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An Anaysis of Pearl S.Buck’s the Good Earth from the Perspective of Post-colonialism

Author SunYuanKun
Tutor BoYu
School Liaoning University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords post-colonialism Orientalism cultural hybridity culture misreading
CLC I712.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
Downloads 189
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Pearl S. Buck, born in America and grew up in China, is a well-known Americanwoman writer who is famous for writing about China. She lived in China until1934.From the time Pearl Buck was brought to China as a little baby till the time she finallyleft China, China was in a changing period of warlords fighting each other and foreignpowers invading one after another. Pearl Buck witnessed the Chinese sufferings causedby the colonists and the Chinese resistance to them. Her intention to write about Chinawas essentially identical with and factually prior to postcolonial theory. Her novel, TheGood Earth, was the best-selling fiction book in the U.S. in1931and1932, and wonthe Pulitzer Prize in1932. In1938, she became the first American woman to be awardedthe Nobel Prize in Literature, for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life inChina and for her biographical masterpieces. But Pearl S. Buck is double marginalized.American critics marginalize her because of her female prize-winner identity and themisreading of her works—The Good Earth. Chinese critics marginalize her because theycall into question her situation whether she could depict a real China with a foreigneridentity. So Pearl S. Buck is a double marginalized author. Pearl Buck’s works are thesubject of controversy from the beginning of her writing career.Postcolonial theory has been a hot theory since1980. After several decades, it nowbecomes a powerful weapon for a large group of intellectuals to reflect and criticize theWestern cultural hegemony and European Centralism. Edward W. Said, Gayatri C.Spivak and Homi K. Bhabha are the representatives. The thesis uses Edward Said’s andHomi K. Bhabha’s theories to analyze the cultural blend and fusion of Pearl S. Buck’sworks. Edward Said’s Orientalism theory emphasizes the binary opposition and CulturalImperialism (tend to exclude). Homi K. Bhabha’s cultural hybridity theory puts emphasison the cultural diversity, and promotes cultural understanding and blending (tend tocontain). Due to the research of the cultural misreading is to explore the cultural conflictand to seek the culture fusion, the above two theories just respectively provide suitedtheoretical support and research platform for the conflicts and fusion. This thesis usespostcolonial theory to study Pearl Buck and her works so as to appropriate her from anew angel.This thesis consists of an introduction, a main body and a conclusion. The introduction general introduces the well-known American woman writer Pearl S.Buck and her works, the estimates on her and The Good Earth, and the previous study inthis field, as well as the research purpose and the methodology of this thesis.The main body is divided into three chapters.Chapter One expounds important issues in postcolonial theory, including itsdefinition, complexities, some problems with the term “postcolonial literature”, andsingles out Edward W. Said’s Orientalism and Homi Bhabha’s hybridity as the core togeneralize Pearl Buck’s uniqueness in the following chapter.Chapter Two analyzes postcolonial features manifested in Pearl Buck’s works,including the themes,“hybrid” characters in The Good Earth, and the description ofChinese customs which described in The Good Earth such as footbinding, concubinage,marriage, and so on. Based on the foregoing discussion and analyses, this thesisreexamines Pearl Buck and her works against postcolonial theory as the core to exploreand analyze culture misreading in the next chapter.Chapter Three analyzes the limitations of The Good Earth and the reasons of Buck’smisreading and being misread. Then the thesis explores the blending way of western andeastern culture by Cultural Relativism and Cross-cultural Communication. These can alsoshow her historical position in literary history, the progressive significance of her worksof that period, as well as the realistic implications to peace and development in today’sworld.The last part is a conclusion which mainly makes a summary to the precedinganalysis, and points out the purpose of this thesis. The “prejudice” and “misreading” arereasonable “prejudice” and “misunderstanding”, they make the only way which must bepassed to the truly understanding. The east culture and the west culture should enhancetheir mutual understanding, recognition and fusion, meanwhile, each cultural should alsokeep their own traditions and cultural characteristics, highlight the world culturaldiversity, so that the world culture should achieve unity and diversity. To sum up, thisthesis’s cultural observation that under the double perspectives of the east-west culture,not only develops thinking space of culture comparative research, but also provides witha new and successful example.

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