The Good Earth

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Overview

Wang Lung, rising from humble Chinese farmer to wealthy landowner, gloried in the soil he worked. He held it above his family, even above his gods. But soon, between Wang Lung and the kindly soil that sustained him, came flood and drought, pestilence and revolution....

Through this one Chinese peasant and his children, Nobel Prize-winner Pearl S. Buck traces the whole cycle of life, its terrors, its passion, its persistent ambitions and its rewards. Her brilliant novel—beloved ...

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The Good Earth

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Overview

Wang Lung, rising from humble Chinese farmer to wealthy landowner, gloried in the soil he worked. He held it above his family, even above his gods. But soon, between Wang Lung and the kindly soil that sustained him, came flood and drought, pestilence and revolution....

Through this one Chinese peasant and his children, Nobel Prize-winner Pearl S. Buck traces the whole cycle of life, its terrors, its passion, its persistent ambitions and its rewards. Her brilliant novel—beloved by millions of readers throughout the world—is a universal tale of the destiny of men.

This great modern classic depicts life in China at a time before the vast political and social upheavals transformed an essentially agrarian country into a world power. Nobel Prize-winner Pearl S. Buck traces the whole cycle of life—its terrors, its passions, its ambitions, and its rewards.

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Editorial Reviews

Bookman
To read this story of Wang Lung is to be slowly and deeply purified; and when the last page is finished it is as if some significant part of one's own days were over.
Saturday Review
A beautiful, beautiful book. At last we read, in the pages of a novel, of the real people of China.
New York Times Book Review
The Good Earth has style, power, coherence and a pervasive sense of dramatic reality.
School Library Journal

First published in 1931, this classic novel about Chinese peasant life around the turn of the 20th century seems a little dated now but still possesses enough emotional power to engage modern listeners. The book traces the slow rise of Wang Lung from humble peasant farmer to great landlord-a feat he achieves by steadily adding to his lands and making enormous sacrifices to retain them through hard times. As one of the first Western novels to explore the lives of ordinary Chinese, this work has had an enormous influence on American views of China, and it propelled Buck to the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938. The novel's linear story line makes it ideal for listening, and actor Anthony Heald's perfectly modulated narration makes this audio edition a sure winner among library patrons. Highly recommended.
—R. Kent Rasmussen Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

From the Publisher
The New York Times A comment upon the meaning and tragedy of life as it is lived in any age in any quarter of the globe.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette One of the most important and revealing novels of our time.

Boston Transcript One need never have lived in China or know anything about the Chinese to understand it or respond to its appeal.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781433204098
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/1/2007
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 1 MP3, 10 hours 30 mins
  • Pages: 1
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Pearl S. Buck was born on June 26, 1892, in Hillsboro, West Virginia.Pearl began to publish stories and essays in the 1920s, in magazines such as The Nation, The Chinese Recorder, Asia, and The Atlantic Monthly. Her first novel, East Wind, West Wind, was published by the John Day Company in 1930. John Day's publisher, Richard Walsh, would eventually become Pearl's second husband, in 1935, after both received divorces.In 1931, John Day published Pearl's second novel, The Good Earth. This became the bestselling book of both 1931 and 1932, won the Pulitzer Prize and the Howells Medal in 1935, and would be adapted as a major MGM film in 1937. In 1938, less than a decade after her first book had appeared, Pearl won the Nobel Prize in literature, the first American woman to do so. By the time of her death in 1973, Pearl had published more than seventy books: novels, collections of stories, biography and autobiography, poetry, drama, children's literature, and translations from the Chinese. She is buried at Green Hills Farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

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Read an Excerpt

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.

But this morning he did not wait. He sprang
up and pushed aside the curtains of his bed. It
was a dark, ruddy dawn, and through a small
square hole of a window, where the tattered
paper fluttered, a glimpse of bronze sky
gleamed. He went to the hole and tore the paper
away.

"It is spring and I do not need this," he
muttered.

He was ashamed to say aloud that he wished
the house to look neat on this day. The hole was
barely large enough to admit his hand and he
thrust it out to feel of the air. A small soft
wind blew gently from the east, a wind mild and
murmurous and full of rain. It was a good omen.
The fields needed rain for fruition. There would
be no rain this day, but within a few days, if
this wind continued, there would be water. It
was good. Yesterday he had said to his father
that if this brazen, glittering sunshine
continued, the wheat could not fill in the ear.
Now it was as if Heaven had chosen this day to
wish him well. Earth would bear fruit.

He hurried out into the middle room, drawing
on his blue outer trousers as he went, and
knotting about the fullness at his waist his
girdle of blue cotton cloth. He left his upper
body bare until he had heated water to bathe
himself. He went into the shed which was the
kitchen, leaning against the house, and out of
its dusk an ox twisted its head from behind the
corner next the door and lowed at him deeply.
The kitchen was made of earthen bricks as the
house was, great squares of earth dug from their
own fields, and thatched with straw from their
own wheat. Out of their own earth had his
grandfather in his youth fashioned also the
oven, baked and black with many years of meal
preparing. On top of this earthen structure
stood a deep, round, iron cauldron.

This cauldron he filled partly full of water,
dipping it with a half gourd from an earthen jar
that stood near, but he dipped cautiously, for
water was precious. Then, after a hesitation, he
suddenly lifted the jar and emptied all the
water into the cauldron. This day he would bathe
his whole body. Not since he was a child upon
his mother's knee had anyone looked upon his
body. Today one would, and he would have it
clean.

He went around the oven to the rear, and
selecting a handful of the dry grass and stalks
standing in the corner of the kitchen, he
arranged it delicately in the mouth of the oven,
making the most of every leaf. Then from an old
flint and iron he caught a flame and thrust it
into the straw and there was a blaze.

This was the last morning he would have to
light the fire. He had lit it every morning
since his mother died six years before. He had
lit the fire, boiled water, and poured the water
into a bowl and taken it into the room where his
father sat upon his bed, coughing and fumbling
for his shoes upon the floor. Every morning for
these six years the old man had waited for his
son to bring in hot water to ease him of his
morning coughing. Now father and son could rest.

fi0There was a woman coming to the house. Never
again would Wang Lung have to rise summer and
winter at dawn to light the fire. He could lie
in his bed and wait, and he also would have a
bowl of water brought to him, and if the earth
were fruitful there would be tea leaves in the
water. Once in some years it was so.

And if the woman wearied, there would be her
children to light the fire, the many children
she would bear to Wang Lung. Wang Lung stopped,
struck by the thought of children running in and
out of their three rooms. Three rooms had always
seemed much to them, a house half empty since
his mother died. They were always having to
resist relatives who were more crowded — his
uncle, with his endless brood of children,
coaxing.

"Now, how can two lone men need so much room?
Cannot father and son sleep together? The warmth
of the young one's body will comfort the old
one's cough."

But the father always replied, "I am saving
my bed for my grandson. He will warm my bones in
my age."

Now the grandsons were coming, grandsons upon
grandsons! They would have to put beds along the
walls and in the middle room. The house would be
full of beds. The blaze in the oven died down
while Wang Lung thought of all the beds there
would be in the half empty house, and the water
began to chill in the cauldron. The shadowy
figure of the old man appeared in the doorway,
holding his unbuttoned garments about him. He
was coughing and spitting and he gasped.

"How is it that there is not water yet to
heat my lungs?"

Wang Lung stared and recalled himself and was
ashamed.

"This fuel is damp," he muttered from behind
the stove.

"The damp wind — "

The old man continued to cough perseveringly
and would not cease until the water boiled. Wang
Lung dipped some into a bowl, and then, after a
moment, he opened a glazed jar that stood upon a
ledge of the stove and took from it a dozen or
so of the curled dried leaves and sprinkled them
upon the surface of the water. The old man's
eyes opened greedily and immediately he began to
complain.

"Why are you wasteful? Tea is like eating
silver."

"It is the day," replied Wang Lung with a
short laugh. "Eat and be comforted."

The old man grasped the bowl in his
shriveled, knotty fingers, muttering, uttering
little grunts. He watched the leaves uncurl and
spread upon the surface of the water, unable to
bear drinking the precious stuff.

"It will be cold," said Wang Lung.

"True — true — " said the old man in alarm,
and he began to take great gulps of the hot tea.
He passed into an animal satisfaction, like a
child fixed upon its feeding. But he was not too
forgetful to see Wang Lung dipping the water
recklessly from the cauldron into a deep wooden
tub. He lifted his head and stared at his son.

"Now there is water enough to bring a crop to
fruit," he said suddenly.

Wang Lung continued to dip the water to the
last drop. He did not answer.

"Now then!" cried his father loudly.

"I have not washed my body all at once since
the New Year," said Wang Lung in a low voice.

He was ashamed to say to his father that he
wished his body to be clean for a woman to see.
He hurried out, carrying the tub to his own
room. The door was hung loosely upon a warped
wooden frame and it did not shut closely, and
the old man tottered into the middle room and
put his mouth to the opening and bawled,

"It will be ill if we start the woman like
this — tea in the morning water and all this
washing!"

"It is only one day," shouted Wang Lung. And
then he added, "I will throw the water on the
earth when I am finished and it is not all
waste."

The old man was silent at this, and Wang Lung
unfastened his girdle and stepped out of his
clothing. In the light that streamed in a square
block from the hole he wrung a small towel from
the steaming water and he scrubbed his dark
slender body vigorously. Warm though he had
thought the air, when his flesh was wet he was
cold, and he moved quickly, passing the towel in
and out of the water until from his whole body
there went up a delicate cloud of steam. Then he
went to a box that had been his mother's and
drew from it a fresh suit of blue cotton cloth.
He might be a little cold this day without the
wadding of the winter garments, but he suddenly
could not bear to put them on against his clean
flesh. The covering of them was torn and filthy
and the wadding stuck out of the holes, grey and
sodden. He did not want this woman to see him
for the first time with the wadding sticking out
of his clothes. Later she would have to wash and
mend, but not the first day. He drew over the
blue cotton coat and trousers a long robe made
of the same material — his one long robe, which
he wore on feast days only, ten days or so in
the year, all told. Then with swift fingers he
unplaited the long braid of hair that hung down
his back, and taking a wooden comb from the
drawer of the small, unsteady table, he began to
comb out his hair.

His father drew near again and put his mouth
to the crack of the door.

"Am I to have nothing to eat this day?" he
complained. "At my age the bones are water in
the morning until food is given them."

"I am coming," said Wang Lung, braiding his
hair quickly and smoothly and weaving into the
strands a tasseled, black silk cord.

Then after a moment he removed his long gown
and wound his braid about his head and went out,
carrying the tub of water. He had quite
forgotten the breakfast. He would stir a little
water into corn meal and give it to his father.
For himself he could not eat. He staggered with
the tub to the threshold and poured the water
upon the earth nearest the door, and as he did
so he remembered he had used all the water in
the cauldron for his bathing and he would have
to start the fire again. A wave of anger passed
over him at his father.

"That old head thinks of nothing except his
eating and his drinking," he muttered into the
mouth of the oven; but aloud he said nothing. It
was the last morning he would have to prepare
food for the old man. He put a very little water
into the cauldron, drawing it in a bucket from
the well near the door, and it boiled quickly
and he stirred meal together and took it to the
old man.

"We will have rice this night, my father," he
said. "Meanwhile, here is corn."

"There is only a little rice left in the
basket," said the old man, seating himself at
the table in the middle room and stirring with
his chopsticks the thick yellow gruel.

"We will eat a little less then at the spring
festival," said Wang Lung. But the old man did
not hear. He was supping loudly at his bowl.

Wang Lung went into his own room then, and
drew about him again the long blue robe and let
down the braid of his hair. He passed his hand
over his shaven brow and over his cheeks.
Perhaps he had better be newly shaven? It was
scarcely sunrise yet. He could pass through the
Street of the Barbers and be shaved before he
went to the house where the woman waited for
him. If he had the money he would do it.

He took from his girdle a small greasy pouch
of grey cloth and counted the money in it. There
were six silver dollars and a double handful of
copper coins. He had not yet told his father he
had asked friends to sup that night. He had
asked his male cousin, the young son of his
uncle, and his uncle for his father's sake, and
three neighboring farmers who lived in the
village with him. He had planned to bring back
from the town that morning pork, a small pond
fish, and a handful of chestnuts. He might even
buy a few of the bamboo sprouts from the south
and a little beef to stew with the cabbage he
had raised in his own garden. But this only if
there were any money left after the bean oil and
the soybean sauce had been bought. If he shaved
his head he could not, perhaps, buy the beef.
Well, he would shave his head, he decided
suddenly.

He left the old man without speech and went
out into the early morning. In spite of the dark
red dawn the sun was mounting the horizon clouds
and sparkled upon the dew on the rising wheat
and barley. The farmer in Wang Lung was diverted
for an instant and he stooped to examine the
budding heads. They were empty as yet and
waiting for the rain. He smelled the air and
looked anxiously at the sky. Rain was there,
dark in the clouds, heavy upon the wind. He
would buy a stick of incense and place it in the
little temple to the Earth God. On a day like
this he would do it.

He wound his way in among the fields upon the
narrow path. In the near distance the grey city
wall arose. Within that gate in the wall through
which he would pass stood the great house where
the woman had been a slave girl since her
childhood, the House of Hwang. There were those
who said, "It is better to live alone than to
marry a woman who has been slave in a great
house." But when he had said to his father, "Am
I never to have a woman?" his father replied,
"With weddings costing as they do in these evil
days and every woman wanting gold rings and silk
clothes before she will take a man, there remain
only slaves to be had for the poor."

His father had stirred himself, then, and
gone to the House of Hwang and asked if there
were a slave to spare.

"Not a slave too young, and above all, not a
pretty one," he had said.

Wang Lung had suffered that she must not be
pretty. It would be something to have a pretty
wife that other men would congratulate him upon
having. His father, seeing his mutinous face,
had cried out at him,

"And what will we do with a pretty woman? We
must have a woman who will tend the house and
bear children as she works in the fields, and
will a pretty woman do these things? She will be
forever thinking about clothes to go with her
face! No, not a pretty woman in our house. We
are farmers. Moreover, who has heard of a pretty
slave who was virgin in a wealthy house? All the
young lords have had their fill of her. It is
better to be first with an ugly woman than the
hundredth with a beauty. Do you imagine a pretty
woman will think your farmer's hands as pleasing
as the soft hands of a rich man's son, and your
sunblack face as beautiful as the golden skin of
the others who have had her for their pleasure?"

Wang Lung knew his father spoke well.
Nevertheless, he had to struggle with his flesh
before he could answer. And then he said
violently,

"At least, I will not have a woman who is
pock-marked, or who has a split upper lip."

"We will have to see what is to be had," his
father replied.

Well, the woman was not pock-marked nor had
she a split upper lip. This much he knew, but
nothing more. He and his father had bought two
silver rings, washed with gold, and silver
earrings, and these his father had taken to the
woman's owner in acknowledgment of betrothal.
Beyond this, he knew nothing of the woman who
was to be his, except that on this day he could
go and get her.

He walked into the cool darkness of the city
gate. Water carriers, just outside, their
barrows laden with great tubs of water, passed
to and fro all day, the water splashing out of
the tubs upon the stones. It was always wet and
cool in the tunnel of the gate under the thick
wall of earth and brick; cool even upon a
f0summer's day, so that the melon vendors spread
their fruits upon the stones, melons split open
to drink in the moist coolness. There were none
yet, for the season was too early, but baskets
of small hard green peaches stood along the
walls, and the vendor cried out,

"The first peaches of spring — the first
peaches! Buy, eat, purge your bowels of the
poisons of winter!"

Wang Lung said to himself,

"If she likes them, I will buy her a handful
when we return." He could not realize that when
he walked back through the gate there would be a
woman walking behind him.

He turned to the right within the gate and
after a moment was in the Street of Barbers.
There were few before him so early, only some
farmers who had carried their produce into the
town the night before in order that they might
sell their vegetables at the dawn markets and
return for the day's work in the fields. They
had slept shivering and crouching over their
baskets, the baskets now empty at their feet.
Wang Lung avoided them lest some recognize him,
for he wanted none of their joking on this day.
All down the street in a long line the barbers
stood behind their small stalls, and Wang Lung
went to the furthest one and sat down upon the
stool and motioned to the barber who stood
chattering to his neighbor. The barber came at
once and began quickly to pour hot water, from a
kettle on his pot of charcoal, into his brass
basin.

"Shave everything?" he said in a professional
tone.

"My head and my face," replied Wang Lung.

"Ears and nostrils cleaned?" asked the
barber.

"How much will that cost extra?" asked Wang
Lung cautiously.

"Four pence," said the barber, beginning to
pass a black cloth in and out of the hot water.

"I will give you two," said Wang Lung.

"Then I will clean one ear and one nostril,"
rejoined the barber promptly. "On which side of
the face do you wish it done?" He grimaced at
the next barber as he spoke and the other burst
into a guffaw. Wang Lung perceived that he had
fallen into the hands of a joker, and feeling
inferior in some unaccountable way, as he always
did, to these town dwellers, even though they
were only barbers and the lowest of persons, he
said quickly,

"As you will — as you will — "

Then he submitted himself to the barber's
soaping and rubbing and shaving, and being after
all a generous fellow enough, the barber gave
him without extra charge a series of skilful
poundings upon his shoulders and back to loosen
his muscles. He commented upon Wang Lung as he
shaved his upper forehead,

"This would not be a bad-looking farmer if he
would cut off his hair. The new fashion is to
take off the braid."

His razor hovered so near the circle of hair
upon Wang Lung's crown that Wang Lung cried out,

"I cannot cut it off without asking my
father!" And the barber laughed and skirted the
round spot of hair.

When it was finished and the money counted
into the barber's wrinkled, water-soaked hand,
Wang Lung had a moment of horror. So much money!
But walking down the street again with the wind
fresh upon his shaven skin, he said to himself,

"It is only once."

He went to the market, then, and bought two
pounds of pork and watched the butcher as he
wrapped it in a dried lotus leaf, and then,
hesitating, he bought also six ounces of beef.
When all had been bought, even to fresh squares
of beancurd, shivering in a jelly upon its leaf,
he went to a candlemaker's shop and there he
bought a pair of incense sticks. Then he turned
his steps with great shyness toward the House of
Hwang.

Once at the gate of the house he was seized
with terror. How had he come alone? He should
have asked his father — his uncle — even his
nearest neighbor, Ching — anyone to come with
him. He had never been in a great house before.
How could he go in with his wedding feast on his
arm, and say, "I have come for a woman?"

He stood at the gate for a long time, looking
at it. It was closed fast, two great wooden
gates, painted black and bound and studded with
iron, closed upon each other. Two lions made of
stone stood on guard, one at either side. There
was no one else. He turned away. It was
impossible.

He felt suddenly faint. He would go first and
buy a little food. He had eaten nothing — had
forgotten food. He went into a small street
restaurant, and putting two pence upon the
table, he sat down. A dirty waiting boy with a
shiny black apron came near and he called out to
him, "Two bowls of noodles!" And when they came,
he ate them down greedily, pushing them into his
mouth with his bamboo chopsticks, while the boy
stood and spun the coppers between his black
thumb and forefinger.

"Will you have more?" asked the boy
indifferently.

Wang Lung shook his head. He sat up and
looked about. There was no one he knew in the
small, dark, crowded room full of tables. Only a
few men sat eating or drinking tea. It was a
place for poor men, and among them he looked
neat and clean and almost well-to-do, so that a
beggar, passing, whined at him,

"Have a good heart, teacher, and give me a
small cash — I starve!"

Wang Lung had never had a beggar ask of him
before, nor had any ever called him teacher. He
was pleased and he threw into the beggar's bowl
two small cash, which are one fifth of a penny,
and the beggar pulled back with swiftness his
black claw of a hand, and grasping the cash,
fumbled them within his rags.

Wang Lung sat and the sun climbed upwards.
The waiting boy lounged about impatiently. "If
you are buying nothing more," he said at last
i0with much impudence, "you will have to pay rent
for the stool."

Wang Lung was incensed at such impudence and
he would have risen except that when he thought
of going into the great House of Hwang and of
asking there for a woman, sweat broke out over
his whole body as though he were working in a
field.

"Bring me tea," he said weakly to the boy.
Before he could turn it was there and the small
boy demanded sharply,

"Where is the penny?"

And Wang Lung, to his horror, found there was
nothing to do but to produce from his girdle yet
another penny.

"It is robbery," he muttered, unwilling. Then
he saw entering the shop his neighbor whom he
had invited to the feast, and he put the penny
hastily upon the table and drank the tea at a
gulp and went out quickly by the side door and
was once more upon the street.

"It is to be done," he said to himself
desperately, and slowly he turned his way to the
great gates.

This time, since it was after high noon, the
gates were ajar and the keeper of the gate idled
upon the threshold, picking his teeth with a
bamboo sliver after his meal. He was a tall
fellow with a large mole upon his left cheek,
and from the mole hung three long black hairs
which had never been cut. When Wang Lung
appeared he shouted roughly, thinking from the
basket that he had come to sell something.

"Now then, what?"

With great difficulty Wang Lung replied,

"I am Wang Lung, the farmer."

"Well, and Wang Lung, the farmer, what?"
retorted the gateman, who was polite to none
except the rich friends of his master and
mistress.

"I am come — I am come — " faltered Wang
Lung.

"That I see," said the gateman with elaborate
patience, twisting the long hairs of his mole.

"There is a woman," said Wang Lung, his voice

cf0sinking helplessly to a whisper. In the sunshine
his face was wet.

The gateman gave a great laugh.

"So you are he!" he roared. "I was told to
expect a bridegroom today. But I did not
recognize you with a basket on your arm."

"It is only a few meats," said Wang Lung
apologetically, waiting for the gateman to lead
him within. But the gateman did not move. At
last Wang Lung said with anxiety,

"Shall I go alone?"

The gateman affected a start of horror. "The
Old Lord would kill you!"

Then seeing that Wang Lung was too innocent
he said, "A little silver is a good key."

Wang Lung saw at last that the man wanted
money of him.

"I am a poor man," he said pleadingly.

"Let me see what you have in your girdle,"
said the gateman.

And he grinned when Wang Lung in his
simplicity actually put his basket upon the
stones and lifting his robe took out the small
bag from his girdle and shook into his left hand
what money was left after his purchases. There
was one silver piece and fourteen copper pence.

"I will take the silver," said the gateman
coolly, and before Wang Lung could protest the
man had the silver in his sleeve and was
striding through the gate, bawling loudly,

"The bridegroom, the bridegroom!"

Wang Lung, in spite of anger at what had just
happened and horror at this loud announcing of
his coming, could do nothing but follow, and
this he did, picking up his basket and looking
neither to the right nor left.

Afterwards, although it was the first time he
had ever been in a great family's house, he
could remember nothing. With his face burning
and his head bowed, he walked through court
after court, hearing that voice roaring ahead of
him, hearing tinkles of laughter on every side.
Then suddenly when it seemed to him he had gone
through a hundred courts, the gateman fell
silent and pushed him into a small waiting room.
There he stood alone while the gateman went into
some inner place, returning in a moment to say,

"The Old Mistress says you are to appear
before her."

Wang Lung started forward, but the gateman
stopped him, crying in disgust,

"You cannot appear before a great lady with a
basket on your arm — a basket of pork and
beancurd! How will you bow?"

"True — true — " said Wang Lung in
agitation. But he did not dare to put the basket
down because he was afraid something might be
stolen from it. It did not occur to him that all
the world might not desire such delicacies as
two pounds of pork and six ounces of beef and a
small pond fish. The gateman saw his fear and
cried out in great contempt,

"In a house like this we feed these meats to
the dogs!" and seizing the basket he thrust it
behind the door and pushed Wang Lung ahead of
him.

Down a long narrow veranda they went, the
roofs supported by delicate carven posts, and
into a hall the like of which Wang Lung had
never seen. A score of houses such as his whole
house could have been put into it and have
disappeared, so wide were the spaces, so high
the roofs. Lifting his head in wonder to see the
great carven and painted beams above him he
stumbled upon the high threshold of the door and
would have fallen except that the gateman caught
his arm and cried out,

"Now will you be so polite as to fall on your
face like this before the Old Mistress?"

And collecting himself in great shame Wang
Lung looked ahead of him, and upon a dais in the
center of the room he saw a very old lady, her
small fine body clothed in lustrous, pearly grey
satin, and upon the low bench beside her a pipe
of opium stood, burning over its little lamp.
She looked at him out of small, sharp, black
eyes, as sunken and sharp as a monkey's eyes in
her thin and wrinkled face. The skin of her hand
that held the pipe's end was stretched over her
little bones as smooth and as yellow as the gilt
upon an idol. Wang Lung fell to his knees and
knocked his head on the tiled floor.

"Raise him," said the old lady gravely to the
gateman, "these obeisances are not necessary.
Has he come for the woman?"

"Yes, Ancient One," replied the gateman.

"Why does he not speak for himself?" asked
the old lady.

"Because he is a fool, Ancient One," said the
gateman, twirling the hairs of his mole.

This roused Wang Lung and he looked with
indignation at the gateman.

"I am only a coarse person, Great and Ancient
Lady," he said. "I do not know what words to use
in such a presence."

The old lady looked at him carefully and with
perfect gravity and made as though she would
have spoken, except that her hand closed upon
the pipe which a slave had been tending for her
and at once she seemed to forget him. She bent
and sucked greedily at the pipe for a moment and
the sharpness passed from her eyes and a film of
forgetfulness came over them. Wang Lung remained
standing before her until in passing her eyes
caught his figure.

"What is this man doing here?" she asked with
sudden anger. It was as though she had forgotten
everything. The gateman's face was immovable. He
said nothing.

"I am waiting for the woman, Great Lady,"
said Wang Lung in much astonishment.

"The woman? What woman?..." the old lady
began, but the slave girl at her side stooped
and whispered and the lady recovered herself.
"Ah, yes, I forgot for the moment — a small
affair — you have come for the slave called
O-lan. I remember we promised her to some farmer
in marriage. You are that farmer?"

"I am he," replied Wang Lung.

"Call O-lan quickly," said the old lady to
her slave. It was as though she was suddenly
impatient to be done with all this and to be
left alone in the stillness of the great room
with her opium pipe.

And in an instant the slave appeared leading
by the hand a square, rather tall figure,
clothed in clean blue cotton coat and trousers.
Wang Lung glanced once and then away, his heart
beating. This was his woman.

"Come here, slave," said the old lady
carelessly. "This man has come for you."

The woman went before the lady and stood with
bowed head and hands clasped.

"Are you ready?" asked the lady.

The woman answered slowly as an echo,
"Ready."

Wang Lung, hearing her voice for the first
time, looked at her back as she stood before
him. It was a good enough voice, not loud, not
soft, plain, and not ill-tempered. The woman's
hair was neat and smooth and her coat clean. He
saw with an instant's disappointment that her
feet were not bound. But this he could not dwell
upon, for the old lady was saying to the
gateman,

"Carry her box out to the gate and let them
begone." And then she called Wang Lung and said,
"Stand beside her while I speak." And when Wang
had come forward she said to him, "This woman
came into our house when she was a child of ten
and here she has lived until now, when she is
twenty years old. I bought her in a year of
famine when her parents came south because they
had nothing to eat. They were from the north in
Shantung and there they returned, and I know
nothing further of them. You see she has the
strong body and the square cheeks of her kind.
She will work well for you in the field and
drawing water and all else that you wish. She is
not beautiful but that you do not need. Only men
of leisure have the need for beautiful women to
divert them. Neither is she clever. But she does
well what she is told to do and she has a good
temper. So far as I know she is virgin. She has
not beauty enough to tempt my sons and grandsons
0even if she had not been in the kitchen. If
there has been anything it has been only a
serving man. But with the innumerable and pretty
slaves running freely about the courts, I doubt
if there has been anyone. Take her and use her
well. She is a good slave, although somewhat
slow and stupid, and had I not wished to acquire
merit at the temple for my future existence by
bringing more life into the world I should have
kept her, for she is good enough for the
kitchen. But I marry my slaves off if any will
have them and the lords do not want them."

And to the woman she said,

"Obey him and bear him sons and yet more
sons. Bring the first child to me to see."

"Yes, Ancient Mistress," said the woman
submissively.

They stood hesitating, and Wang Lung was
greatly embarrassed, not knowing whether he
should speak or what.

"Well, go, will you!" said the old lady in
irritation, and Wang Lung, bowing hastily,
turned and went out, the woman after him, and
after her the gateman, carrying on his shoulder
the box. This box he dropped down in the room
where Wang Lung returned to find his basket and
would carry it no further, and indeed he
disappeared without another word.

Then Wang Lung turned to the woman and looked
at her for the first time. She had a square,
honest face, a short, broad nose with large
black nostrils, and her mouth was wide as a gash
in her face. Her eyes were small and of a dull
black in color, and were filled with some
sadness that was not clearly expressed. It was a
face that seemed habitually silent and
unspeaking, as though it could not speak if it
would. She bore patiently Wang Lung's look,
without embarrassment or response, simply
waiting until he had seen her. He saw that it
was true there was not beauty of any kind in her
face — a brown, common, patient face. But there
were no pock-marks on her dark skin, nor was her
20lip split. In her ears he saw his rings hanging,
the gold-washed rings he had bought, and on her
hands were the rings he had given her. He turned
away with secret exultation. Well, he had his
woman!

"Here is this box and this basket," he said
gruffly.

Without a word she bent over and picking up
one end of the box she placed it upon her
shoulder and, staggering under its weight, tried
to rise. He watched her at this and suddenly he
said,

"I will take the box. Here is the basket."

And he shifted the box to his own back,
regardless of the best robe he wore, and she,
still speechless, took the handle of the basket.
He thought of the hundred courts he had come
through and of his figure, absurd under its
burden.

"If there were a side gate — " he muttered,
and she nodded after a little thought, as though
she did not understand too quickly what he said.
Then she led the way through a small unused
court that was grown up with weed, its pool
choked, and there under a bent pine tree was an
old round gate that she pulled loose from its
bar, and they went through and into the street.

Once or twice he looked back at her. She
plodded along steadily on her big feet as though
she had walked there all her life, her wide face
expressionless. In the gate of the wall he
stopped uncertainly and fumbled in his girdle
with one hand for the pennies he had left,
holding the box steady on his shoulder with the
other hand. He took out two pence and with these
he bought six small green peaches.

"Take these and eat them for yourself," he
said gruffly.

She clutched them greedily as a child might
and held them in her hand without speech. When
next he looked at her as they walked along the
margin of the wheat fields she was nibbling one
cautiously, but when she saw him looking at her
she covered it again with her hand and kept her
jaws motionless.

And thus they went until they reached the
western field where stood the temple to the
earth. This temple was a small structure, not
higher in all than a man's shoulder and made of
grey bricks and roofed with tile. Wang Lung's
grandfather, who had farmed the very fields upon
which Wang Lung now spent his life, had built
it, hauling the bricks from the town upon his
wheelbarrow. The walls were covered with plaster
on the outside and a village artist had been
hired in a good year once to paint upon the
white plaster a scene of hills and bamboo. But
the rain of generations had poured upon this
painting until now there was only a faint
feathery shadow of bamboos left, and the hills
were almost wholly gone.

Within the temple snugly under the roof sat
two small, solemn figures, earthen, for they
were formed from the earth of the fields about
the temple. These were the god himself and his
lady. They wore robes of red and gilt paper, and
the god had a scant, drooping moustache of real
hair. Each year at the New Year Wang Lung's
father bought sheets of red paper and carefully
cut and pasted new robes for the pair. And each
year rain and snow beat in and the sun of summer
shone in and spoiled their robes.

At this moment, however, the robes were still
new, since the year was but well begun, and Wang
Lung was proud of their spruce appearance. He
took the basket from the woman's arm and
carefully he looked about under the pork for the
sticks of incense he had bought. He was anxious
lest they were broken and thus make an evil
omen, but they were whole, and when he had found
them he stuck them side by side in the ashes of
other sticks of incense that were heaped before
the gods, for the whole neighborhood worshipped
these two small figures. Then fumbling for his
flint and iron he caught, with a dried leaf for
tinder, a flame to light the incense.

Together this man and this woman stood before
the gods of their fields. The woman watched the
ends of the incense redden and turn grey. When
the ash grew heavy she leaned over and with her
forefinger she pushed the head of ash away. Then
as though fearful for what she had done, she
looked quickly at Wang Lung, her eyes dumb. But
there was something he liked in her movement. It
was as though she felt that the incense belonged
to them both; it was a moment of marriage. They
stood there in complete silence, side by side,
while the incense smouldered into ashes; and
then because the sun was sinking, Wang Lung
shouldered the box and they went home.

At the door of the house the old man stood to
catch the last rays of the sun upon him. He made
no movement as Wang Lung approached with the
woman. It would have been beneath him to notice
her. Instead he feigned great interest in the
clouds and he cried,

"That cloud which hangs upon the left horn of
the new moon speaks of rain. It will come not
later than tomorrow night." And then as he saw
Wang Lung take the basket from the woman he
cried again, "And have you spent money?"

Wang Lung set the basket on the table. "There
will be guests tonight," he said briefly, and he
carried the box into the room where he slept and
set it down beside the box where his own clothes
were. He looked at it strangely. But the old man
came to the door and said volubly,

"There is no end to the money spent in this
house!"

Secretly he was pleased that his son had
invited guests, but he felt it would not do to
give out anything but complaints before his new
daughter-in-law lest she be set from the first
in ways of extravagance. Wang Lung said nothing,
but he went out and took the basket into the
kitchen and the woman followed him there. He
took the food piece by piece from the basket and
laid it upon the ledge of the cold stove and he
said to her,

"Here is pork and here beef and fish. There
are seven to eat. Can you prepare food?"

He did not look at the woman as he spoke. It
would not have been seemly. The woman answered
in her plain voice,

"I have been kitchen slave since I went into
the House of Hwang. There were meats at every
meal."

Wang Lung nodded and left her and did not see
her again until the guests came crowding in, his
uncle jovial and sly and hungry, his uncle's son
an impudent lad of fifteen, and the farmers
clumsy and grinning with shyness. Two were men
from the village with whom Wang Lung exchanged
seed and labor at harvest time, and one was his
next door neighbor, Ching, a small, quiet man,
ever unwilling to speak unless he were compelled
to it. After they had been seated about the
middle room with demurring and unwillingness to
take seats, for politeness, Wang Lung went into
the kitchen to bid the woman serve. Then he was
pleased when she said to him,

"I will hand you the bowls if you will place
them upon the table. I do not like to come out
before men."

Wang Lung felt in him a great pride that this
woman was his and did not fear to appear before
him, but would not before other men. He took the
bowls from her hands at the kitchen door and he
set them upon the table in the middle room and
called loudly,

"Eat, my uncle and my brothers." And when the
uncle, who was fond of jokes, said, "Are we not
to see the moth-browed bride?" Wang Lung replied
firmly, "We are not yet one. It is not meet that
other men see her until the marriage is
consummated."

And he urged them to eat and they ate
heartily of the good fare, heartily and in
silence, and this one praised the brown sauce on
the fish and that one the well-done pork, and
Wang Lung said over and over in reply,

"It is poor stuff — it is badly prepared."

But in his heart he was proud of the dishes,
0for with what meats she had the woman had
combined sugar and vinegar and a little wine and
soy sauce and she had skilfully brought forth
all the force of the meat itself, so that Wang
Lung himself had never tasted such dishes upon
the tables of his friends.

That night after the guests had tarried long
over their tea and had done with their jokes,
the woman still lingered behind the stove, and
when Wang Lung had seen the last guest away he
went in and she cowered there in the straw piles
asleep beside the ox. There was straw in her
hair when he roused her, and when he called her
she put up her arm suddenly in her sleep as
though to defend herself from a blow. When she
opened her eyes at last, she looked at him with
her strange speechless gaze, and he felt as
though he faced a child. He took her by the hand
and led her into the room where that morning he
had bathed himself for her, and he lit a red
candle upon the table. In this light he was
suddenly shy when he found himself alone with
the woman and he was compelled to remind
himself,

"There is this woman of mine. The thing is to
be done."

And he began to undress himself doggedly. As
for the woman, she crept around the corner of
the curtain and began without a sound to prepare
for the bed. Wang Lung said gruffly,

"When you lie down, put the light out first."

Then he lay down and drew the thick quilt
about his shoulders and pretended to sleep. But
he was not sleeping. He lay quivering, every
nerve of his flesh awake. And when, after a long
time, the room went dark, and there was the
slow, silent, creeping movement of the woman
beside him, an exultation filled him fit to
break his body. He gave a hoarse laugh into the
darkness and seized her.

Copyright 1931 by Pearl S.
Buck
Copyright renewed © 1958 by Pearl S.
0 Buck

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

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.

But this morning he did not wait. He sprang up and pushed aside the curtains of his bed. It was a dark, ruddy dawn, and through a small square hole of a window, where the tattered paper fluttered, a glimpse of bronze sky gleamed. He went to the hole and tore the paper away.

"It is spring and I do not need this," he muttered.

He was ashamed to say aloud that he wished the house to look neat on this day. The hole was barely large enough to admit his hand and he thrust it out to feel of the air. A small soft wind blew gently from the east, a wind mild and murmurous and full of rain. It was a good omen. The fields needed rain for fruition. There would be no rain this day, but within a few days, if this wind continued, there would be water. It was good. Yesterday he had said to his father that if this brazen, glittering sunshine continued, the wheat could not fill in the ear. Now it was as if Heaven had chosen this day to wish him well. Earth would bear fruit.

He hurried out into the middle room, drawing on his blue outer trousers as he went, and knotting about the fullness at his waist his girdle of blue cotton cloth.o bring in hot water to ease him of his morning coughing. Now father and son could rest. There was a woman coming to the house. Never again would Wang Lung have to rise summer and winter at dawn to light the fire. He could lie in his bed and wait, and he also would have a bowl of water brought to him, and if the earth were fruitful there would be tea leaves in the water. Once in some years it was so.

And if the woman wearied, there would be her children to light the fire, the many children she would bear to Wang Lung. Wang Lung stopped, struck by the thought of children running in and out of their three rooms. Three rooms had always seemed much to them, a house half empty since his mother died. They were always having to resist relatives who were more crowded -- his uncle, with his endless brood of children, coaxing.

"Now, how can two lone men need so much room? Cannot father and son sleep together? The warmth of the young one's body will comfort the old one's cough."

But the father always replied, "I am saving my bed for my grandson. He will warm my bones in my age."

Now the grandsons were coming, grandsons upon grandsons! They would have to put beds along the walls and in the middle room. The house would be full of beds. The blaze in the oven died down while Wang Lung thought of all the beds there would be in the half empty house, and the water began to chill in the cauldron. The shadowy figure of the old man appeared in the doorway, holding his unbuttoned garments about him. He was coughing and spitting and he gasped.

"How is it that there is not water yet to heat my lungs?"

Wang Lung stared and recalled himself and was ashamed.

"This fuel is damp," he muttered from behind the stove .

"The damp wind -- "

The old man continued to cough perseveringly and would not cease until the water boiled. Wang Lung dipped some into a bowl, and then, after a moment, he opened a glazed jar that stood upon a ledge of the stove and took from it a dozen or so of the curled dried leaves and sprinkled them upon the surface of the water. The old man's eyes opened greedily and immediately he began to complain.

"Why are you wasteful? Tea is like eating silver."

"It is the day," replied Wang Lung with a short laugh. "Eat and be comforted."

The old man grasped the bowl in his shriveled, knotty fingers, muttering, uttering little grunts. He watched the leaves uncurl and spread upon the surface of the water, unable to bear drinking the precious stuff.

"It will be cold," said Wang Lung.

"True -- true -- " said the old man in alarm, and he began to take great gulps of the hot tea. He passed into an animal satisfaction, like a child fixed upon its feeding. But he was not too forgetful to see Wang Lung dipping the water recklessly from the cauldron into a deep wooden tub. He lifted his head and stared at his son.

"Now there is water enough to bring a crop to fruit," he said suddenly.

Wang Lung continued to dip the water to the last drop. He did not answer.

"Now then!" cried his father loudly.

"I have not washed my body all at once since the New Year," said Wang Lung in a low voice.

He was ashamed to say to his father that he wished his body to be clean for a woman to see. He hurried out, carrying the tub to his own room. The door was hung loosely upon a warped wooden frame and it did not shut closely, and the old man tottered into the middle room and put his mouth to the opening and ba wled,

"It will be ill if we start the woman like this -- tea in the morning water and all this washing!"

"It is only one day," shouted Wang Lung. And then he added, "I will throw the water on the earth when I am finished and it is not all waste."

The old man was silent at this, and Wang Lung unfastened his girdle and stepped out of his clothing. In the light that streamed in a square block from the hole he wrung a small towel from the steaming water and he scrubbed his dark slender body vigorously. Warm though he had thought the air, when his flesh was wet he was cold, and he moved quickly, passing the towel in and out of the water until from his whole body there went up a delicate cloud of steam. Then he went to a box that had been his mother's and drew from it a fresh suit of blue cotton cloth. He might be a little cold this day without the wadding of the winter garments, but he suddenly could not bear to put them on against his clean flesh. The covering of them was torn and filthy and the wadding stuck out of the holes, grey and sodden. He did not want this woman to see him for the first time with the wadding sticking out of his clothes. Later she would have to wash and mend, but not the first day. He drew over the blue cotton coat and trousers a long robe made of the same material -- his one long robe, which he wore on feast days only, ten days or so in the year, all told. Then with swift fingers he unplaited the long braid of hair that hung down his back, and taking a wooden comb from the drawer of the small, unsteady table, he began to comb out his hair.

His father drew near again and put his mouth to the crack of the door.

"Am I to have nothing to eat this day?" he complained. "At m y age the bones are water in the morning until food is given them."

"I am coming," said Wang Lung, braiding his hair quickly and smoothly and weaving into the strands a tasseled, black silk cord.

Then after a moment he removed his long gown and wound his braid about his head and went out, carrying the tub of water. He had quite forgotten the breakfast. He would stir a little water into corn meal and give it to his father. For himself he could not eat. He staggered with the tub to the threshold and poured the water upon the earth nearest the door, and as he did so he remembered he had used all the water in the cauldron for his bathing and he would have to start the fire again. A wave of anger passed over him at his father.

"That old head thinks of nothing except his eating and his drinking," he muttered into the mouth of the oven; but aloud he said nothing. It was the last morning he would have to prepare food for the old man. He put a very little water into the cauldron, drawing it in a bucket from the well near the door, and it boiled quickly and he stirred meal together and took it to the old man.

"We will have rice this night, my father," he said. "Meanwhile, here is corn."

"There is only a little rice left in the basket," said the old man, seating himself at the table in the middle room and stirring with his chopsticks the thick yellow gruel.

"We will eat a little less then at the spring festival," said Wang Lung. But the old man did not hear. He was supping loudly at his bowl.

Wang Lung went into his own room then, and drew about him again the long blue robe and let down the braid of his hair. He passed his hand over his shaven brow and over his cheeks. Perhaps he had better be ne wly shaven? It was scarcely sunrise yet. He could pass through the Street of the Barbers and be shaved before he went to the house where the woman waited for him. If he had the money he would do it.

He took from his girdle a small greasy pouch of grey cloth and counted the money in it. There were six silver dollars and a double handful of copper coins. He had not yet told his father he had asked friends to sup that night. He had asked his male cousin, the young son of his uncle, and his uncle for his father's sake, and three neighboring farmers who lived in the village with him. He had planned to bring back from the town that morning pork, a small pond fish, and a handful of chestnuts. He might even buy a few of the bamboo sprouts from the south and a little beef to stew with the cabbage he had raised in his own garden. But this only if there were any money left after the bean oil and the soybean sauce had been bought. If he shaved his head he could not, perhaps, buy the beef. Well, he would shave his head, he decided suddenly.

He left the old man without speech and went out into the early morning. In spite of the dark red dawn the sun was mounting the horizon clouds and sparkled upon the dew on the rising wheat and barley. The farmer in Wang Lung was diverted for an instant and he stooped to examine the budding heads. They were empty as yet and waiting for the rain. He smelled the air and looked anxiously at the sky. Rain was there, dark in the clouds, heavy upon the wind. He would buy a stick of incense and place it in the little temple to the Earth God. On a day like this he would do it.

He wound his way in among the fields upon the narrow path. In the near distance the grey city wall arose . Within that gate in the wall through which he would pass stood the great house where the woman had been a slave girl since her childhood, the House of Hwang. There were those who said, "It is better to live alone than to marry a woman who has been slave in a great house." But when he had said to his father, "Am I never to have a woman?" his father replied, "With weddings costing as they do in these evil days and every woman wanting gold rings and silk clothes before she will take a man, there remain only slaves to be had for the poor."

His father had stirred himself, then, and gone to the House of Hwang and asked if there were a slave to spare.

"Not a slave too young, and above all, not a pretty one," he had said.

Wang Lung had suffered that she must not be pretty. It would be something to have a pretty wife that other men would congratulate him upon having. His father, seeing his mutinous face, had cried out at him,

"And what will we do with a pretty woman? We must have a woman who will tend the house and bear children as she works in the fields, and will a pretty woman do these things? She will be forever thinking about clothes to go with her face! No, not a pretty woman in our house. We are farmers. Moreover, who has heard of a pretty slave who was virgin in a wealthy house? All the young lords have had their fill of her. It is better to be first with an ugly woman than the hundredth with a beauty. Do you imagine a pretty woman will think your farmer's hands as pleasing as the soft hands of a rich man's son, and your sunblack face as beautiful as the golden skin of the others who have had her for their pleasure?"

Wang Lung knew his father spoke well. Nevertheless, he had to struggle w ith his flesh before he could answer. And then he said violently,

"At least, I will not have a woman who is pock-marked, or who has a split upper lip."

"We will have to see what is to be had," his father replied.

Well, the woman was not pock-marked nor had she a split upper lip. This much he knew, but nothing more. He and his father had bought two silver rings, washed with gold, and silver earrings, and these his father had taken to the woman's owner in acknowledgment of betrothal. Beyond this, he knew nothing of the woman who was to be his, except that on this day he could go and get her.

He walked into the cool darkness of the city gate. Water carriers, just outside, their barrows laden with great tubs of water, passed to and fro all day, the water splashing out of the tubs upon the stones. It was always wet and cool in the tunnel of the gate under the thick wall of earth and brick; cool even upon a summer's day, so that the melon vendors spread their fruits upon the stones, melons split open to drink in the moist coolness. There were none yet, for the season was too early, but baskets of small hard green peaches stood along the walls, and the vendor cried out,

"The first peaches of spring -- the first peaches! Buy, eat, purge your bowels of the poisons of winter!"

Wang Lung said to himself,

"If she likes them, I will buy her a handful when we return." He could not realize that when he walked back through the gate there would be a woman walking behind him.

He turned to the right within the gate and after a moment was in the Street of Barbers. There were few before him so early, only some farmers who had carried their produce into the town the night before in order that they might s ell their vegetables at the dawn markets and return for the day's work in the fields. They had slept shivering and crouching over their baskets, the baskets now empty at their feet. Wang Lung avoided them lest some recognize him, for he wanted none of their joking on this day. All down the street in a long line the barbers stood behind their small stalls, and Wang Lung went to the furthest one and sat down upon the stool and motioned to the barber who stood chattering to his neighbor. The barber came at once and began quickly to pour hot water, from a kettle on his pot of charcoal, into his brass basin.

"Shave everything?" he said in a professional tone.

"My head and my face," replied Wang Lung.

"Ears and nostrils cleaned?" asked the barber.

"How much will that cost extra?" asked Wang Lung cautiously.

"Four pence," said the barber, beginning to pass a black cloth in and out of the hot water.

"I will give you two," said Wang Lung.

"Then I will clean one ear and one nostril," rejoined the barber promptly. "On which side of the face do you wish it done?" He grimaced at the next barber as he spoke and the other burst into a guffaw. Wang Lung perceived that he had fallen into the hands of a joker, and feeling inferior in some unaccountable way, as he always did, to these town dwellers, even though they were only barbers and the lowest of persons, he said quickly,

"As you will -- as you will -- "

Then he submitted himself to the barber's soaping and rubbing and shaving, and being after all a generous fellow enough, the barber gave him without extra charge a series of skilful poundings upon his shoulders and back to loosen his muscles. He commented upon Wang Lung as he shaved his upper fo rehead,

"This would not be a bad-looking farmer if he would cut off his hair. The new fashion is to take off the braid."

His razor hovered so near the circle of hair upon Wang Lung's crown that Wang Lung cried out,

"I cannot cut it off without asking my father!" And the barber laughed and skirted the round spot of hair.

When it was finished and the money counted into the barber's wrinkled, water-soaked hand, Wang Lung had a moment of horror. So much money! But walking down the street again with the wind fresh upon his shaven skin, he said to himself,

"It is only once."

He went to the market, then, and bought two pounds of pork and watched the butcher as he wrapped it in a dried lotus leaf, and then, hesitating, he bought also six ounces of beef. When all had been bought, even to fresh squares of beancurd, shivering in a jelly upon its leaf, he went to a candlemaker's shop and there he bought a pair of incense sticks. Then he turned his steps with great shyness toward the House of Hwang.

Once at the gate of the house he was seized with terror. How had he come alone? He should have asked his father -- his uncle -- even his nearest neighbor, Ching -- anyone to come with him. He had never been in a great house before. How could he go in with his wedding feast on his arm, and say, "I have come for a woman?"

He stood at the gate for a long time, looking at it. It was closed fast, two great wooden gates, painted black and bound and studded with iron, closed upon each other. Two lions made of stone stood on guard, one at either side. There was no one else. He turned away. It was impossible.

He felt suddenly faint. He would go first and buy a little food. He had eaten nothing -- had forgott en food. He went into a small street restaurant, and putting two pence upon the table, he sat down. A dirty waiting boy with a shiny black apron came near and he called out to him, "Two bowls of noodles!" And when they came, he ate them down greedily, pushing them into his mouth with his bamboo chopsticks, while the boy stood and spun the coppers between his black thumb and forefinger.

"Will you have more?" asked the boy indifferently.

Wang Lung shook his head. He sat up and looked about. There was no one he knew in the small, dark, crowded room full of tables. Only a few men sat eating or drinking tea. It was a place for poor men, and among them he looked neat and clean and almost well-to-do, so that a beggar, passing, whined at him,

"Have a good heart, teacher, and give me a small cash -- I starve!"

Wang Lung had never had a beggar ask of him before, nor had any ever called him teacher. He was pleased and he threw into the beggar's bowl two small cash, which are one fifth of a penny, and the beggar pulled back with swiftness his black claw of a hand, and grasping the cash, fumbled them within his rags.

Wang Lung sat and the sun climbed upwards. The waiting boy lounged about impatiently. "If you are buying nothing more," he said at last with much impudence, "you will have to pay rent for the stool."

Wang Lung was incensed at such impudence and he would have risen except that when he thought of going into the great House of Hwang and of asking there for a woman, sweat broke out over his whole body as though he were working in a field.

"Bring me tea," he said weakly to the boy. Before he could turn it was there and the small boy demanded sharply,

"Where is the penny?"

And Wang Lung, to his horror, found there was nothing to do but to produce from his girdle yet another penny.

"It is robbery," he muttered, unwilling. Then he saw entering the shop his neighbor whom he had invited to the feast, and he put the penny hastily upon the table and drank the tea at a gulp and went out quickly by the side door and was once more upon the street.

"It is to be done," he said to himself desperately, and slowly he turned his way to the great gates.

This time, since it was after high noon, the gates were ajar and the keeper of the gate idled upon the threshold, picking his teeth with a bamboo sliver after his meal. He was a tall fellow with a large mole upon his left cheek, and from the mole hung three long black hairs which had never been cut. When Wang Lung appeared he shouted roughly, thinking from the basket that he had come to sell something.

"Now then, what?"

With great difficulty Wang Lung replied,

"I am Wang Lung, the farmer."

"Well, and Wang Lung, the farmer, what?" retorted the gateman, who was polite to none except the rich friends of his master and mistress.

"I am come -- I am come -- " faltered Wang Lung.

"That I see," said the gateman with elaborate patience, twisting the long hairs of his mole.

"There is a woman," said Wang Lung, his voice sinking helplessly to a whisper. In the sunshine his face was wet.

The gateman gave a great laugh.

"So you are he!" he roared. "I was told to expect a bridegroom today. But I did not recognize you with a basket on your arm."

"It is only a few meats," said Wang Lung apologetically, waiting for the gateman to lead him within. But the gateman did not move. At last Wang Lung said with anxiety,

"Shall I go alone?"

The gateman affected a start of horror. "The Old Lord would kill you!"

Then seeing that Wang Lung was too innocent he said, "A little silver is a good key."

Wang Lung saw at last that the man wanted money of him.

"I am a poor man," he said pleadingly.

"Let me see what you have in your girdle," said the gateman.

And he grinned when Wang Lung in his simplicity actually put his basket upon the stones and lifting his robe took out the small bag from his girdle and shook into his left hand what money was left after his purchases. There was one silver piece and fourteen copper pence.

"I will take the silver," said the gateman coolly, and before Wang Lung could protest the man had the silver in his sleeve and was striding through the gate, bawling loudly,

"The bridegroom, the bridegroom!"

Wang Lung, in spite of anger at what had just happened and horror at this loud announcing of his coming, could do nothing but follow, and this he did, picking up his basket and looking neither to the right nor left.

Afterwards, although it was the first time he had ever been in a great family's house, he could remember nothing. With his face burning and his head bowed, he walked through court after court, hearing that voice roaring ahead of him, hearing tinkles of laughter on every side. Then suddenly when it seemed to him he had gone through a hundred courts, the gateman fell silent and pushed him into a small waiting room. There he stood alone while the gateman went into some inner place, returning in a moment to say,

"The Old Mistress says you are to appear before her."

Wang Lung started forward, but the gateman stopped him, crying in disgust,

"You cannot appear before a great lady with a basket on your arm -- a basket of pork and beancurd! How will you bow?"

"True -- true -- " said Wang Lung in agitation. But he did not dare to put the basket down because he was afraid something might be stolen from it. It did not occur to him that all the world might not desire such delicacies as two pounds of pork and six ounces of beef and a small pond fish. The gateman saw his fear and cried out in great contempt,

"In a house like this we feed these meats to the dogs!" and seizing the basket he thrust it behind the door and pushed Wang Lung ahead of him.

Down a long narrow veranda they went, the roofs supported by delicate carven posts, and into a hall the like of which Wang Lung had never seen. A score of houses such as his whole house could have been put into it and have disappeared, so wide were the spaces, so high the roofs. Lifting his head in wonder to see the great carven and painted beams above him he stumbled upon the high threshold of the door and would have fallen except that the gateman caught his arm and cried out,

"Now will you be so polite as to fall on your face like this before the Old Mistress?"

And collecting himself in great shame Wang Lung looked ahead of him, and upon a dais in the center of the room he saw a very old lady, her small fine body clothed in lustrous, pearly grey satin, and upon the low bench beside her a pipe of opium stood, burning over its little lamp. She looked at him out of small, sharp, black eyes, as sunken and sharp as a monkey's eyes in her thin and wrinkled face. The skin of her hand that held the pipe's end was stretched over her little bones as smooth and as yellow as the gilt upon an idol. Wang Lung fell to his knees and knocked his head on the ti led floor.

"Raise him," said the old lady gravely to the gateman, "these obeisances are not necessary. Has he come for the woman?"

"Yes, Ancient One," replied the gateman.

"Why does he not speak for himself?" asked the old lady.

"Because he is a fool, Ancient One," said the gateman, twirling the hairs of his mole.

This roused Wang Lung and he looked with indignation at the gateman.

"I am only a coarse person, Great and Ancient Lady," he said. "I do not know what words to use in such a presence."

The old lady looked at him carefully and with perfect gravity and made as though she would have spoken, except that her hand closed upon the pipe which a slave had been tending for her and at once she seemed to forget him. She bent and sucked greedily at the pipe for a moment and the sharpness passed from her eyes and a film of forgetfulness came over them. Wang Lung remained standing before her until in passing her eyes caught his figure.

"What is this man doing here?" she asked with sudden anger. It was as though she had forgotten everything. The gateman's face was immovable. He said nothing.

"I am waiting for the woman, Great Lady," said Wang Lung in much astonishment.

"The woman? What woman?..." the old lady began, but the slave girl at her side stooped and whispered and the lady recovered herself. "Ah, yes, I forgot for the moment -- a small affair -- you have come for the slave called O-lan. I remember we promised her to some farmer in marriage. You are that farmer?"

"I am he," replied Wang Lung.

"Call O-lan quickly," said the old lady to her slave. It was as though she was suddenly impatient to be done with all this and to be left alone in the stillness of the great room with h er opium pipe.

And in an instant the slave appeared leading by the hand a square, rather tall figure, clothed in clean blue cotton coat and trousers. Wang Lung glanced once and then away, his heart beating. This was his woman.

"Come here, slave," said the old lady carelessly. "This man has come for you."

The woman went before the lady and stood with bowed head and hands clasped.

"Are you ready?" asked the lady.

The woman answered slowly as an echo, "Ready."

Wang Lung, hearing her voice for the first time, looked at her back as she stood before him. It was a good enough voice, not loud, not soft, plain, and not ill-tempered. The woman's hair was neat and smooth and her coat clean. He saw with an instant's disappointment that her feet were not bound. But this he could not dwell upon, for the old lady was saying to the gateman,

"Carry her box out to the gate and let them begone." And then she called Wang Lung and said, "Stand beside her while I speak." And when Wang had come forward she said to him, "This woman came into our house when she was a child of ten and here she has lived until now, when she is twenty years old. I bought her in a year of famine when her parents came south because they had nothing to eat. They were from the north in Shantung and there they returned, and I know nothing further of them. You see she has the strong body and the square cheeks of her kind. She will work well for you in the field and drawing water and all else that you wish. She is not beautiful but that you do not need. Only men of leisure have the need for beautiful women to divert them. Neither is she clever. But she does well what she is told to do and she has a good temper. So far as I know she is v irgin. She has not beauty enough to tempt my sons and grandsons even if she had not been in the kitchen. If there has been anything it has been only a serving man. But with the innumerable and pretty slaves running freely about the courts, I doubt if there has been anyone. Take her and use her well. She is a good slave, although somewhat slow and stupid, and had I not wished to acquire merit at the temple for my future existence by bringing more life into the world I should have kept her, for she is good enough for the kitchen. But I marry my slaves off if any will have them and the lords do not want them."

And to the woman she said,

"Obey him and bear him sons and yet more sons. Bring the first child to me to see."

"Yes, Ancient Mistress," said the woman submissively.

They stood hesitating, and Wang Lung was greatly embarrassed, not knowing whether he should speak or what.

"Well, go, will you!" said the old lady in irritation, and Wang Lung, bowing hastily, turned and went out, the woman after him, and after her the gateman, carrying on his shoulder the box. This box he dropped down in the room where Wang Lung returned to find his basket and would carry it no further, and indeed he disappeared without another word.

Then Wang Lung turned to the woman and looked at her for the first time. She had a square, honest face, a short, broad nose with large black nostrils, and her mouth was wide as a gash in her face. Her eyes were small and of a dull black in color, and were filled with some sadness that was not clearly expressed. It was a face that seemed habitually silent and unspeaking, as though it could not speak if it would. She bore patiently Wang Lung's look, without embarrassment or res ponse, simply waiting until he had seen her. He saw that it was true there was not beauty of any kind in her face -- a brown, common, patient face. But there were no pock-marks on her dark skin, nor was her lip split. In her ears he saw his rings hanging, the gold-washed rings he had bought, and on her hands were the rings he had given her. He turned away with secret exultation. Well, he had his woman!

"Here is this box and this basket," he said gruffly.

Without a word she bent over and picking up one end of the box she placed it upon her shoulder and, staggering under its weight, tried to rise. He watched her at this and suddenly he said,

"I will take the box. Here is the basket."

And he shifted the box to his own back, regardless of the best robe he wore, and she, still speechless, took the handle of the basket. He thought of the hundred courts he had come through and of his figure, absurd under its burden.

"If there were a side gate -- " he muttered, and she nodded after a little thought, as though she did not understand too quickly what he said. Then she led the way through a small unused court that was grown up with weed, its pool choked, and there under a bent pine tree was an old round gate that she pulled loose from its bar, and they went through and into the street.

Once or twice he looked back at her. She plodded along steadily on her big feet as though she had walked there all her life, her wide face expressionless. In the gate of the wall he stopped uncertainly and fumbled in his girdle with one hand for the pennies he had left, holding the box steady on his shoulder with the other hand. He took out two pence and with these he bought six small green peaches.

"Take these and eat them for yourself," he said gruffly.

She clutched them greedily as a child might and held them in her hand without speech. When next he looked at her as they walked along the margin of the wheat fields she was nibbling one cautiously, but when she saw him looking at her she covered it again with her hand and kept her jaws motionless.

And thus they went until they reached the western field where stood the temple to the earth. This temple was a small structure, not higher in all than a man's shoulder and made of grey bricks and roofed with tile. Wang Lung's grandfather, who had farmed the very fields upon which Wang Lung now spent his life, had built it, hauling the bricks from the town upon his wheelbarrow. The walls were covered with plaster on the outside and a village artist had been hired in a good year once to paint upon the white plaster a scene of hills and bamboo. But the rain of generations had poured upon this painting until now there was only a faint feathery shadow of bamboos left, and the hills were almost wholly gone.

Within the temple snugly under the roof sat two small, solemn figures, earthen, for they were formed from the earth of the fields about the temple. These were the god himself and his lady. They wore robes of red and gilt paper, and the god had a scant, drooping moustache of real hair. Each year at the New Year Wang Lung's father bought sheets of red paper and carefully cut and pasted new robes for the pair. And each year rain and snow beat in and the sun of summer shone in and spoiled their robes.

At this moment, however, the robes were still new, since the year was but well begun, and Wang Lung was proud of their spruce appearance. He took the basket from the woman's arm and carefully he looked about under the pork for the sticks of incense he had bought. He was anxious lest they were broken and thus make an evil omen, but they were whole, and when he had found them he stuck them side by side in the ashes of other sticks of incense that were heaped before the gods, for the whole neighborhood worshipped these two small figures. Then fumbling for his flint and iron he caught, with a dried leaf for tinder, a flame to light the incense.

Together this man and this woman stood before the gods of their fields. The woman watched the ends of the incense redden and turn grey. When the ash grew heavy she leaned over and with her forefinger she pushed the head of ash away. Then as though fearful for what she had done, she looked quickly at Wang Lung, her eyes dumb. But there was something he liked in her movement. It was as though she felt that the incense belonged to them both; it was a moment of marriage. They stood there in complete silence, side by side, while the incense smouldered into ashes; and then because the sun was sinking, Wang Lung shouldered the box and they went home.

At the door of the house the old man stood to catch the last rays of the sun upon him. He made no movement as Wang Lung approached with the woman. It would have been beneath him to notice her. Instead he feigned great interest in the clouds and he cried,

"That cloud which hangs upon the left horn of the new moon speaks of rain. It will come not later than tomorrow night." And then as he saw Wang Lung take the basket from the woman he cried again, "And have you spent money?"

Wang Lung set the basket on the table. "There will be guests tonight," he said briefly, and he carried th e box into the room where he slept and set it down beside the box where his own clothes were. He looked at it strangely. But the old man came to the door and said volubly,

"There is no end to the money spent in this house!"

Secretly he was pleased that his son had invited guests, but he felt it would not do to give out anything but complaints before his new daughter-in-law lest she be set from the first in ways of extravagance. Wang Lung said nothing, but he went out and took the basket into the kitchen and the woman followed him there. He took the food piece by piece from the basket and laid it upon the ledge of the cold stove and he said to her,

"Here is pork and here beef and fish. There are seven to eat. Can you prepare food?"

He did not look at the woman as he spoke. It would not have been seemly. The woman answered in her plain voice,

"I have been kitchen slave since I went into the House of Hwang. There were meats at every meal."

Wang Lung nodded and left her and did not see her again until the guests came crowding in, his uncle jovial and sly and hungry, his uncle's son an impudent lad of fifteen, and the farmers clumsy and grinning with shyness. Two were men from the village with whom Wang Lung exchanged seed and labor at harvest time, and one was his next door neighbor, Ching, a small, quiet man, ever unwilling to speak unless he were compelled to it. After they had been seated about the middle room with demurring and unwillingness to take seats, for politeness, Wang Lung went into the kitchen to bid the woman serve. Then he was pleased when she said to him,

"I will hand you the bowls if you will place them upon the table. I do not like to come out before men."

Wang Lung fe lt in him a great pride that this woman was his and did not fear to appear before him, but would not before other men. He took the bowls from her hands at the kitchen door and he set them upon the table in the middle room and called loudly,

"Eat, my uncle and my brothers." And when the uncle, who was fond of jokes, said, "Are we not to see the moth-browed bride?" Wang Lung replied firmly, "We are not yet one. It is not meet that other men see her until the marriage is consummated."

And he urged them to eat and they ate heartily of the good fare, heartily and in silence, and this one praised the brown sauce on the fish and that one the well-done pork, and Wang Lung said over and over in reply,

"It is poor stuff -- it is badly prepared."

But in his heart he was proud of the dishes, for with what meats she had the woman had combined sugar and vinegar and a little wine and soy sauce and she had skilfully brought forth all the force of the meat itself, so that Wang Lung himself had never tasted such dishes upon the tables of his friends.

That night after the guests had tarried long over their tea and had done with their jokes, the woman still lingered behind the stove, and when Wang Lung had seen the last guest away he went in and she cowered there in the straw piles asleep beside the ox. There was straw in her hair when he roused her, and when he called her she put up her arm suddenly in her sleep as though to defend herself from a blow. When she opened her eyes at last, she looked at him with her strange speechless gaze, and he felt as though he faced a child. He took her by the hand and led her into the room where that morning he had bathed himself for her, and he lit a red candle upon the t able. In this light he was suddenly shy when he found himself alone with the woman and he was compelled to remind himself,

"There is this woman of mine. The thing is to be done."

And he began to undress himself doggedly. As for the woman, she crept around the corner of the curtain and began without a sound to prepare for the bed. Wang Lung said gruffly,

"When you lie down, put the light out first."

Then he lay down and drew the thick quilt about his shoulders and pretended to sleep. But he was not sleeping. He lay quivering, every nerve of his flesh awake. And when, after a long time, the room went dark, and there was the slow, silent, creeping movement of the woman beside him, an exultation filled him fit to break his body. He gave a hoarse laugh into the darkness and seized her.

Copyright 1931 by Pearl S. Buck
Copyright renewed © 1958 by Pearl S. Buck

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Reading Group 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 anorphan 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).

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 263 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(150)

4 Star

(68)

3 Star

(32)

2 Star

(8)

1 Star

(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 263 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    An Easy Classic to Master...

    This was my first Pearl S. Buck book and I have to say I would have no problem reading another. I particularly enjoyed the way Buck portrayed China, its class systems/struggles, and family cultures. When reading the story it was obvious Buck was very knowledgable of China and the time setting in which the story occurred. Although there were many times I had a strong dislike of the main character there were times when the reader could not help but be impressed with his resolve. The saddest moments in the book involved those dealings with his wife. We should all be very thankful not to be a laboror's wife in revolutionary China. For those readers afraid of the classics do not be afraid of this one. It reads very quickly and easily

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2004

    A 13 year old who wrote a book report and got an 89!

    AN EXTREMELY GOOD BOOK! My English teacher recommened this book, and I figured it would be boring. Yet it was a grand book. I loved it, and am ecstatic that I got to read this book!

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2012

    Still a masterpiece, after all these years.

    Brilliantly written. Clear, concise and easily understood. Buck weaves a timeless tale of ambition, family, poverty, riches and land. We follow the fortunes of a not-so-simple Chinese peasant and his father, his wife, and subsequent sons and daughers. From the most mean poverty imaginable to the splender and life of ease of a very wealthy landowner, this tale will remain with you well after you finish the book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2012

    Really liked it

    I had to read this for my AP lit class, i thought it would be really bad but it's really well written, it makes you want to keep reading

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Good Earth was on my list of books to read someday...

    For over 40 years, I had always meant to read The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. I remember my sister-in-law reading it years ago and how impressed she was and how she had tried to tell me what a great story it was.

    The Good Earth is a simple story. It is beautifully crafted. It is one of those books that will live in your heart forever. It is no wonder that the book and Pearl S. Buck are/were award winners.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2012

    Fantastic read

    I first read THE GOOD EARTH at age 16--Now, forty years later, the story is still impossible to put down!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 17, 2012

    Gorgeous. My new favorite.

    I bought this novel on a whim because of personal interest in rural Chinese culture and a long-passed recommendation by a friend. Since reading it, I've come to realize how widely respected it is and how often taught in schools. I understand why. It's wonderful epic story telling. The plot moves forward through decades, somehow making you feel invested at every twist of fate. So beautiful. Highly recommend.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Satisfying read.

    A high school history teacher assigned this book to our class, back in '76. It didn't seem like my type of read, but quickly became a favourite. Has a nice even pace; I like to refer to it as an intellectual soap opera. Pearl Buck has a way of helping the reader understand and relate to characters from a different culture and era. I especially like how the character of Wang Lung changed over his lifetime. The situations he and his family go through mirror the changes happening in China, but are presented on a more personal level through Wang Lung's view. Recently, I purchased the audio book and the paperback, to enjoy having it read to me while I followed along. Thank you, Ms. Kasper:)

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2008

    Good Earth Review

    The Good Earth was an excellent book. The beginning started kind of unhurried but The Good Earth started to get really interesting as I kept reading the book. The main character in the book was Wang Lung. Wang Lung was a real character that showed how it was living in China during the 1900¿s. My favorite character was O-lan. O-lan was Wang Lung¿s wife that did most of the work around the house. I favored O-lan because she was very strong through the whole novel. The reason I saw her in this way was because no matter how hard things got with the family and with Wang Lung¿s lack of love and affection, she still did what she had to do and took care of the family. She also worked long hours in the field alongside with Wang Lung. Wang Lung was a really intriguing character as well. Wang Lung was very interesting because you never knew what to expect from him. In one point of the story he said he would never do something that at the end he eventually did. Wang Lung went from being a poor man to being a very wealthy man over the years. Even though there were a few problems that happened through the novel I stilled loved it because that was what made it great and what made The Good Earth so real. One person that I just despised through the novel was Wang Lung¿s uncle. I despised Wang Lung¿s uncle because he didn¿t care about anybody but himself. Wang Lung¿s uncle¿s wife and son were also a headache in the book. The uncle¿s son brought a lot of trouble to Wang Lung¿s house and he had no respect for anyone in the house. The uncle¿s wife didn¿t really play a big role in the novel until the end of the book. I think the best idea Wang Lung had through the novel was when he gave the uncle and his wife opium. So in conclusion, I really loved the book. At first I thought I would dread having to read it because I¿m a very picky reader. Yet, in the end, I couldn¿t stop reading it, the book is amazing!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2013

    One of the best classic books

    I first read this book in high school and could not put it down. You feel as if you are living in pre revolutionary China and the characters are your family and friends. Read this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    Most entertaining read

    This is a generational saga that I felt was powerful reading because I was completely drawn into the inner spirits of the characters. The plots seem driven by non-contrived occurrences that would spring up in real life and the resolutions to the problems were overwhelming at times. On my personal rating scale of 1-5 I gave this book a 4.5.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2013

    One of my all-time favorite classics!

    I think I've probably read this book at least 5 or 6 times since my youth and it never gets old. It's a beautifully written book that portrays the human struggle through the eyes of a Chinese farmer during the time of the Boxer Rebellion. The determination not only to survive but to succeed amid such obstacles as poverty, predjudice, and starvation during a time of instability is extraordinary. The cultural and historical aspects of the book are so rich with such accurate description; it is though the reader is tanscended into an actual scene from history as it unfolds in life of a Chinese family, struggling to succeed during an evolution of political, social and cultural change.

    I have been waiting so long for this trilogy to become available as an ebook! I was pleasantly surprised to see it was now finally listed for my Nook.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2013

    The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck is a story of a family in China

    The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck is a story of a family in China who struggles during a famine and drought in the 1890's. This novel illustrates the harsh life of farmer, Wang Lung and his wife and former slave, O-lan. Wang Lung was told he could not marry an ugly woman. When Wang Lung and O-Ian get married, Wang Lung doesn’t know if his wife even likes him. They had 2 sons and 2 daughters but O-Ian strangled the 2nd daughter born because there was not enough food to feed another mouth. The famine got so bad that Wang Lung killed his ox to have food. Also people across the land were getting so hungry that they started eating human flesh. Gross. 




    When the famine got worse than it was people in his town broke into his house and took whatever food he had left. People started selling their furniture and land. After the famine got so bad he decided to move his family south. On the train some men taught Wang Lung how to beg, he needed experience to live in the south. Wang Lung doesn't like the idea of begging and hopes to find work. 
    I recommend this book because it shows the hardship of life and shows the history of China. This book is a great read for people who want to learn about Chinese culture. This novel is a fictional story but the experiences of the characters in this time period actually happened in Chinese culture. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 4, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended

    A beautiful book! A "must-read" for anyone interested in Oriental culture. Very inspiring too; it teaches you the importance of hard work, saving, family, and tradition.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A GLIMPSE INTO ORIENTAL LIFE

    The Good Earth is a vivid story about a chinese family in pre revolutionary China. Pearl Buck carefully weaves the values of a Chinese family into the core of their lives as a social entity. It is a careful telling about the family's ascent from peasanthood to a rich and comfortable family. Pearl Buck is indeed an expert in Chinese culture and way of life, as seen in this great story. For those whose interest is oriental culture and marriage customs as well as chinese life, this Pulitzer winning work is a must read. It is a classic on its own.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Never had to read this in high school

    Very good read, kept me interested-sorry it wasn't mandatory in High School

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Well written, detailed and believable story

    The story is full of rich detail and brings to life the fascinating characters of this Chinese family before the communist revolution.
    The author Pearl S Buck, lived in China and her personal experiences and knowledge of China and its people and customs help her to delve into the complex relationships and emotions of her characters. The story is compelling and intimate from the first page, and you are sorry to leave behind Wang Lung and his family when you get to the last page. Fortunately, this book was continued into a trilogy and you can choose to follow the offspring of the family if you want to see what happens to them as China begins to change, however, The Good Earth is a complete and satisfying story all by itself.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2008

    good earth review

    I enjoyed reading 'The Good Earth' it was compelling, and kept me craving for more. In gifted were studying the Chinese lifestyle, and culture. While reading this book i gained more knowledge about the Chinese world, and the way they use to live. From reading the compulsive novel, I learned how women was treated and the hardship and pain the experienced. Some things such as having their feet binded, and being slaves, and concubines. The main character Wang Lung who owned land came from a humble, poor man into a greedy, wealthy man who put his desires before everyone else's. In the story Wang Lung has to decide whether he should continuing fulfilling his needs, and wants, or to begin loving someone that¿s about to perish. Olan which is his wife catered to his every needs, cooked, cleaned, took care of their children, worked hours in the fields even before birth was about to begin and never once complained. While Olan was the last thing on Wang Lungs mind he devoted his life, and time to his land. Throughout the middle of the story Wang Lungs lust gets the best of him. He falls in love with one of his concubines, which are a woman who lives with a man but has lower status than his wife or wives. Lotus, the concubine which he lust after had a strong aversion for him in the novel. It was a lot of events taking place in this novel, but you have to read it to love it. I Could not sleep because of this book! Clearly it was a great book to read. I would recommend EVERYONE to read it! I enjoyed reading 'The Good Earth' it was compelling, and kept me craving for more. In gifted were studying the Chinese lifestyle, and culture. While reading this book i gained more knowledge about the Chinese world, and the way they use to live. From reading the compulsive novel, I learned how women was treated and the hardship and pain the experienced. Some things such as having their feet binded, and being slaves, and concubines. The main character Wang Lung who owned land came from a humble, poor man into a greedy, wealthy man who put his desires before everyone else's. In the story Wang Lung has to decide whether he should continuing fulfilling his needs, and wants, or to begin loving someone that¿s about to perish. Olan which is his wife catered to his every needs, cooked, cleaned, took care of their children, worked hours in the fields even before birth was about to begin and never once complained. While Olan was the last thing on Wang Lungs mind he devoted his life, and time to his land. Throughout the middle of the story Wang Lungs lust gets the best of him. He falls in love with one of his concubines, which are a woman who lives with a man but has lower status than his wife or wives. Lotus, the concubine which he lust after had a strong aversion for him in the novel. It was a lot of events taking place in this novel, but you have to read it to love it. I Could not sleep because of this book! Clearly it was a great book to read. I would recommend EVERYONE to read it!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2006

    Spare yourself.

    This is honestly the worst book I have ever had the displeasure to read. The characters are beyond dull, the writing is horrible, and the story, while it could have had some potential in a true novelist's hands, was just plain boring. Save your time and money.

    1 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2004

    What can I say except GREAT!

    What a great book. I am so glad it made it on Oprah's list. If you like reading as much as I do (I don't even own a TV) then you will love THE GOOD EARTH. I also recommend A YEAR SINCE YESTERDAY by George Edwrad Zintel. I hope this one makes Oprah's list as well. Happy Reading.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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