A selection of works written by Pearl S. Buck
In Peal S. Buck's first published novel, a young Chinese woman relates the conflicts that occur when she is married to a man who has been educated in the United States. As her own situation gradually resolves, her older brother, also having gone to the west to study, marries an American woman despite his almost lifelong betrothal to the daughter of his father's friend. The resulting clash between cultures and generations has serious repercussions. A beautifully told story that sheds light on ancient traditions and the difficulties in breaking from them.
This collection is divided into three sections. In the first, "Old and New" we experience the clash of new ideas with ancient traditions from numerous points of view. Whether from a wife who, in heeding the edicts of a rigid society, only to find herself useless and stupid in the eyes of her husband when he returns from seven years of study in the West, or from a newly returned student who realizes his family sees him as only a business investment, Buck's characters are subject to powerful emotions in the face of their private struggles. The second and third sections, respectively, are "Revolution" and "Flood", bringing the harsh realities of political strife and nature's indifference into focus from the perspective of those trying to make the world better, or merely to survive.
The second book in "The Good Earth" trilogy, follows Wang Lung's three sons' lives following their father's death. The eldest becomes a reluctant landlord and lives a fairly extravagant, lordly existence. The second son becomes a shrewd merchant, but lives frugally, keeping the vastness of his riches hidden. The youngest son, Wang the Tiger, carries the main focus of the story. He ran away, while quite young, to become a soldier. He is ambitious, forms his own army, and deserts his general, who has become comfortable and complacent. Though fierce, he is a just man who earns the respect of the common people even as he conquers them and taxes them to keep his army fed and equipped. Buck has a knack for revealing the innermost desires of her characters while remaining a distanced narrator. The tale has many moving moments as she details the subtle complexities of both personal and systemic relationships.
Susan Gaylore wants everything--marriage, house, family, friends, and the chance to express herself creatively. At the book's start, as she is about to marry her childhood sweetheart, it is clear that she is skilled at many things, and they come easily to her. She sews, cooks, gardens, plays piano, maintains friendships, and models in clay. She is thoughtful and kind, but her awareness that others think of her as a different breed leads to a disconnected loneliness. As she embarks on her adult life, she wrestles with her myriad desires in the 1930's world of extremely narrow expectations of women. Though encouraged by her husband to carry out her sculpting ambitions, she holds herself back until events push her to explore her artistic possibilities, or allow a vital part of herself to perish. The story takes place mainly in a small community somewhere in rural American, but moves to Paris and New York. Though some aspects of the book are dated, the essential struggle that women face in balancing responsibilities and self-fullfillment remains the same, and Buck crafts a compelling, intense portrait of a complex female artist.