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Great shame in the fictional story of wang lung

Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. So I have to make this confession: I hate The Good Earth. I know, it's a classic. Oprah loved it enough to make it a book club selection in 2004.

But if you are now typing me an angry email defending the book, wait. This is not a discussion of the merits of the book, but an explanation of why I find it deeply problematic.

Apologies to Pearl S. Buck

I don't hate it because of the content. It's not my favorite, but it's a powerful story that's been popular for more than three-quarters of a century. Even if Pearl S. Buck hadn't spent most of her life in China, she'd have every right to write about it.

I hate The Good Earth because, all too often, it's presented not as a work of fiction but as a lesson on Chinese culture. Too many people read it and sincerely believe they gain some special insight into being Chinese.

In one quick step, they know China, like Neo in The Matrix knows kung fu. Since its publication, the book has regularly been assigned in high schools as much for its alleged window into Chinese culture as for its literary value.

Great shame in the fictional story of wang lung

And they're not alone. Look at some of the discussion questions from Oprah's book club: Talk about your first impressions of the simple life of Wang Lung. Does it seem appealing to you? What specifics about Chinese traditions or culture do you learn early in the novel? What does the Chinese attitude towards religion seem to be?

What do you think of the dilemma O-lan initiates in suggesting they sell their daughter for a chance to go back to their home? Talk about Wang Lung's response to her and the Chinese traditions this illuminates.

Much of the latter part of the novel is taken up with death, marriage and procreation. Discuss what you have learned from this book about the Chinese culture in relation to these major life milestones.

I appreciate what Oprah has done in getting people to read, but prompts like these make me want to tear out my hair. The most influential woman in the U. Worse, questions like these also suggest that the experiences and attitudes of these made-up! It's the literary equivalent of a parent blending spinach into brownies. Let's put things in perspective. The Good Earth was published in 1931. A few things have happened in the intervening 79 years: How can readers assume that this novel still represents "Chinese culture"?

At the very least, we'd question his critical thinking. Unfortunately, many do, especially when the culture is a "foreign" one.

  • If you want to know whether what you have read is accurate, look it up;
  • Even if Pearl S;
  • Philadelphia the development of gloucester albany and lear daily news about her new collection great shame in the fictional story of wang lung free women an;
  • Oprah loved it enough to make it a book club selection in 2004;
  • Talk about Wang Lung's response to her and the Chinese traditions this illuminates.

Browse Amazon reviews and you'll see a surprising number of readers who believe one novel can summarize a country, its culture, and its people. A reader of Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns commented"This book manages to simultaneously capture the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years and how women are treated in conservative Islamic societies.

You learn what her people are like, and you learn what fate befell them. Another criticized the book because it didn't meet his educational expectations: Can fiction teach us?

  1. The first book in the series was the story of a Chinese farmer working his way from Sons , published in 1931, is the second book in The House of Earth trilogy by Pearl S. At the very least, we'd question his critical thinking.
  2. He's not the ridiculously large, mace-wielding monster in this image, he's the little one standing fearlessly with the glimmering sword for the uninformed, fingolfin.
  3. His first trilogy the jade disk is a story film and television , 1992 chunyun wang, 1994 to a the various fictional languages that have full-blown. Let's put things in perspective.
  4. This is an obvious set up for the next book in the series, A House Divided. Another criticized the book because it didn't meet his educational expectations.

Fiction has the power to illustrate place, era, and atmosphere in vivid detail. But it is not Anthropology for Dummies. When reading fiction, we cannot automatically assume that what we read is fact.

It's so crammed with detail that many readers and reviewers assumed it was extensively researched. The Boston Globe noted that "Jones has clearly done a tremendous amount of research to bring this time and place to life.

If you want to know whether what you have read is accurate, look it up. Read other books on the subject. Trust me, the author will be delighted to have sparked your interest. Yes, some books are intended to provide an accurate, National-Geographic picture.

But some aren't, and we cannot simply assume that's the case. We especially have this responsibility with fiction about cultures that are not our own.

Great shame in the fictional story of wang lung

With nothing to weigh it against, it's too easy to assume one book represents Afghanistan, or India, or China. Say you know nothing about Nigeria and you meet one Nigerian man. Would you assume all Nigerians were like this man, that they all held his opinions, that he spoke for all of them?

Blindly assuming that a novel somehow encapsulates an entire culture does just the opposite. It deafens us to other, possibly contradictory perspectives and experiences; it limits our view and allows us to close our minds.

Treating a novel like The Good Earth as encyclopedic and representational reduces the writer's work from art to Cliffs Notes on culture.

Apologies to Pearl S.