brothel where he falls in love with a prostitute he eventually buys and brings home while still married. Sadly, he internalized his sentiments and vocalized his criticisms to family and friends. Not a man much admired.
O-Lan is the taciturn wife to Wang Lung. She is extremely resourceful and obedient, likely the result of growing up as a slave sold to the wealthy Hwang family at age ten. She gives birth in silence and then returns to the fields to work beside her husband and then prepares food. While I acknowledge the time and cultural differences, I’d love to shake her by the shoulders and lead her to a better place.
The son of Wang Lung’s uncle, never referred to by name, is a most unwanted family member, but somehow insinuates himself into the prosperious home. His lust for very young girls is disturbing and makes everyone uncomfortable, but his ties to rough gangs intimidate those who try to get rid of him. This is the guy everyone hopes will just disappear…no questions asked.
Ms. Buck certainly lived a life that afforded her unique perspective of Chinese culture and I’d love to ask how she was viewed as a woman living in a country with blatant disregard for women. Perhaps she’d also share her keen insight into the thoughts of a man whose social status rises yet whose feet wish to reamin firmly planted in the (good) earth.
My rating for The Good Earth is a 9 out of 10.
Please share your own reviews or comments by using the link below.
Next up, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre…