Book Review – The Good Earth

Posted: August 26, 2015 in Book Reviews
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It’s been a long term wish to start afresh a new book while going on trip and finish it before time and eventually get bored while returning from the trip. None of it happens. I generally would have a number of pages to be read in a book which I had been reading for a while before the trip or worse I’ll start something like David Copperfield or Crime and Punishment when I take a trip which would take decades to get over. This time, The Good Earth was a reasonable choice, paperback, 350 pages, not so small fonts and a storyline which wouldn’t beat the crap out of you.

the good earth

As soon as Japanese you get into Kurosawa mode. So my whole conceptualizing of the story was kind of black and white Kurosawa film. Not that it didn’t remind me of any other Japanese film, but every Japanese film reminds me of Kurosawa. Especially the scene where Wang pulls a rickshaw and people around him talk about him coming from other part of China and how they’d get money from the foreigners. Wang’s naivety and the surroundings felt as if déjà vu for me. I was thinking that I was reading a version of an incident which I had already seen on screen.

When it’s a Nobel Prize winning book you ought to know that it’d deal with something related to a discovery, racism or humanity but The Good Earth didn’t wholly delve into one of the topics as such. For the people who see postmodern China it’d be tough to believe the famine and drought that they had undergone. That was my first reaction of dad when reading the book. As I had known little details about the China before war, it wasn’t anything revolutionary for me which was in a way good because the story looked grounded for me.

When there was a farmer who eats his fingers out of poverty and gets married to slave, I was able to accept it without my conscience getting affected. Again the slave angle is similar to most of the Oscar nominated films which deal with racism and color.

Wang Lang is not at all an interesting human being but a nice individual, a person if he’s your neighbor you wouldn’t complain at all. O-Lan in fact is even more boring person but a right match to Wang Lang. 0-Lan’s submissiveness provides a boost to Wang Lang to feel more like a man, especially after every child birth. Not only because she bears children at constant intervals and everyone turns to be male, initially. More so because even when she is carrying she gets her work done and takes care of her own pregnancy.

When she says that the cheese cake made luxuriously out of lot of butter and pig fat wasn’t for them or when she says that they had to kill the buffalo for food. Wang Lang as a person can’t reject what she says. She’s not a person who complains. She’s a person who knows what to say and when to say. Only in a desperate attempt, does she dissolve to life. She’s not a person to bask in luxury.

O-Lan on the other hand lives almost a perfect life but only when he is marred of physical job and has riches he falls for a mistress. The author’s defense for O-Lan during that part in un-understandable because till that time the authors view doesn’t get us but a point where we would hate 0-Lan she puts up her point that O-Lan indeed hasn’t made that big a mistake. Shouldn’t it be understood rather than being said?

I loved the beautiful irony of how the girl who causes the most misery and ends up being mentally handicapped, The Poor Fool, ends up giving most happiness to 0-Lan. Dads love for daughters is well known and there was one of my dad’s colleague who is no more, used to say how his youngest daughter would be his best friend. It didn’t happen for him but it happened for 0-Lan. In fact the The Poor Fool was the one who gave happiness even for me. Sometime you forget yourself and smile ironically for few incidents right, I did more often here for The Poor Fool

But the way 0-Lan goes forward with his life after his kids grow up, it’s all matter of fact. The ageing was beautiful. The resignation in his deeds would be such pleasure to reed. Incidentally my dad got this book as a retirement gift. Not sure whether it was thoughtfully given or given just because he reads. But I’m sure the sadness would have crept on him. Finally it’s all about resignation isn’t it, be it work or be it life.

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