Sons Eyes Chinese Modernization and Disappointments

A view of downtown Guangzhou, China
Modern Guangzhou is far from The Good Earth

Sons ends the story of Wang Lung begun in Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth and traces the stories of his three sons who despise the land their father worked all his life to acquire.

The eldest son, a fat, womanizing lout, rents out land to tenant farmers, from which he gets the nickname Wang the Landlord.

The second son, Wang the Merchant, makes money in financial transactions that are not always entirely respectable.

The third son, Wang the Tiger, is a soldier. By courage, cunning and luck, he builds a hundred rag-tag illiterates into a mercenary army.

Wang the Tiger keeps returning to the family to get money to support his army. He adopts a son of each of his brothers, but both disappoint in different ways.

Finally at his request, the brothers find two wives for Wang the Tiger, one of whom gives him a son. He trains the son to become a military man. The son, however, chooses to be a farmer like his grandfather, repeating the theme of sons rejecting their fathers’ values.

Focused on life’s disappointments, Sons is a novel most readers would prefer to forget. Today it seems more highly valued as a guide to understanding the forces driving Chinese modernization than as a piece of literature.

Pearl S. Buck
The John Day Company, 1932
467 pages
1932 bestseller #3

Photo Credit: “Guangzhou across the Pearl”   by Integam

© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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