Monday, July 17, 2006
Read Pearl S. Buck's 1937 novel The Patriot, free from the Internet Archive (requires free plug-in)
Pearl S. Buck Life
Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker was born in Hillsboro, West Virginia to Caroline (Stulting) and Absalom (Andrew) Sydenstricker, both southern Presbyterian missionaries. The family was sent to Zhenjiang, China in 1892 when Pearl was 3 months old. She was raised in China and learned the Chinese language and customs from a teacher named Mr. Kung. She was taught English as a second language by her mother and tutor. She was encouraged to write at an early age.
In 1910, she left for America to attend Randolph-Macon Woman's College, where she would earn her degree in 1914. She then returned to China, and married an agricultural economist, John Lossing Buck, on May 13, 1917. In 1921, she and John had a daughter, Carol, who was afflicted with phenylketonuria. The small family then moved to Nanjing, where Pearl taught English literature at the University of Nanking. In 1925, the Bucks adopted Janice (later surnamed Walsh). In 1926, she left China and returned to the United States for a short time in order to earn her Master of Arts degree from Cornell University.
Buck began her writing career in 1930 with her first publication of East Wind:West Wind. In 1931 she wrote her most famous novel, The Good Earth (considered to be one of the best of her many works). The story of the farmer Wang Lung's life won her the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1932. Her career continued to flourish; she won the William Dean Howells Medal in 1935.
The Bucks were forced to leave China in 1934 due to political tensions. When they returned to the United States, Pearl and John divorced. She then married Richard J. Walsh, president of the John Day Publishing Company, on June 11, 1935, and with him, adopted six other children. In 1938 she became the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, awarded to her for her biographies of her parents, The Exile, and The Fighting Angel.
In her lifetime, Pearl S. Buck would write over 100 works of literature, her best-known being The Good Earth. The Good Earth chronicled the fictional life of the farmer Wang Lung against the backdrop of 20th century turmoil and revolution in China. It traces the rise of Wang Lung from the abject poverty of his early days to his final years by which he had accumulated great wealth and power. The novel portrays the complexities of marriage, parenthood, joy, pain, and human frailty. Buck stresses in the novel the value of fertile land, hard work, thrift, and responsibility. The novel has a very circular feel to it, recreating the ebb and flow of life, the change of seasons, and the cycles of age and family. Buck’s writing is unique in the way it blends the technical language of the King James Bible with the simplicity and directness of the old Chinese narrative sagas.
Buck wrote about her experiences in China from her home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In 1935 she bought a sixty-acre homestead she called Green Hills Farm and moved into a hundred year-old farmhouse on the property with her second husband, Richard Walsh, and their family of eight children. Green Hills Farm is constructed of coursed fieldstone. The house is four bays wide and two deep with the main entrance located in the second bay. Two gable dormers are located on the front and rear slope of the roof. Chimneys are located on each gable end. When Buck purchased the farmstead, she made extensive alternations and additions to the 19th century farmhouse, including a two-story fieldstone wing added to the east gable and two libraries. Today visitors can tour twelve rooms of the home and visit the pre-Revolutionary War cottage on the property and the barn built in 1827.
Green Hills Farm is where Buck spent thirty-eight years of her life, raising her family, writing, pursuing humanitarian interests, and gardening. She completed many works while living in Pennsylvania such as This Proud Heart (1938), The Patriot (1939), Today and Forever (1941), and The Child Who Never Grew (1950).
Buck’s house represents an excellent example of 19th century Pennsylvanian architecture. The interior melds the two worlds that so greatly shaped the life of this renowned author. In the large library, two Pennsylvania jugs serve as lamp bases upon a beautifully hand carved Chinese hardwood desk, at which Buck wrote her breakthrough novel, The Good Earth. Buck filled her home with interesting works of original art by Chen Chi and Freeman Elliot, iron works of art produced by exiled artisans in China, Peking Fetti carpets that survived revolutions in China, and some of her own sculptures. The Pearl S. Buck House became a National Historic Landmark in 1980 and opened as a museum the same year. The estate is owned and operated by The Pearl S. Buck Foundation. Green Hills Farm is now on the Registry of Historic Buildings; fifteen thousand people visit each year.
Pearl Buck was an extremely passionate activist for human rights. In 1949, outraged that existing adoption services considered Asian and mixed-race children unadoptable, Pearl established Welcome House, Inc., the first international, interracial adoption agency. In the nearly five decades of its work, Welcome House has assisted in the placement of over five thousand children. In 1964, to provide support for Asian-American children who were not eligible for adoption, Pearl also established the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, which provides sponsorship funding for thousands of children in half a dozen Asian countries.
Many of Buck's life experiences are described in her novels, short stories, fiction, and children's stories. Through them she sought to prove to her readers that universality of mankind can exist if man accepts it. She dealt with many topics including women's rights, emotions (in general), Asian cultures, immigration, adoption, and conflicts that many people go through in life. In 1949, she established Welcome House, Inc., the first adoption agency dedicated to the placement of bi-racial children, particularly Amerasians.
Pearl S. Buck died on March 6, 1973 in Danby, Vermont and was interred in Green Hills Farm, Perkasie, Pennsylvania.