Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Bridge across the Pacific

Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Bridge across the Pacific

Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Bridge across the Pacific

Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Bridge across the Pacific

Synopsis

Pearl S. Buck's portrayal of Chinese peasants was the first literary representation, in China as well as in America, of the majority of the Chinese population. Her work changed the image of the Chinese people in the American mind--ultimately facilitating the 1943 repeal of the 61-year-old Chinese Exclusion Act and arousing Americans' support of the Chinese resistance against the Japanese aggression in World War II. From a multicultural point of view, Chinese scholar Kang Liao analyzes Buck's phenomenal success and the ensuing neglect of her works by American critics. Liao's insights into Buck's function as one of the few writers from an age of Eurocentrism who shed light on a new age of multiculturalism will be of interest to both students and scholars interested in race, class, and gender issues.

Excerpt

Pearl Buck was the first American woman writer to win the Nobel Prize for literature. However, she has been largely neglected by American critics since 1940. She was severely criticized in China during the 1930s and 1960s. Was she overestimated at first? Did she misrepresent China? What are the main values of her literary works? Are they still valuable today?

This book applies the reception theory to analyzing the reasons for the early success of her novels and the ensuing neglect of her works by the critics, historicizes the significance of her unique function in changing the American image of the Chinese people, uses the multicultural approach to evaluate some of her books, and discusses her pioneering role in writing about the Chinese peasants.

This book indicates that the social, historical, and cultural values of Pearl Buck's literary works exceed their aesthetic value. The portrayal of the Chinese people in her novels of the 1930s considerably improved the image of the Chinese people in the American mind. This improvement helped to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act and to obtain the American people's support for China's war of resistance against the Japanese invasion. She evaluated the Christian missions in China by illustrating the noble and heroic efforts of some individual missionaries but demonstrated the follies and impossibilities of the whole movement through two biographies. She also suggested what China really needed, how China could be helped, and what the West could learn from China in her novels of the late 1940s.

The cultural value of her works can be better appreciated in this age of multiculturalism than her age of Eurocentralism. For this reason, along with her apolitical description of Chinese peasant life, Pearl Buck is undergoing a revival and exerting a greater influence in China. Nevertheless, the lack of modernism and the introduction of superfluous romances in some of her realistic novels reduce their artistry, and because of her strong sense of mission to promote . . .

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