A review by wwatts1734
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck


Pearl S. Buck was the American daughter of a Christian missionary family in China during the early 20th Century. In "The Good Earth", Buck marries both her Christian faith and her love of the Chinese people into this profound story of hard work and and decline in the Chinese countryside.

The protagonist of this story is a Chinese farmer who marries a hard working wife who literally works the fields up until the moment of giving birth to their eldest son. The two of them together work hard enough and save enough money to buy up the land of farmers around them and, seeing how the basis of real land is not something that can be stolen or destroyed, but is land, they continue to grow their estate. During the famine they escape to a far off city and experience urban life and foreigners for the first time, but at the end of the famine they are able to return to the land. The land is always there waiting for them.

Later the farmer grows so rich that he ends up buying the manor house of the local patrician family. The lady of the family, who is an opium addict, sells off more and more of her patrimony in order to get more opium. Ultimately this family controls not just the land but the house of the nobility and settles in as the new noble family of the region. But the farmer forgets his origins. He takes a concubine and starts an opium habit himself. Eventually he becomes as decadent and open to decline as the family that he displaced in his rise. By the end of his life, the farmer loses his sense of dignity and love and is smothered by the prizes of his own success.

This is an excellent book for the teaching of virtue, for the familiarization with Chinese culture and for just a good moral story.