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ANCESTOR WORSHIP - Worship of earlier heads of the family in a household shrine consisting of tablets bearing their names.
ANHWEI (Anhui) - East central province of China, in the northern part of which Pearl Buck spent four years with her missionary husband. The setting of The Good Earth.
BUDDHISM - Religion of "enlightenment" founded by India's great religious teacher, called Buddha (sixth century B.C.), and brought to China in the first century A.D. by Indian priests.
CHING DYNASTY - China's last imperial dynasty, 1644-1911; also called Manchu Dynasty.
CONFUCIUS - China's great philosopher and teacher, 551-478 B.C.
GEOMANCER - A folk prophet who reads the future by the patterns of a handful of earth thrown on the ground.
KIANGSU (Jiangsu) - A province on the east coast, east of Anhui and north of Shanghai.
RIKSHA, also JINRIKSHA or JINRIKISHA - A two-wheeled carriage with shafts for a human puller.
TAOISM - The third of China's three major religions, founded on the teachings of the philosopher Lao-tse (sixth century B.C.).
WARLORD - Provincial dictator in China in the period of The Good Earth. Ruled his region by means of a private army.
A HISTORICAL VIEW
Ernest Hemingway discovered a brotherhood between the American and the Spanish rebel, and Pearl Buck a link between the Yankee and the Chinese-the brotherhood of democracy. [She was part of] the "little Renaissance" of American literature, a flowering of writers from all corners of the United States in a search for values and control of forms.... [Buck was one of] the American writers that spread the 20th century recognition of American literature abroad... in books distinguished by scope, human warmth, reasonableness... [The Good Earth was published in three translations in China, one of them cut and garbled.] The other two were widely discussed in the Chinese press, where some of the reviewers-a minority, as might be expected-thought that Mrs. Buck presented a true picture.
A Literary History of the United States, 1960
A CHINESE ATTACK
Since Mrs. Buck does not understand the meaning of the Confucian separation of man's kingdom from that of woman, she is like someone trying to write a story of the European Middle Ages without understanding the rudiments of chivalric standards and the institution of Christianity. None of her major descriptions is correct except in minor details.... Its implied comparison between Western and Eastern ways is unjust to the latter.
Younghill Kang in The New Republic, 1931
AN AMERICAN DEFENSE
Mrs. Buck has enabled us to witness and appreciate the patience, frugality, industry, and indomitable good humor of a suffering people, whose homes the governing intellectuals would hide from the sight of the world.
editorial in The New York Times, 1931
ON STYLE AND CHARACTERIZATION
The style of The Good Earth is one of its most appealing qualities. It derives from the mellifluous prose of the King James Version of the Bible intermingled with the technique of the traditional Chinese sagas. In many respects the two style sources are similar. The choice of words is clear, simple, and vivid, and features considerable use of parallelism and balanced sentence structure.... There is an archaic flavoring derived from the choice of words, the repetition, and the natural musical flow of the parallelism.... The style is expertly tuned to the subject matter-simple but forceful, moving but stoic, graceful but never excessive.... Her characters are not overwhelmed in a deterministic world, oppressed by the forces of heredity and environment. They realize that through the exercise of choices, through hard work and human initiative, difficulties and problems can be overcome and despair subdued.... The Good Earth possesses an affirmative belief in human nature.
American Writers, Supplement II, Part 1, 1981
THE FOREMOST INTERPRETER
She is the foremost interpreter in fiction of Chinese life; she thinks her novels about China in Chinese, and what has been called their Biblical style is really a Chinese style. Sometimes she shocks Western readers by describing Chinese customs from the Chinese point of view, not feeling it necessary to violate the integrity of her work by breaking in upon it to announce that she personally does not approve of what is taking place.... She never wanted to write about the Chinese as such; she wanted to write about people; the people she knew best just happened to be Chinese.
Edward Wagenknecht, Cavalcade of the American Novel, 1952
Although she has been ignored by many critics and not accepted by the literary establishment, it may be maintained that she has written at least three books of undoubted significance: The Good Earth and the biographies of her father and mother. Certainly, The Good Earth is a masterpiece that will be remembered by subsequent generations as a work that powerfully and movingly describes a whole way of life.... Her books offer thoughtful and provocative insights into some of the most challenging issues mankind has faced and continues to face. It is this quality, generally overlooked by critics, that gives value to her later work.
Paul A. Doyle, Pearl S. Buck, 1980