8 reviews

The Good Earth
by Pearl Buck

Published: 1999
Paperback : 368 pages
26 members reading this now
58 clubs reading this now
32 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 7 of 8 members
Though more than sixty years have passed since this remarkable novel won the Pulitzer Prize, it has retained its popularity and become one of the great modern classics. "I can only write what I know, and I know nothing but China, having always lived there", wrote Pearl Buck. In THE GOOD ...
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Though more than sixty years have passed since this remarkable novel won the Pulitzer Prize, it has retained its popularity and become one of the great modern classics. "I can only write what I know, and I know nothing but China, having always lived there", wrote Pearl Buck. In THE GOOD EARTH she presents a graphic view of a China when the last emperor reigned and the vast political and social upheavals of the twentieth century were but distant rumblings for the ordinary people. This moving, classic story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife O-lan is must reading for those who would fully appreciate the sweeping changes that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese people during this century.

Nobel Prize winner PEARL S. BUCK traces the whole cycle of life: its terrors, its passions, its ambitions and rewards. Her brilliant novel -- beloved by millions of readers -- is a universal tale of the destiny of man.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


Chapter One

It was Wang Lung's marriage day. At first, opening his eyes in the blackness of the curtains about his bed, he could not think why the dawn seemed different from any other. The house was still except for the faint, gasping cough of his old father, whose room was opposite to his own across the middle room. Every morning the old man's cough was the first sound to be heard. Wang Lung usually lay listening to it and moved only when he heard it approaching nearer and when he heard the door of his father's room squeak upon its wooden hinges. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

Questions from the Publisher's Reading Guide:

1. The novel begins with Wang Lung's expectation of rain, the daily boiling of water for his father, and his bathing for his wedding. What might this water imagery foreshadow?

2. Why does Wang Lung feel compelled to purchase the rice field from the House of Hwang? Why does he at first regret it?

3. "And so this parcel of land became to Wang Lung a sign and a symbol." What does the author mean by this?

4. Wang Lung considers the birth of his daughter to be a bad omen. How does he come to regard this girl, who grows up to become a fool?

5. As the family works and begs in the city, what do they think of the foreigners they encounter? What purpose does the author serve in including these descriptions?

6. The abundance of food in the city contrasts with the characters impoverished lives. Discuss the emotionally complex relationship Wang Lung develops with the city.

7. The poor laborers in the city lack knowledge even of what they look like, a fact illustrated by the man who mocks himself in a mirror. How does a new self-awareness come to manifest itself?

8. When Wang Lung becomes swept up with the mob and enters the rich man's house, is the gold he receives there a curse or a blessing? Do you feel any pity for the rich man? What do you think the author intended you to feel?

9. After O-lan steals the jewels, do they function as a bad omen or good luck? Why does O-lan want to keep the two pearls? Why is Wang Lung so astonished by this? What do the pearls signify?

10. As O-lan dies, she bemoans her lack of beauty and says she is too ugly to be loved. Wang Lung feels guilty, but still cannot love her as he did Lotus. Neither woman can control destiny. Lotus was an orphan who had been sold into prostitution because she was beautiful, and O-lan had been sold as a kitchen slave because she was plain. For whom do you feel sympathy? Why?

11. Toward the end of the novel we encounter the belief that things will change "when the poor become too poor and the rich are too rich." Discuss the ambivalence of this statement -- a mixture of both hope and despair -- and how it reflects upon the whole of The Good Earth.

12. Pearl Buck wrote a first-person novel from the point of view of a Chinese man, which was controversial because she was of a different culture. What are some of the challenges of this undertaking? How might this book have been different had it been written by a Chinese person? Compare Buck's novel to other books written by authors striving to transcend culture or gender (e.g.: Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha, James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone).

Suggested by Members

For Wang-Lung, it was important that he have someone in his household who could read and write, mostly to assist him in the selling of his harvests. Do you think there were other motives at work?
Do you see the formal education of his sons (an education which he never had) as a turning point in his life and the lives of his family members?
by Regina13 (see profile) 03/19/11

DIscuss the role of women in the old Chinese customs. How des that differ from todays world?
Who is the real hero of the book?
by Karene (see profile) 11/22/09

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Member Reviews

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by Wendi L. (see profile) 01/02/24

by Dilann Y. (see profile) 01/28/20

by Mayre V. (see profile) 04/26/16

by Abby T. (see profile) 04/07/16

by Karen G. (see profile) 03/12/16

  "A classic"by susan l. (see profile) 07/19/13

well written, informative: it is an in depth look at early 20th century rural China, human nature, and the balance beween rich and poor, old and new, and the older and younger generations.

  "Engaging, compelling page-turner"by Regina R. (see profile) 03/19/11

I appreciated how the story continued to move at a steady pace. Although set in a different time and very different culture, I could relate to so much of the characters' emotions and thoughts. I used "gloomy"... (read more)

  "A must-read classic."by Michelle M. (see profile) 02/14/11

Excellent read. I loved it.

  "The Good Earth"by Sue H. (see profile) 01/10/11

Was a book that made you realize how lucky as women, that we live in this country. Glad I read it but was a difficult read for me.

  "The Good Earth"by Jo B. (see profile) 01/07/11

I'm sorry but this book was not one of my favorites. I do have to say it was well written. Considering this book won the Pulitizer Prize and helped the author win the Nobel prize, I feel it is a piece... (read more)

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