Posted by
Michigan Fan
Trabuco Canyon, CA
Member since Mar 2012
50782 posts

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck... why is it so revered?
I just finished this. Decided to initially read it because I see it on a lot of classic novels lists and it is considered a 20th century example of high literature.

To each their own but I come away after reading this novel asking myself: where is the noble prize caliber material here? (Pearl Buck won the nobel prize largely due to this book and its sequels)

I will give the novel one bit of praise: I like the overall theme of how wealth can change a person and completely alter their values system, often for the worse.

But aside from that, the novel has two fatal flaws.

1) It is mundane and the storytelling has very little soul and depth.

2) Despite the author trying to depict a realistic early 20th century pre-revolution Chinese farming family, the story's unfolding is remarkably unrealistic. I will not spoil anything, but Wang Lung's life trajectory, which is itself the plot of the story, simply did not happen to rural chinese farmers in real life. That wouldn't be an issue if the novel wasn't revered for being an honest, thorough depiction of 1920s china, but it is. The first couple chapters of the book did a good job of honest, realistic expositions of the rough rural life of china. But it quickly turns fantastical and improbable, in a matter of a few chapters!

There were a few moments of great writing in the novel, but I came away overall stunned that critics were so moved by the work that it received a Pulitzer and the author received a nobel prize.

Addendum: I readily admit I struggle with appreciating classic books that have to do with Asian culture. The Joy Luck Club came to my mind after I finished this book. I had to read that in an English class in high school. Teacher (female) said the book is life changing for some students. I was completely at a loss for words after finishing that, not because I was so moved, but because I literally could not tell you what the message of that novel was. I remember struggling mightily writing a book report on that thing. If I was still in school, I would struggle writing an essay on the good earth, too.

Bestbank Tiger
Tulane Fan
The Landmass
Member since Jan 2005
44659 posts

re: The Good Earth by Pearl Buck... why is it so revered?

1) It is mundane

I think that was the point.

I read it sophomore year. Very enjoyable read.

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red sox fan 13
Oklahoma Fan
lurker since 2015
Member since Aug 2018
241 posts

re: The Good Earth by Pearl Buck... why is it so revered?
I had to read it in 8th grade and I thought it was awful. It really seemed like a drag to me, although if I read it now maybe I’d like it more.

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Member since Nov 2015
5130 posts

re: The Good Earth by Pearl Buck... why is it so revered?
You just wrote a pretty good essay/report on it.

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Member since Mar 2008
3364 posts

re: The Good Earth by Pearl Buck... why is it so revered?
I think women identify with it more. When I taught it, middle school girls were emotionally upset about the whole thing yet seemed to enjoy it. Boys found it generally predictable.

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