Study Help Essay Questions


1. Discuss the roles of "chance" and "change" in the life of the Chinese peasant (especially note Chapters 18, 19, and 20), as opposed to a cause-and-effect relationship, illustrated in the belief by Wang Lung that hard work will have benefits.

2. Discuss the relationship between the House of Hwang and the family Wang, especially the rise of the Wangs while the House of Hwang is disintegrating. Consider, too, the similarity shown in the last half of the novel between the two houses.

3. Pearl Buck won the 1938 Nobel Prize for Literature for what the Nobel Prize Committee called "rich and genuine epic portrayals of Chinese peasant life, and for masterpieces of biography." How is her talent for writing biography reflected in her portrayal of Wang Lung and his family?

4. A basic tenet of the novel seems to be that virtue and hard work are rewarded. Yet, the riches that are brought back from the South (truly a turning point of the novel) are acquired through "chance" and trickery. And, at the end of the novel, the roots established by Wang Lung will obviously be pulled up as the land is sold and divided by the sons. Is this consistent?

5. In The Chinese Novel (1939), Pearl Buck writes, "the novel in China was the peculiar product of the common people. And it was solely their property . . . dealing with all which interested the people, with legend and with myth, with lore and intrigue, with brigands and wars, with everything, indeed, which went to make up the life of the people, high and low." In what ways do the story and style of The Good Earth, in their simplicity, offer something for all readers?

    6. The success of The Good Earth prompted Pearl Buck to write two sequels, which were finally released with The Good Earth in a trilogy entitled House of Earth. How does The Good Earth lend itself to sequels? In what way is the end of The Good Earth a beginning? In the end, how does the family Wang compare to the House of Hwang at the beginning of the novel?