The Good Earth Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

''The Good Earth'' is perhaps the most famous novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Pearl Buck. These questions can help guide your students through the themes, characters, and plots of ''The Good Earth.''

The Good Earth

The Good Earth is a 1931 novel by American author Pearl S. Buck. Based on her experiences growing up to missionaries in China, Buck's novel examines Chinese life in the early 20th century with particular attention paid to the common people. Consider that the author is not Chinese but was raised deeply influenced by Chinese culture, there can be some interesting ideas about culture and representation with this work. If you're interested in exploring these ideas with your students, those questions are at the end of this set. The rest of these discussion questions are based on the novel itself and are adaptable and intended to help guide students through the themes and events of the story.

Questions About Settings And Characters

  • Who is the main character of The Good Earth? Who is Wang Lung? What do we learn about him throughout the story? How would you describe his personality?
  • Who is O-lan? How is she introduced to the reader? How is she described? What role does she play in the novel?
  • Who are the other major characters of The Good Earth? If you had to categorize these characters based on how they impact Wang Lung, how would you sort them? Which characters have a positive impact on Wang Lung? Which ones have a negative impact?
  • What are the major settings in The Good Earth? How is Wang Lung's village described in comparison to the larger cities?
  • What is the importance of Wang Lung's land and simple earthen house? How are these locations described? What do they mean to Wang Lung? Why does he refuse to sell them, even during hard times? Why does he return here when he knows his days are numbered?

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