Pearl Sydenstricker Buck was born on the 26th of June in 1892, in Hillsboro, West Virginia, the United States. She was a renowned American novelist and writer. Her parents Caroline Maude and Absalom Sydenstricker, after her birth, shifted to China when she was just five months old. Naturally, she had to learn the Chinese language and listened to the stories of Chinese legends that she later regarded as her first literary influence. This first love for literature and interest in humanity led her to choose writing as a career in her later life.
Initially, Pearl’s mother was her mentor and she continued learning under a Chinese tutor. Pearl started formal schooling at fifteen at a boarding school in Shanghai. After two years, she was admitted to Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia, where she graduated in 1914. Upon completing the degree, she was offered a position as a psychology professor in the same institute. Unfortunately, after a semester, she had to return to China, where her mother was fighting for life.
Personal Life and Death
Back in China, Pearl found her soulmate, John Lossing Buck, an American agricultural specialist. The two tied a knot in 1917 and spent the early years of their marriage in Nanking, mainland China. Both opted for teaching; Buck taught agricultural theory in an institute, while Pearl taught English in different universities. Unfortunately, the couple parted ways in 1935, when John left her for another woman. Although the two got divorced, she did not change her last name. After leading a successful literary life, her health deteriorated in 1972 when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. This fatal disease took her to her grave. She died on the 6th of March in 1973, in Danby, Vermont.
Some Important Facts of Her Life
- She is widely known for her masterpiece, The Good Earth, which remained a bestseller in 1931, and 1931. It also won the Pulitzer Prize the following year.
- In 1938, she won the Nobel Prize in Literature for novels she wrote about the Chinese farm families.
- Her former residence at Nanjing University is turned into Zhenzhu Memorial House.
- Her literary manuscripts and papers were placed at the West Virginia and Regional History Center, and Pearl S. Buck International.
Pearl traveled back to China following her graduation, where her family was passing through a hard time. Keeping the family’s dire strains in mind, she intended to start writing, and came up with her first literary piece, East Wind, West Wind, in 1930. The novel focused on Chinese traditions how those traditional practices evolved with time. Later, her masterpiece and prize-winning work, The Good Earth, published in 1932. The novel features the life of Chinese peasants, an experience she had carefully examined during her childhood. Besides writing novels, she tried writing short stories, books for children, and some non-fictional works. Also, she had a keen understanding of children, the reason that she wrote books for children, too. Her notable works include A House Divided, China Gold: A Novel of War-torn China, The Water Buffalo Children, and The Child Who Never Grew.
Besides Pearl’s Chinese penchant, she is mostly known for trying simple and vivid styles in her writings. Her books are full of minute observations and details that help her bring her subjects to life. To make her work worth reading, she incorporated various literary techniques and devices like imagery, symbolism, irony, and suspense. Concerning characterization, she focused mostly on the conversation that eventually develops the lead characters. The major themes in her writings include man’s relationship to the earth, traditional values, Chinese culture, man’s struggle, and life.
Some Important Works of Pearl S. Buck
- Best Novels: Some of her important novels include East Wind: West Wind, The Good Earth, A House Divided, The House of Earth, Death in the Castle, and The Three Daughters of Madame Liang.
- Other Works: Besides writing novels, she tried her hands on writing biographies, short stories and nonfiction work. Some of them include “The Miracle Child”, “The Golden Bowl”, “A Certain Wisdom”, The Kennedy Women, How It Happens: Talk about the German People and The Young Revolutionist.
Pearl S Buck’s Impacts on Future Literature
Pearl left a considerable legacy behind in that after many years of her demise, her works continue to enjoy the same prestige. Her novels, short stories, biographies, essays, and children’s literature have amused the world at large because of her distinct literary qualities audiences liked the most. Critics like King Liao stated that she played a pioneering role in demythologizing the Chinese nation in the American mind. Phyllis Bentley, an English novelist, also ranks her as an artist of considerable merit, while Anchee Min, Chinese American author, and Peter Conn, too, praised for her writing skills. She successfully documented the realities of the worlds with affection, love, and humanity in her works that, even today, writers tend to follow in her footsteps.
- “Sorrowfully accepted brings its own gifts. For there is alchemy in sorrow. It can be transmitted into wisdom, which, if it does not bring joy, can yet bring happiness.” (The Child Who Never Grew)
- “Just as he lived with them alive, he will live with the dead. Someday he will accept their death as part of his life. He will weep no more. He will carry them in his memory and his thoughts. His flesh and blood are part of them. So long as he is alive, they, too, will live in him. The big wave came, but it went away. The sun shines again, birds sing, and earth flowers.” (The Big Wave)
- “Fear alone makes a man weak. If you are afraid, your hands tremble, your feet falter, and your brain cannot tell hands and feet what to do.” (The Big Wave)
- “And to him, the war was a thing like earth and sky and water and why it was no one knew but only that it was.” (The Good Earth)