The Good Earth & Dreams of Joy

Book Pairing

The Good Earth    Dreams of Joy

So, the first novel is a classic (as well as an Oprah pick) and the second book is a sequel to Shanghai Girls, written by the author who wrote the well known Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.  It is obvious by the covers that they both deal with China, but something about them really made me think that they could have mirrored one another.  In Buck’s early nineteenth century story, the main character is a male peasant struggling to make ends meet on his farm, during the Chinese revolution.  In See’s tale, the setting brings us to a farming village in the late 1950’s but which is still under Communist reign.  Even though the protagonist is a troubled female teenager trying to live along side her artistic father, the scenes of hard labor from harvesting the land but getting little in return are shared in both books.  In fact, this theme is the main hardship in each story.  In both titles we see the suffering of the people, whether they be the poor or those who think they will become rich if they follow the regime.  In the end, we get a taste of how the Chinese people in both novels take family values and tradition seriously—even willing to die for these things if necessary.  They also try to make a better life for themselves (despite the impossible odds), while they cling on to any kind of hope that is either dreamed up or falsely proclaimed by others.  The stories definitely have the same feel, with regards to political unrest—though there is a span of about forty years between them.  Unfortunately for all the characters, it looks like times haven’t changed that much during the two time periods!

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