26 January 2005

The Good Earth again

Julie asked some questions in the comments about The Good Earth. Since I don't like typing long things in those tiny comment boxes, I'm going to do it here. Skip along to the next post, if you'd like.

I think O-lan did kill her baby. And I don't blame her for it. It is unlikely that the baby would have survived anyway. I should have said "She only lost one child at birth." This brings up the topic of infanticide. I have a theory about female infanticide that relates to this, but I need to read more before I write anything about it.

Modern women really cannot relate to the historical woman. We don't have anything in common with them. O-lan is nothing like me, but we might have been very much alike if I'd been in her shoes. Her passiveness was not weakness. I think she was strong. She worked to change her family's situation through the limited means that were available to her. She wasn't just working for survival, and I think that shows strength. I liked O-lan.

In the end, I can't complain about my status as a woman, because I have it so much better than women have ever had it. We can't even relate to women like O-lan because we have come so far. I know that's not in the least helpful for many women; often, if you feel miserable, it doesn't matter if someone else has been more miserable that you. But it is very helpful for me.

I have choices; O-lan didn't. I choose to be home with my children because I feel freer at home- I make the choices here. When I hear the word preside, I don't choose to think that means my husband will have the last word and get his way. Since I don't choose that, my family isn't that way. I choose to homeschool, not only because I think it's good for my children, but because it's good for me.

I loved the writing in the book. "Lyrical" is a good description. It flowed and was a pleasure to read. I appreciated the somewhat more realistic view. I think historical fiction generally much better when it is written by someone who has lived in the places that are being written about. Pearl Buck spent many years in China, and she seemed to really have a feel for the country and people.

I'm inclined to think that the fall of the House of Wang is related to the sons' disregard for the land. They never worked the land, they didn't really see the financial benefit it had been, and they couldn't understand how important it was. The land was the foundation of the wealth of the family, and when you destroy the foundation, you lose the house.


  1. Great thoughts. I completely agree that the problem was that the sons were not connected to the land. But what caused this? And what could he have done about it? It seems bizarre to think of his 'upper class' sons working the fields--but was this the only solution? Also, it seems that the problems really began with the famine (whose fault was that?), or when they began theiving in the city.

  2. I agree that the problem did start with the famine. The two oldest sons were taken away from the land at that point and they never really returned to it, even though Wang Lung did. I don't know there was much he could have done about it. It happens all over the world, to the rich and to the poor. Land is a difficult commodity to work with, and as a result, seems to be of less value than it is. Rural families in Egypt leave their land behind to live in Cairo's cemeteries and dumps.

    I wonder if there will come a time that we wish we had a bit more land to our names. If things really get as bad as the scriptures say, I think I'd much prefer a good piece of land to a few dollars.