Notes on Pearl Buck and The Good Earth Open-note quiz
Pearl Buck—1892-1973 • She was born in West Virginia, the 6th of 7 children. • Pearl spent her childhood in China where her parents were Presbyterian missionaries. • She spoke Chinese before she spoke English.
Pearl attended college at The Randolph Mason Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Va. • She graduated in 1914. • She married John Buck who taught agriculture.
They settled in the town of Nanhsuchou in Anhwei Province in northern China. • This province was the source of inspiration for Pearl’s novel, The Good Earth. • This novel made Pearl world famous.
The Good Earth was published in 1931, and was number one on the best seller list for 21 months. • It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932, and was the work chiefly responsible for Buck winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.
The Bucks moved to the city of Nanking in 1921. • Pearl taught English literature at the University of Nanking and her husband taught agriculture. • She felt that the old and new ways were clashing in China.
Pearl wrote many articles for American magazines about the changes in a restless China.
In 1919, the Bucks had a daughter they named Carol. Pearl could not have other children. They later found out that their daughter was mentally handicapped. • In 1934, Pearl returned to the United States for good.
Pearl divorced John and married Richard J. Walsh who was president of her publishing company (the John Day Company). • They moved to a farm in Pennsylvania and, over the next several years, adopted nine children.
Pearl Buck was a popular personality who lectured extensively on: • Writing • Adoption • Mental health issues • American involvement in Asian countries.
She was a world famous humanitarian. • Buck wrote two sequels to The Good Earth. • Sons in 1932 and • A House Divided in 1935
The three books form a trilogy called The House of Earth. • In all, she wrote more than 85 works including books, short stories, articles and speeches. • Pearl died in Vermont on March 6, 1973, three months before her 81st birthday.
Chinese Feudal Caste System • Gentry • Scholars • Merchants • Farmers • Slaves • This system is the reality for Wang Lung and the other characters in the novel.
An overview of Chinese history since the mid 1850’s • Foreigners basically swarmed in and exploited the Chinese who were not economically sophisticated. • Diplomats and missionaries followed the commercial developers.
Along with this foreign invasion there was domestic disorder which led to The Boxer Rebellion of 1900. • This rebellion was an attempt to drive foreigners out of China by using violence against the foreigners and to force Chinese Christians to renounce their religion.
In 1911, Sun Yat-Sen led a rebellion that overthrew the Ching Dynasty of the Manchus. (The Manchurians had come out of Mongolia in 1644 and conquered China.) • In 1912, Sun Yat-Sen was elected president of the new found Chinese Republic.
Sun is the George Washington of China. • After Sun’s death in 1916, there was a domination of Warlords fighting each other for power. Warlords are strongmen in control of areas of a country.
Also, during this time, Marxism was introduced and the First Congress of the Chinese Communist Party met in 1921, with Mao-Tse-Tung in attendance. • And, there was the rise of Chiang Kai-Shek, who had been a military advisor of Sun’s.
There was much upheaval in this period of Chinese history and Wang does not understand what is happening to his country.
The people of China are quite diverse. • They write the same language but there are at least 100 spoken dialects. • Sometimes verbal communication is impossible.
Six major themes in The Good Earth • 1. the goodness of the earth • 2. The status of women • 3. The family • 4. Religion and good fortune • 5. Morality and necessity • 6. Wang Lung’s search for peace