The Good Earth is a prodigious novel of Pearl S Buck which won the Nobel prize for literature.
It traces the life and autobiography of the protagonist Wang Lung. Wang Lung lives in a village and the story is about the unfolding of Peasant life. He is a farmer who tends to his fields.
The novel explains in the beginning about Wang Lung’s father who is a feeble man and he is fond of looking after his father. Then he decides to get married. The Good Earth is a historical fiction.
The story begins with life of Wang Lung and his betrothal and continues to explain the rise and fall and family fortunes due opium consumption. There is another character who is called O-lan and she is a slave.
There occurs a period of drought and famine and Wang Lung is forced to sell his land and possessions to his uncle. But then uncle offer a much lesser sum for the land and possessions. Wang Lung is forced to travel to the south, a city for work.
In the city O-Lan and the children beg while Wang Lung is forced to pull a rikshaw. They no longer starved due to congee offered by charity and they still lived in abject poverty. Wang Lung is eager to return to his land. When the armies arrive, he is forced to work at night hauling goods for the fear of being forced to join the army. One day his son brings a piece of stolen meat and Wang Lung in anger throws in to the ground because he does not want his son to be robbers. However, O-Lan picks up the meat and cooks it. When food riots erupt, Wang with the mob besieges a rich man’s house and the rich man offers Wang all the money in order to escape from the mob. O-Lan finds a hidden treasure of jewels which she takes for himself.
Wang Lung uses the cash begotten to buy land, house and tools and equipment. With the passage of time, a twin and a girl are born to him. When he finds out the ornaments stolen by O-Lan, he decides to buy a house from Hwang. He sends his two sons to school, while one becomes and apprentice and the other tills the land.
As soon as Wang Lung becomes affluent, he adopts a concubine named lotus. O-lan’s health deteriorates and she finally dies and it is then that the protagonist realizes the value of her in his life.
Wang Lung and his family moves into town and rent the house of Hwang. Now as an old man, he longs for peace and serenity but is forced to listen to the disputes and quarrels between his son and their wives. Wang’s third son runs away to become a soldier. At the end of the novel, he overhears the sons wanting to sell the land and he tries to persuade them not to do it.
The book is an inside scoop of the life, mannerisms, customs, traditions and culture of rural China. It shows how the fortunes of aristocratic China ebb away as flood. Wang Lung is a strong, capable landlord and she, Buck has portrayed his character so well. His ability to surmount obstacles, to swim away from poverty and rise again to riches and glory is highly commendable. It is of interest to know that the Chinese aristocracy used to keep slaves.