The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck is a classic story of a Chinese farmer who went from rags to riches. The story opened with Wang Lung and his old ailing dad in their old earthern house and he was so poor that he could only afford to have a slave whom he has not met before for wife. O-lan is a strong, silent and may I say “quietly powerful” woman who stayed faithfully by her husband throughout poverty, childbirths (when you read about how she delivered, you’ll re-think epidurals and Caesarian section by choice), second wive and restlessness of a rich husband.
I had been skeptical about this book before I read it, thinking how could an American be able to write about the Chinese. Moreover, its simple title didn’t capture my interest. But as I found out that this is a classic, I decided to pick it up and I couldn’t put it down since then.
Although the story took place many decades ago some time around the Chinese revolution, the story line and struggles of the people are real and timeless. The self-sacrificing nature of O-lan is something almost unheard of and even considered as silly or a suffering nowadays amongst urban Chinese yet through this book, one can see that it is actually a virtue and the one thing which held a family together. I believe that regardless the context and circumstances, all conscious women would be able to relate to her struggles if not her choice of actions.
At one glance, it appears that the value of a girl is portrayed as next to none in the book. However, as I read carefully, I sensed that the females are the ones who held the family together, who provided sense of comfort and belonging and in certain cases even the one who turned the family’s financial situation around. I was sad and even angry to see their efforts and contributions go unnoticed at the middle of the book.
This book opened my heart to emotions I have never thought of and opened my eyes to cultural scenes which are often downplayed in the TV. To men who thought that they are the people who makes the world go round, read this book. To women tho thought that they are only second to men, read this book. Its ability to empower just depends on how you interpret it.