The Good Earth was first published in 1931 and influenced the Western perception of China for many decades, more than any other piece of literature. It was one of the few works where Chinese people were not represented as "slanty-eyed Orientals" (like the sly Fu Manchu), but instead constructed like everyday human beings, same as Westerners.
The book also vividly portrays life in countryside China in the early 1900s. Pearl S. Buck, the author, builds the story out of her own personal experience in the nation. Buck, the child of missionaries, had been relocated to China when she was three months old, and by the age of four, she could speak Chinese and English with equal fluency.
Buck also lived through the Boxer Rebellion, a large anti-foreigner uprising in China in 1900, which alienated her family from their Chinese friends. In fact, the danger to her family from zealous Chinese protestors was so imminent, they had to move back to the United States for a short period of time before returning to China to continue their missionary work.
Upon their return, Buck's family faced continued opposition from many Chinese. However, Buck was never deterred. She married John Lossing Buck in 1917, and together, they lived for several years in the Anwei province, along the Yangtze River. This is the setting of The Good Earth. There, Buck witnessed the greatest poverty in China and the fiercest struggles to survive in the rural countryside. She became intimately involved in the daily lives of these Chinese, and they had an incredible influence on Buck.
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Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Chapter 2 and 3
Chapter 4 and 5
Chapter 6 and 7
Chapter 10 and 11
Chapter 12 and 13