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The Good Earth, Movie Versus Book

1946 words - 8 pages

The Good Earth, made in 1937, was an interesting portrayal of life in China during these times. Although I think it is a great movie for this era, I had a hard time relating to the film. The advancements in film have made it hard to go back to older movies; things like digital effects and color have really made older movies seem like ancient history. The characters seemed over dramatized and unrealistic. The plot did not stick to the book and seemed to change some of the symbolism the Buck used. The book was much better then the movie and the movie did not do the book justice.The Characters O-Lan and Wang Lung were changed theThe 1937 movie to which Chin's character objected did not feature any Chinese actors, but appeared to speak for China. Many in 1930s China objected to its unromantic description of village life and its inclusion of sex.Still, the book, movie, and Broadway show made Chinese people real for millions of AmericansThe book raises fruitful questions about the Chinese farm economy, family, and the status of women. More substantively, I think I can show how Buck illustrates the long-term cross-cultural moral debate over the nature of modernity, introduces students to issues in American foreign relations (rather than simply diplomatic relations), and shows how unarticulated views of history shape the ways we see the world.The book Pearl Buck wrote in the attic of her cottage in Nanking is not the same one as the American public read. The American audience reads a novel about "peasants," a word that does not appear in Buck's book. In fact, I have found almost no use of the English word "peasant" in relation to China before the 1920s; "farmer" continued almost unchallenged through the 1920s (see note 8). For Americans, "peasant" was what the cultural and literary critic Raymond Williams calls a "keyword," that is, a word which crystallizes political and historical conceptions.The myth of the yeoman farmer who civilized the frontier's "virgin land" was central to the self-image of American democracy. To cultural Jeffersonians, the landless "peasant" was a symbol--and perhaps cause--of European despotism and backwardness (see note 9). Feudal Europe had "peasants," Republican America had "farmers," but China was an anomaly, neither Old World nor New, with a motionless history, populated by "farmers." By World War I, however, a new view based on Progress, Race, Nation, and Middle Class Culture began to reconstrue China; now the "China difference" was not geographical distance but historical sequence (see note 10). historian Michael Hunt calls the American Open Door "paternalistic vision" of "defending and reforming China" rested on this definition of her situation (see note 12). But The Good Earth implicitly questions and resists Progressive assumptions that China naturally would and morally should become "just like us." Buck's implied historical placement of the Chinese farm economy, nationalism and revolution, and the Chinese family...

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