To Get You Ready for a Tea Party Conversation…

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By Jakub Hałun (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I have to admit, that I wasn’t sure what to think when I started reading The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. I certainly wasn’t very familiar with the ins and outs of Chinese culture, let alone the culture of Pre-Revolutionary rural China, but it didn’t take long for me to get drawn in by the story of Wang Lung, O-Lan and their family. Their trials and successes as they go through times of prosperity and famine also teach timeless lessons that we can apply to our lives today.

As you ponder that last statement here are some questions to get you ready for our discussion on Thursday. Most of these are taken or adapted from the discussion questions in the back of Sarah J.’s book (with a couple of my own thrown in).

  1. Describe Wang Lung’s expectations of his impending marriage at the beginning of the book. How does his marriage turn out in reality? How do Wang Lung’s expectations of marriage compare to the expectations of marriage in Western cultures?
  2. Why does Wang Lung feel compelled to purchase the rice field from the House of Hwang? Why does he at first regret it?
  3. Wang Lung considers the birth of his daughter to be a bad omen. How does he come to regard this girl, who grows up to be a “fool”?
  4. As the family works and begs in the city, what do they think of the foreigners they encounter? What purpose does the author serve in including these descriptions?
  5. When Wang Lung becomes swept up in the mob and enters the rich man’s house, is the gold he receives there a curse or a blessing? Do you feel any pity for the rich man?
  6. After O-Lan steals the jewels, do they function as a bad omen or good luck? Why does she want to keep the two pearls? Why is Wang Lung so astonished by this?
  7. As O-Lan dies, she bemoans her lack of beauty and says she is too ugly to be loved. Wang Lung feels guilty, but still cannot love her as he did Lotus. Neither woman can control destiny. Lotus was an orphan who had been sold into prostitution because she was beautiful, and O-Lan had been sold as a kitchen slave because she was plain. For whom do you feel sympathy? Why?
  8. Describe Wang Lung’s relationship with the House of Hwang throughout the novel. In the end, does he end up better off than they did?
  9. How does Wang Lung’s religious faith change throughout the novel? Do you see any parallels with the way people experience the Christian faith?
  10. Pearl S. Buck wrote a first-person novel from the point of view of a Chinese man, which was controversial because she was of a different culture. How might this book have been different if it had been written by a Chinese person?
If you haven’t gotten to the end of The Good Earth, you still have a few days to finish this intriguing novel. We’ll see you this Thursday, April 12 at 7 p.m. At Sarah R.’s house for our discussion and our annual tea partySend us a message or leave a comment if you need directions, and we’ll make sure to let you know how to get there.

See you Thursday! Until then, happy reading!

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The Good Earth Tea Party

At first glace this book might seem like just the story of a guy’s life in rural China at the turn of the century. (Not this most recent turn, the one before that.)

Bad stuff happens, good stuff happens, just like it does in real life.

However, it really is so much more than that! I’ve seen it on many book lists, but it isn’t one of those classics that everyone “should” read and no one likes.  I actually enjoyed it!!

There is a character list that you can print off in bookmark format, or here’s the list of characters for quick reference:

Men:
Wang Lung: A farmer about to start his own family 
Wang Lung’s father: Approximately 70 years old, retired from work as a farmer 
Uncle: Wang Lung’s father’s sly, younger brother
Cousin: Uncle’s son, close to Wang Lung’s age 
Old Lord Hwang: A rich landowner; keeps many slaves and concubines 
Ching: A small, quiet man; Wang Lung’s neighbor
Elder brother: Known as Nung En; “Nung” means one whose wealth is from the earth
Second son: Known as Nung Wen 
Liu: A successful grain dealer in town

Women:                     
O-lan: A kitchen slave in the House of Hwang
Lotus Flower: A “tea house” prostitute with bound feet 
Pear Blossom: A young slave girl Wang Lung buys
Uncle’s wife: Overweight, lazy and manipulative
Old Mistress Hwang: Addicted to opium
Cuckoo: Old Lord Hwang’s clever chamber slave

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I hope you enjoy the book, and we’ll see you for the tea party!

April 12th @ 7:00pm
My house. Contact me for directions:
sarahronk (at) gmail (dot) com