The Good Earth (House of Earth, #1) by Pearl S. BuckThis tells the poignant tale of a Chinese farmer and his family in old agrarian China. The humble Wang Lung glories in the soil he works, nurturing the land as it nurtures him and his family. Nearby, the nobles of the House of Hwang consider themselves above the land and its workers; but they will soon meet their own downfall.
Hard times come upon Wang Lung and his family when flood and drought force them to seek work in the city. The working people riot, breaking into the homes of the rich and forcing them to flee. When Wang Lung shows mercy to one noble and is rewarded, he begins to rise in the world, even as the House of Hwang falls.
The Good Earth
Wang Lung is a poor young farmer in rural, turn-of-the-century China. During the time in which the novel takes place, Chinese society is showing signs of modernization while remaining deeply connected to ancient traditions and customs. When Wang Lung reaches a marriageable age, his father approaches the powerful local Hwang family to ask if they have a spare slave who could marry his son. The Hwangs agree to sell Wang a year-old slave named O-lan, who becomes his wife. O-lan and Wang Lung are pleased with each other, although they exchange few words and although Wang is initially disappointed that O-lan does not have bound feet. Together, Wang Lung and O-lan cultivate a bountiful and profitable harvest from their land. Meanwhile, the powerful Hwang family lives decadently—the husband is obsessed with women, and the wife is an opium addict.
by Pearl S. Buck
The novel opens on Wang Lung's wedding day. Wang is a Chinese peasant farmer who lives with his father; his mother died six years earlier. His intended bride, O-lan, is a slave in the prosperous House of Hwang. Wang walks to the House of Hwang, where he is embarrassed by his shabby appearance, and collects O-lan after appearing before the Ancient Mistress of the House. The couple returns to Wang's farm, where O-lan prepares dinner for guests — including Wang's unnamed uncle and the uncle's unnamed son — invited to celebrate the wedding. Later that night, Wang and O-lan consummate their marriage.
It's the all-American success story. The poor, small-town boy makes it to the big city and comes back rich. Except, you know, that Wang Lung is Chinese. And sure, he makes it to the city and gets rich, but this is no happy ending. The Good Earth , Pearl S. Buck's best-selling novel, has a pretty simple story.