Pearl Sydenstricker Buck, 1892 – 1973 Essay, Research Paper
Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker was born on June 26, 1892, in Hillsboro, West Virginia. Her parents, Absalom and Caroline Sydenstricker, were Southern Presbyterian missionaries, and were stationed in China. Pearl was the fourth of seven children (and 1 of only 3 who would live until adulthood). Buck was born in the U.S. so she could be a natural U.S. citizen.
The Sydenstrickers lived in Chinkiang (Zhenjiang), in Kiangsu (Jiangsu) province. Pearl’s father spent much time away from home, traveling in the Chinese countryside in search of Christian converts. Pearl’s mother ministered to Chinese women in a dispensary she created.
>From childhood, Pearl spoke both English and Chinese. She was taught mainly by her mother and a Chinese tutor, Mr. Kung. Though in 1900 the family returned to the US to continue their lives. In 1910, Pearl enrolled in Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, in Lynchburg, Virginia, and graduated in 1914. Although she wanted to stay in US, she returned to China after graduation when she heard that her mother was extremely sick. In
1915, she met John Lossing Buck and they were married in 1917. (The marriage was very unhappy, but it lasted for 18 years.) They immediately moved to Nanhsuchou (Nanxuzhou) in Anhwei (Anhui) province. This is where Pearl gathered poverty stricken material that she would later use in The Good Earth and other stories about China.
The Bucks’ first child, Carol, was born in 1921, but was born with PKU. (A genetic disorder in which the body lacks the enzyme necessary to metabolize phenylalanine to tyrosine. Left untreated, the disorder can cause brain damage and progressive mental retardation as a result of the accumulation of phenylalanine and its breakdown products.) The child became extremely retarded. Then, because of a uterine tumor found during the delivery, Pearl had a hysterectomy. In 1925, she and her husband adopted a baby girl, Janice.
>From 1920 to 1933, Pearl and Lossing made lived in Nanking (Nanjing), on the campus of the Nanking University, where both had teaching jobs. In 1921, Pearl’s mother died and shortly after her father moved in with the Bucks. The tragedies which Pearl suffered through out her life reached a climax in March, 1927. In the terrible even called the “Nanking Incident.” In a confusing battle involving parts of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist troops, Communist forces, and assorted “warlords”, several Westerners were murdered. The Bucks escaped and had an extremely long day hiding, but were finally rescued by American gunboats. After a trip downriver to Shanghai, the Buck family sailed to Unzen, Japan, where they spent the following year. They then moved back to Nanking, though conditions remained dangerously weary.
Pearl had begun to publish stories and essays in the 1920s, in magazines like Nation, The Chinese Recorder, Asia, and Atlantic Monthly. Her first novel, East Wind, West Wind, was published by the John Day Company in 1930. John Day’s publisher, Richard Walsh from John Day, would eventually become Pearl’s second husband, in 1935, after both received divorces.
In 1931, John Day published Pearl’s second novel, The Good Earth. This became the best-selling book of both 1931 and 1932, won the Pulitzer Prize and the Howells Medal in 1935, and would be made a film by MGM in 1937. Other novels and books of non-fiction followed. In 1938, less than a decade after her first book had appeared, Pearl won the Nobel Prize in literature, the first American woman to do so. By the time of her death in 1973, Pearl would publish over seventy books: novels, collections of stories, biography and autobiography, poetry, drama, children’s literature, and translations from the Chinese.
In 1934, because of conditions in China, and also to be closer to Richard Walsh and her daughter Carol, whom she had placed in an institution in New Jersey, Pearl moved permanently to the US. She bought an old farmhouse, Green Hills farm, in Bucks County, PA. She and Richard adopted six more children over the following years. Green Hills Farm is now on the Registry of Historic Buildings; fifteen thousand people visit each year.
>From the day of her move to the US, Pearl was active in American civil rights and women’s rights activities. She published essays in both Crisis, the journal of the NAACP, and Opportunity, the magazine of the Urban League; she was a trustee of Howard University for twenty years, beginning in the early 1940s. In 1942, Pearl and Richard founded the East and West Association, dedicated to cultural exchange and understanding between Asia and the West. In 1949, outraged that existing adoption services considered Asian and mixed-race children unadoptable, Pearl established Welcome House, the first international, inter-racial adoption agency; in the nearly five decades of its work, Welcome House has assisted in the placement of over five thousand children. In 1964, to provide support for Amerasian children who were not eligible for adoption, Pearl also established the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, which provides sponsorship funding for thousands of children in half-a-dozen Asian countries.
Pearl S. Buck died in March 1973, just two months before her eighty-first birthday. She is buried at Green Hills Farm.
Pearl S. Bucks wide range of vocabulary, great synonym’s, & the fact the she was force feed much culture enables the reader to picture the novel, scene by scene. For example: “I will come back,” she whispers. “And if the children cry, do not be afraid. We have so many children here, those wild soldiers will not know if it is you child or ours that cries.” That non-fiction was a sample from an autobiography revealing here exciting life. “All during the days of packing the farewells, I pondered this choice. I wanted to stay that I knew. Between the two countries my heart chose my own…” This was also from the autobiography, she is speaking of the choice of moving back to the US or staying, that was where she was torn. Buck’s gift illustrated he feelings perfectly.
“We hark back too much to people who are dead. Crispus Attucks, hero that he was, is dead. So is Booker Washington and so is Harriet Tubman. We need living heroes of our people.” … this from her book Equality demonstrates her insight’s and respect she had gained through out her life. “Press steadily for human equality, not only for yourselves, but for all those groups who are not given equality”. Looking a sentence like that, you can imagine what a great women Buck was.
“History, for example, has always been taught as the work of man. When woman appears in it she is either a queen, of little practical use, or a rebel smashing up furniture or praying in saloons. The truth has never been told about women in history: that everywhere man has gone woman has gone too, and what he has done she has done also.”
Well, judging by that last paragraph you can easily see that she was an active feminist, or was she just supporting equality? It’s hard to tell, personally I believe that her formula for feminism contains her desire for equality.
Normally people that you would meet in you school or around town, usually had a pretty trouble free child hood. But there were a few things about them that must have occurred during childhood that inflicts on their later life. For some people it may have been locked in the closet or stuck in a tree. But for Buck, her early lessons were much harsher. Coming from a poverty-stricken part of china she was exposed to great suffering, having her father leave on “missions” for months at a time. Then constantly worried about foreign soldiers rampaging the countryside. She was also exposed to people who had more money than possible to spend, but did not give any to help the poor. Which I believe fired her desire for “equality” as she called it.
Buck was born with the love and desire of traveling, and when she came of age she fulfilled the desire. Buck traveled to every continent (accept ant-artica) and just about every country. She learned about many backgrounds of cultures, there beliefs and there history, which all were poured into her writings. In her time, most people were never able to travel outside there own country.
Buck was considered vary educated from where she came from, and just from those few paragraphs, you can certainly tell. Buck always pushed for equality; she was one of few Americans who realized the importance of it. Perhaps this was from her turbulent childhood.
Buck was an outstanding human and has left many ripples in our pond of time, she had eight children, wrote great books, and started the first adoption program from children of foreign races. So even though she may not be remembered like Jack London, she will be remembered for many other things.
· Pearl Buck , a Cultural Biography- By Peter Conn. Cambridge Publishing, 1996.
· Novel: “My Several Worlds” an autobiography by Pearl S. Buck- 1954 John Day Company.
· Pearl S. Buck life and times essay- by Peter Conn 1996
· Microsoft Encarta ‘95- Copyright 1995 Microsoft Corporation.
· Microsoft Book Shelf ‘95- Copyright 1995 Microsoft Corporation.