The Nobel Prize for Literature of 1938, rightly went to Pearl Buck “for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and her biographical masterpieces.”
Author Pearl Buck wrote numerous books, such as: East Wind, West Wind, A House Divided, Sons, The Proud Heart, All Men are Brothers. However, most remember her Pulitzer Prize winning and best selling book, “The Good Earth.”
Pearl Buck was born in the United States, however she was raised in China by her American missionary parents from the age of three months, until she was grown up. She returned to the United States, and later returned to live with her husband in China for seventeen more years.
She learned to speak fluently in both English and Chinese. She had great empathy for the Chinese peasants who fought to eke a decent living from the ground. She witnessed injustices committed against the Chinese farmers.
Her keen observations, combined with her near dislike of missionary people, trying to “change” the lives of these poor farmers, to become Christianized, somewhat disturbed her, as can be seen by one of her many later essays.
“I have seen missionaries so lacking in sympathy for the people they were supposed to be saving, so scornful of any civilization except their own, so harsh in their judgements upon one another, so course and intensive among a sensitive and cultivated people that my heart bled with shame.”
The Good Earth is about the struggle of a poor Chinese farmer, Wang Lung, and his fight for survival against the land, the weather, the gods, and his hope of believing the land will be kept for continuing family generations. However it is more than that. It is a story of a confrontation of West and East, as his sons gradually lose their cultural ethics and sense of morality and loyalty to their own father.
In the end, Wang Lung comes to believe that the only lasting thing is the earth, “for I must die sometime anyway. But the land is there after me.” Most agree, this book was the finest masterpiece Pearl Buck ever wrote.
The author helps the reader to understand that real economic and social change will only come about through humanitarian efforts, perhaps from within its own country and people.
Ms. Buck was also a humanitarian. She was strongly upset about the idea that children born of Asian and American descent were not wanted by either culture. During the 1930s, the Chinese people deemed these poor children not deserving of adoption.
Pearl Buck was also a political activist. She championed many causes for the rights of women and children during her later years back in the United States.
Her love for the Chinese people, her deep sense of humanity in both Western and Eastern cultures, helped influence this talented author, who wrote so truthfully and beautifully. It is no surprise that she won the Nobel Prize for Literature, as well as the Pulitzer Prize and many other lesser known awards throughout her lifetime.