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The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

    This is the story of  Wang Lung’s life through feast and famine in his small Chinese village of Anhwei.    He reaped the riches the land brought him during times of feast and he suffered devastating poverty during times of famine but would never sell his land.

“…Out of the land we came and into it we must go – if you will hold your land you can live – no one can rob you of land – if you sell the land, it is the end”.

From the Publisher

Wang Lung, rising from humble Chinese farmer to wealthy landowner, gloried in the soil he worked. He held it above his family, even above his gods. But soon, between Wang Lung and the kindly soil that sustained him, came flood and drought, pestilence and revolution.


Book Club Party Ideas for The Good Earth

Wang Lung and O-Lan were simple people so I kept the decorations simple.  The color red plays a big roll in decorating for this party.  Red symbolizes the life force, good fortune and happiness and throughout the book Wang Lung purchases many things that are red: candles, eggs, paper and ribbon.


Here’s what you will need for these easy decorating ideas:

  • red printer paper – just a few sheets
  • incense – one for each guest
  • two pearls (need not be real)
  • red paper lanterns
  • red candles
  • bamboo

The Good Earth Table Setting

For the new year, Wang Lung buys red squares with the letter for happiness.  He puts these on his farm utensils to bring him good luck.  I printed the symbol for happiness (found on the internet) on red printer paper and displayed them on the table.

Incense is used as a method of purifying the surroundings.  The first mention of incense is when Wang Lung lights four sticks of incense – one for him, O-Lan, his father and his new born son.   He lights incense throughout the book.  I filled a bowl with rice and put one stick of incense for each person attending my book club party.  I placed this on my front porch and as the guests arrived I had them each light an incense.


In a small bowl I placed two pearls to represent the two pearls that O-Lan wanted to keep for herself after a raid on a rich man’s house.  She kept these pearls between her breasts and Wang Lung never saw her look at them.

Two Pearls

I hung the red paper lanterns in the family room to give  it a nice glow.

Red Paper Lantern

Book Club Menu for The Good Earth

Wang Lung purchases red hard boiled eggs to celebrate the birth of his first born son.  I served these along with a Chinese Cabbage Salad tossed with toasted slivered almonds and ramen noodles as an appetizer.

Asian Decorations, red hard boiled eggs, chopsticks, sweet and sour cabbage

In a time of prosperity, Wang Lung planted black-eyed peas as one of his crops, so I made a Creamy Black-Eyed Peas Soup served with white rice.

O-Lan would make sesame cake when times were good.  I made a Black Sesame Seed Cake drizzled with maple syrup and honey.

Black Sesame Cake

Tea is a must for this book club party.  For pleasure, Wang Lung and O-Lan purchased a red clay teapot.  I provided a variety of tea bags with hot water in a red teapot, that I found at a local store.

The Good Earth Tea Pot

Book Club Resources for The Good Earth

Discussion Questions for The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

  1. Why did Wang Lung feel so strongly about selling his land in times of famine?  What did being a land owner mean to Wang Lung?
  2. How do you feel about the marriage of Wang Lung and O-Lan?  Do they share a special bond with each other?  What do think of Wang Lung as a husband?
  3. O-lan is allowed to keep two pearls from the jewels she stole from the rich man’s house.  What did these pearls symbolize to O-lan?  Why is Want Lung so intrigued that he never saw O-lan look at the pearls?
  4. Chinese traditions are mentioned throughout the book – the red eggs, the buring of incense, the color red.  What traditions do you and your family honor?

The Author and her Work

In 1931 and 1932, The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck was the best selling novel in the United States.  It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 and was a factor in Pearl S. Buck becoming the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.  In 2004, The Good Earth regained popularity when Oprah Winfrey selected it for her Book Club.

Pearl S. Buck was an extraordinary woman.  Learn about her life, her works, and her contributions:

Pearl Buck in China Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography

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  1. Excellent book club selection. I highly recommend it!

    Comment by Mary Ellen