A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book is unsparing in its depiction of the oppression of women and the horrors of peasant life in turn-of-the-century China (in one scene the corpse of an infant is left to be devoured by a starving dog). The author also makes her views on wealth as a destroyer of traditional values quite clear.
What's the story?
In turn-of-the-century China, Wang Lung, a poor young farmer, is sold a slave, O-lan, who becomes his wife. Although they steadily become prosperous and enjoy the birth of a son, they soon fall prey to famine and economic instability. The novel follows the couple from young marrieds to old age, and parallels the growth of China itself from an ancient dynasty to a nation of very modern crises.
Is it any good?
Young readers will be impressed by the gritty realism, the graphic depiction of a certain kind of society (that still exists today), and the redeeming lessons learned by the characters. THE GOOD EARTH won the Pulitzer Prize and is considered a classic. It has been in print since its first publication in 1931, and was made into a popular film in 1937. It is a fine example of the work of Pearl S. Buck, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the advantages of wealth and materialism (status, comfort, security) and disadvantages (separation from nature, the erosion of values).
How and why are the Western Christian missionaries (which both of the author's parents were) satirized?
What factors contributed to the Chinese culture of this period oppressing and abusing women even more so than other cultures?
Why might it be important to foster and maintain a relationship to the earth and nature, when doing so is no longer necessary?
Wang Lung and his eldest son share many similarities, but what are their crucial differences?
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