WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Type: China, Classic
Basic Plot: Wang Lung and O-lan start as poor Chinese farmer, but go through of life of good and bad that leads them where they never thought they would go.
Plot: 4/5 Amazing: The some of best plots show the life of a person that has the soul as real as our own but a world that is foreign. The Good Earth definitely has this. The characters personalities and hearts are deeply shown in their actions and words, and they are relatable and realistic. One could almost see these people being people in real life. Even if we don’t know someone like the characters in real life, the characters strongly follow human nature.
Writing Style and Setup: 5/5 Excellent: The Good Earth easily grabs your attention and can hold it for long periods of time. The style is simple, but the descriptions are thorough and deep. Every detail was far from redundant or unnecessary, and made the story seem
The setup was also good, going in a chronological order of Wang Lung’s life, starting at his marriage and ending near his death. Wang Lung’s perspective is shown from a third person point of view, yet with as much of his personality as if it were first person. Transitions through time were done well, also, as a person may feel themselves age and change as the characters do.
Moral: 2½/5 A Partially Good Moral: The story is more chronological than moral, but I believe it still has a moral throughout The moral seems to be that devotion and hard work will eventually pay off, as well as shows human nature. Though Pearl S. Buck was not against Communism in China and some anti-capitalistic things may be seen in certain parts of the book, the book shows that capitalism and hard work will lead you to prosperity. Even if the book was meant to discredit capitalism in some ways, it shows more that proves capitalism is good rather than bad. Wang Lung starts out dirt poor, but dies extremely rich because of his hard work. Another thing shown in the novel is human nature, as the characters and their personalities and actions are completely human and realistic.
Overall: 4½/5 Amazing: This is probably one of the best books I have ever read, and I highly recommend it in quality. Though I believe any age could enjoy it, I believe the older you are, the more you will appreciate it, as the more you will have experienced the life Wang Lung is experiencing.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 3/5 Suggestive Content: A man takes a bath with the intent of looking nice for his wife on his wedding night, and it mentions him grabbing her after she goes to bed. A father tells his son that pretty slaves are often not virgins at marriage. A man will not let his wife be seen by others until he has “consummated” his marriage. Women breastfeed, and some detail, such as the amount of milk or that is flows on the ground, is mentioned. Concubines are mentioned throughout the book, and a man eventually buys a girl from a house that basically becomes his concubine. It also details over several chapters his obsession with this woman that includes her denying him her room when she is upset at him and the way he feels when she touches his arm. Though the book never describes sex, whether in detail or not, it does mention how certain characters feel before and after the experience. The level of detail is limited to how the body feels, the type amount of lust, or how fulfilled one is afterward, body parts and bodily functions really not being mentioned (and if they are, they would be very undertone, as it is mentioned a man is unsatisfied for not having his complete fill of a woman, whatever that may mean). A man visit’s his father’s concubine, though she denies that they did anything physical together. A man accuses his concubine of being “a whore and a-whoring” because of this. A man calls his son’s concubine a “harlot.” A father finds out his son is visiting a prostitute and goes out of his way to keep him from seeing her again. She is referred to in the book as a “whore.” An elderly man sleeps with a young girl, though it is never said whether he actually does anything inappropriate with him or not. It is mentioned that an old man starts to feel lustful for girls that are little more than children. A woman mentions that the female slaves in her old home were used sexually by all of the men in the house while the girls were still children. Because of a girl’s fear of young men, a man wonders what may have been told to or happened to her. A man thinks about how his wife’s breasts are unattractive. Toddlers are outside playing, naked. A woman hides jewels in a bag in her bosom, and her husband finds and takes them from there. A man is worried his cousin will not remain a virgin because she hangs around men and lets them touch her arm, and her father says he worries about her bearing a child before marriage. A man touches and possibly grabs the breast of his female cousin but is stopped by his uncle from doing anything further. She is sent away to protect her virginity. A man spies on the women of the house, though this is probably not considered immodest today. He also lust after them and is finally allowed to make a slave girl pregnant. One girl begs to not be given to him, though she is nearly made to. It is mentioned that concubines were raped by thieves. It mentions that a man sleeps less with his concubine because he is old. A woman makes a suggestive comment about her body. A man says his son loves his wife like “a harlot” because his son worries about his cousin watching her. A woman wishes to marry someone because she had once slept with a man she was not married to. A man is so loosely dressed that some people believe the wind could blow his clothes away and that “he might suddenly stand naked.” A man works at night while he is naked. Some idols are mentioned to be naked. A man believes that another man he finds was sleeping with a woman while unclothed. An ox is mentioned to have been “well castrated.” It is mentioned that the picture of Jesus on the cross shows him barely covered. “Lewdness” is used sometimes to describe the way one woman speaks. There is mention of characters having lust
Violence: 2/5 Usually Non-Descriptive Violence: Descriptions that include violence such as “like a dog that has been kicked” are used. There is mention of characters wishing to hurt other characters. A man “pounds” on a mans back in a semi-playful manner. A woman says that she was beaten daily when she was a slave and talks in her sleep about it. It is mentioned that other slaves had been beaten. It is greatly suggested that a mother murdered her newborn child by crushing its neck. Adults discipline their children with slaps and cuffs, and a man slaps his grown nephew. A man beats his nephew to protect his daughter. It is mentioned that a woman hit a man with her fan. A boy is mentioned to have been punched in the eye. A man beats his son and concubine with a reed. He also beats his son at a different time and ends up missing him and hitting the boy’s mother instead. A boy slaps his younger siblings when he is irritated. A man beats his servant. A man is mentioned to have been beaten up by robbers. A man threatens to hurt his head if he doesn’t get what he wants. A man lifts his arm against his uncle, but does not harm him. A man throws a rock at a dog. Animals are mentioned to be whipped. A man is mentioned to be stabbed through. A man shakes his wife, and it is described as “violence.” Characters make promises on violence, such as “I will do this or cut my throat.”
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 2½/5 Mostly Appropriate Usage of Certain Words: The term for a female dog is used three times, twice appropriately and once in a way that probably wasn’t its proper form. Forms of “ass” are properly used four times.
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: Emotional and Lightly Disturbing Content: Many emotional and slightly intense things are throughout the book. Starvation is descriptively gone over for many chapters. Parents wonder if they should sell their children into slavery, and some parents do or are mentioned to have done so in the past. Some characters buy slaves, and a man buys a woman to be his concubine. Characters sometimes wish to kill other characters, though rarely are attempts made. One boy does think of a way to drown his relatives, though it is never acted upon. Characters die or are mentioned to be dead or dying, sometimes with barely a mention and sometimes explicitly and emotionally. The most descriptive death is of a man’s wife, who is not truly loved by her husband the whole time she dies. Death is sometimes also used in “what if” circumstances, such as “if someone had died.” Usually people die of old age, though sometimes it is murder or suicide, and there is brief mention of suicide when it is not performed by the characters. A man believes his retarded daughter would have been killed if she was sold as a slave, and he wishes that she be poisoned after he has died. A woman says she would rather have her child killed than sold into slavery. War is mentioned, and soldiers kidnap people and force them to be their slaves. A man worries about dying this way. Characters mention both going to war and wanting to go to war. Some soldiers invade a village and threaten the people with knives. A tract shows Jesus dying on the cross. A propaganda article shows a man stabbing another man. A man is mentioned to be physically abusive, and a different man says he is a good husband because he is not a wife beater. A man threatens to kill another man, even though he has no intention of killing him. An ox is killed for food, and a man is sad about it. Other animals are mentioned to be dead or killed for food. Cannibalism is mentioned to have happened and possibly be happening during times of famine. It is suggested that a dog ate a dead baby. A man pretends that he wishes his child was dead. There is mention of men being dead and insane from the torture of robbers. Characters buy coffins for old and dying relatives and show the coffins to them. Characters cry and scream. Blood is mentioned throughout the book, sometimes at birth, from an injury or corporal punishment, or when coughing. Characters have bruises, blisters, calluses, and scars. A boy has his “eye swollen” from violence. A man tells his son that if he leaves his room without permission he will kill him. A man was fed meat that he slightly suspects may have been human. A man’s daughter is accidentally left outside all night. Characters wish to burn down a rich man’s house. It is mentioned that a starving child looks dead. A man will not leave his daughter with his sons because he worries she will be abused. Characters are mentioned to be in pain from child birth. Sicknesses are briefly mentioned.
Religious Issues: 2½/5 Suggestive: Pagan temples, incense, spirits, worship of ancestors, religious books, and false gods and goddesses are mentioned as well as believed in, though some characters show less fear and belief than in them than others. Things are thought to be good and evil omens. A man tries to fool what he believes are listening spirits. Characters believe in earning merit to go to heaven. Meditating, no doubt in a pagan context, is mentioned. A track of Jesus is found and, not being understood, is used as the lining of a shoe sole. Buddha is used for decorative purposes. Priest and abbots of Buddhism are mentioned. Buddhist and Taoist funeral rituals are observed with some detail, such as what the priest wear. Characters buy and make clothes for idols. It is mentioned that characters do things believing it will give them good luck. “Idol” is used for descriptive purposes.
Magic: ½/5 Brief Mention: “Magic” is used for descriptive reasons. A walking stick has a dragon on it for decoration. A train is described and thought of as a dragon. There is brief mention of a man that is supposedly a geomancer. No magic is done in the book.
Others: Gambling, tobacco, wine, tobacco pipes, and water pipes are mentioned, and characters sometimes try to coerce other characters to partake in some of the mentioned activities. Men have long hair throughout the book. Characters smoke opium, sometimes getting addicted to the point of body deformation and death. A boy comes home drunk once. “Drunk” and “wine” are used for descriptive purposes.
Overall: 3/5 Teenager Appropriate: I would recommend that a person be at least sixteen, if not older before reading it because of the suggestive and emotional content.
This review does not include commentary, forwards, or afterwords any version may have. It does not include the review, the prologue, or epilogue that a special version may have.