A PARADOXICAL ENIGMA
Pearl Buck was a paradoxical enigma: she was a serious writer, and she was a popular novelist; she was a phenomenonal prizewinner in literature, but she was largely neglected by academic critics; she was a liberal thinker far ahead of her time and yet a defender of certain conventions and traditional values; she was a humanitarian in word and in deed; she was registered on McCarthy's list of Red Sympathizers in 1950s, and she was banned in Mao's China for nearly thirty years. What was she?
Pearl Buck was a serious writer mainly in the sense that most of her books have serious subject matter and they are meant to teach readers as well as to entertain them. One of the consistent themes of her books is the conflict and confluence between the East and West. Her first novel East Wind [ 1930] deals with the differences between Chinese traditions and American traditions and their effects on each other. We find the same theme in many of her other books set in China. The Exile [ 1936] and Fighting Angel [ 1936], the biographies of her parents, illustrate the heroic endeavors but the tragic failures of the American missionaries. Her novels Pavilion of Women [ 1946] and Kinfolk [ 1949] demonstrate how a noble missionary influences a rich Chinese lady and describing appropriate ways for the Americans to give help that China desperately needs. Her historic novel Imperial Woman [ 1956] shows how the last Empress of China, the most stubborn and headstrong Chinese monarch could also change with time and accept Western ways. Peony [ 1948] describes the natural assimilation of the Jews in Kaifen, China, a unique phenomenon in the world. Her autobiography My Several Worlds [ 1954] tells her own stories as an outsider in the conflict between East and West, and portrays herself as a product of the confluence of the Eastern and Western cultures. Three of her novels set in other Asian countries deal with the same serious theme. The Hidden Flower [ 1952] reveals the heartbreaking tragedy of the cultural conflict when an American officer marries a Japanese girl. It also examines the effects