• Friday, December 17th, 2021

Pearl S. Buck was born in Hillsboro, West Virginia,USA, in 1892 from southern Presbyterian missionary parents who migrated to China after their marriage. They returned to the USA for their daughter’s birth and travelled back to China after she was five months old. Buck was the fourth of seven children and one of the three who would survive to adulthood. In 1934 Pearl S. Buck returned permanently to the USA, where she died in 1973 in Danby, Vermont.

Pearl S. Buck was raised in Zhenjiang in eastern China; her mother educated her together with a Chinese tutor. At fifteen, she attended a boarding school in Shanghai, followed two years later by Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia and graduated in 1914. Pearl S. Buck returned to China in 1915, met an agricultural economist, John Lossing Buck, and married him in 1917. They both moved to the poor rural province of Anhwei, where Pearl S. Buck collected all the material for her future novels about China. In 1935 she divorced John Lossing Buck and married Richard Walsh.

In 1938 Pearl S. Buck was the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. She published over seventy books, including novels, collections of stories, a biography, an autobiography, poetry, drama, children’s literature and translations from Chinese. Pavilion Of Women, published in 1946, was made into a Chinese-American drama film released in 2001.

Pavilion Of Women, which takes place in the nineteen-thirties, is one of the numerous stories by Pearl Buck set in China. It is the story of a big, wealthy Chinese family, all living under the same roof; sons with their wives and children, cousins, nephews and nieces with their children, served by the household’s many servants. Each family member occupies one of the multiple courts of the vast estate.

The beautiful Madame Wu, the main character in the story, is an attentive wife, a good mother and a fair-minded mistress towards her several servants. She is greatly respected as the head of an old, influential, wealthy, heavy-weight family in China.

On her fortieth birthday, after twenty-four years of married life, Madame Wu, who leads the whole household, including her yielding, unintellectual husband and his affairs with an iron fist in a velvet glove, considers her marital responsibilities accomplished. She decides to retire to one of the house’s courts, away from her husband and her sexual spouse commitment.

Madame Wu intends to lead a peaceful life of freedom, materialising a long-lasting dream by starting to live a new leisurely existence away from her previous demanding, weighty household responsibilities and at last claim her life as her own, distancing herself from wife-hood and motherhood.

Madame Wu provides a concubine for her husband and lord to share his bed in order for her ambitious plan to work. A young, naïve peasant girl without a given name at birth – being a castaway child – and to whom she will give the name of Ch’iuming, will not present a threat to her and will satisfy Mr Wu’s sexual needs and give him more children in addition to the four, Liangmo, Tsemo, Fengmo and Yenmo that the couple had together. Madame Wu implores her reluctant, appalled husband to accept her long-planned arrangement, which she will carry out despite all the family’s protests.

Madame Wu’s plan is executed thanks to her determination and long time planning, but without counting on the considerable transformation she is about to experience, which will change her life forever. It all starts with Brother Andre, a mystic foreign excommunicated catholic priest she called to teach English to her young son, Fengmo. Brother Andre, who retains Madame Wu’s interest through their several meetings and exchange of ideas, awakens in her the sense of spiritualism and helps her comprehend the meaning of life in-depth, the mystery of the soul and the satisfaction of altruism.

The sagacity and foresight that Madame Wu will develop and nurture to attain a spiritual elevation will help her become the mediator and healer of people around her. “Yes, she now believed that when her body died, her soul would go on. Gods she did not worship, and faith she had none, but love she had and forever. Love alone had awakened her sleeping soul and had made it deathless. She knew she was immortal.”

The author juxtaposes two religious Christian missionary characters, Brother Andre and Little Sister Hsia. Elevating one above the other by portraying the useless preaching of Little Sister Hsia, a lonely person who likes to visit Madam Wu from time to time to read to her some gospel, which the kind lady allowed her to do just out of politeness, not out of interest. With Sister Hsia, Pearl S. Buck demonstrates her criticism of the Protestant mission work in China and its inhumanity, ineffectiveness and affront to the indigenous people.

While with Brother Andre, the author portrays a better, more positive missionary character. He is charitable, altruistic, understanding, methodical in his approach, and philosophical. He is wise, practical, analytical and logical in his line of reasoning. He helps needy people and fosters unwanted children cast away in the street by their parents.

Pearl Buck interlaces various subjects in her story, including the meaning of marital life, parenthood and its responsibilities, the significance of real love, family commitments, self-control and reflection, the importance of duties and the significance of moral beliefs and acquired wisdom. A compelling story with a good insight into Chinese life of the time.

If you enjoyed reading this article or found it useful, please consider donating the cost of a cup of coffee to help maintain the site...
Category: Book Reviews
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Leave a Reply